Preach, don’t campaign
By Jody Reese
The Diocese of Manchester, lead by Bishop John McCormack, will hand out 40,000 voter guides this Sunday.
McCormack says it is imperative that Catholics cast a vote this election. In the voter guide, which can be found on line at www.catholicchurchnh.org, the bishop argues that Catholics have a moral responsibility to vote and to vote based on the church’s “Moral Priorities for a Public Life.” These priorities are laid out in five sections, protecting human life, children and families, economic justice, rights and responsibilities and the poor and the vulnerable. In each priority, the bishop raises three or four specific issues. For example in protecting human life the guide lays out the church’s opposition on abortion, “Abortion, the deliberate killing of a human being before birth, is never morally acceptable.” The guide hits on points McCormack has made publicly in the past including his opposition to same-sex partnerships and stem cell research.
However, the guide does not touch on other Catholic issues such as the death penalty or the war in Iraq. The church officially opposes both.
There are two very fundamental problems with McCormick’s voting guide. The first is that he has a voter guide. McCormack should have just written to parishioners that they should vote in the upcoming state and national elections and leave it at that. Instead, the bishop takes what I consider very personal religious faith and moral priorities and commands Catholics to vote based on them. The church should not be in the business of even suggesting how parishioners should vote. Church leaders are powerful figures in their communities and should respect the electoral process as a public one—not a private religious one. Perhaps if the bishop spent more time caring for the spiritual needs of his community and less time telling them how to live and vote, more of them would attend his churches, give money to his charities and respect his moral authority.
The second problem with the voter guide is that it disingenuously pretends to be non-partisan when it commands Catholics to vote based on moral imperatives it lays out that coincide with those of President George Bush, leaving out areas where the church and the president have major moral differences, such as the death penalty and the war in Iraq.
The reality is that neither candidate support 100 percent of the Catholic Church’s positions.
Let the church preach its faith and let the parishioners then make up their mind. If parishioners vote for someone opposed to the moral priorities of the church, then maybe the church needs to do a better job of teaching those priorities, not telling parishioners how to vote.
2004 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH