Re “Politics and the Pulpit” by Nicholas P. Cafardi (7/30): Dr. Cafardi seems to imply that Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle engaged in impermissible lobbying by assisting in gathering signatures in support of Referendum 74 in Washington State to undo the same-sex marriage legislation. The tax code allows tax-exempt organizations to engage in lobbying as long as the lobbying does not form a substantial part of the organization’s activities.
Dr. Cafardi acknowledges this but seems to minimize to the vanishing point the degree to which lobbying is permitted. Whether it is “substantial” or not is judged in relation to an organization’s totality of activities in terms of time, effort and expenditure. Dr. Cafardi should be familiar enough with the activities of Catholic dioceses to know how “insubstantial,” though still important in itself, this effort of the archdiocese is in proportion to all that it does in worship, education and social service. And Dr. Cafardi does not sufficiently emphasize the fact that this limitation is placed on all non-profit organizations that come under 501(c)(3) of the tax code—not just churches.
Moreover, Professor Cafardi seems to draw into his discussion the totally extraneous issue of the “separation of church and state” to have the opportunity to quote James Madison in order to characterize the church’s opposition to the referendum on marriage as an initiative that would “repeal the civil rights of a significant sector of our fellow citizens” and seems “disposed ‘to vex and oppress.’” In doing so, Dr. Cafardi ignores the fact that all the rights of marriage have been granted to registered domestic partners in Washington State, and so even if the same-sex marriage law is overturned, these rights will remain intact except for the description of these relationships as “marriage.”
(Most Rev.) Blase Cupich
Bishop of Spokane, Wash.
Re “After the Fortnight” (Editorial, 7/30): While I fully understand the overall goal of the Fortnight for Freedom campaign, I don’t believe that there are “evil” government forces with grand antireligious motivations behind the decisions which serve as the basis for the protest. The Affordable Care Act does have some provisions that I don’t favor. But in its totality, I believe it well serves the vast majority of religious citizens. It is extremely difficult to craft any legislation with such a widespread focus and not infringe on someone’s rights. And the bishops have not made the correction of the law an easy task, especially when they appear to provide additional fodder to those who already want to demonize this president.
Michael F. Vezeau
Thank you to Nicholas P. Cafardi for “Politics and the Pulpit” (7/30), a clear and informative argument on the separation of church and state that secures tax exemption and the now perilous blurring of that separation by indiscreet pounding from the episcopal pulpit. In addition to calling the bishops to be more thoughtful in their messages to the faithful, however, we need to challenge our local pastors and parish priests.
Too often I have read comments in church bulletins referring to meetings being held on church property to “defeat the awful Obamacare program” and similar comments made to suggest that a Catholic must oppose any effort to discuss issues that are pressing on our civic and moral consciences. The church is mirroring the Congress: divided and uncaring.
Mary Ann Flannery, S.C.
So when does a prophetic word about social issues constitute political action or speech? Should the church be muzzled in order to keep its tax exemption? And how does one distinguish between “spiritual” and “social” issues when churches are called to proclaim a “whole” Gospel for the whole world? Perhaps the Catholic Church needs to bite the bullet and renounce its tax exemption so that it can have the freedom to proclaim the Gospel and put that Gospel into practice through prophetic ministry. Justice William O. Douglas thought that a good idea, and so do I.
In “Saving Subsidiarity” (7/30), Vincent J. Miller ends by noting that subsidiarity demands vigilance against both state and corporate power. But corporate power exists only with the permission of the state. It is the state that lavishes monetary, fiscal and regulatory advantages on ever-increasing capital concentration.
How can the state get away with this? It is directly legitimized at the voting booth by the passive recipients of trickle-down advantages like subsidized energy, housing, food and health care. More relevant may be that the legalization of the centralized power of the state is simply beyond voter comprehension. That is why Miller’s call for positive action to serve the common good is more a question than an answer. What is the common good after a leviathan government has staked its claim on the commons while allaying our fears with runaway spending on national and social security?
Thank you, Vincent J. Miller, for setting the record straight. I am a moderate independent and am forever arguing with both the right and the left, trying to get them to see the wisdom of the church. It is not either/or; it is both/and. Catholic social teaching principles are not meant for any specific age, and they are boundless.
We Americans are so self-centered. It is not all about us. Church teaching speaks to all the different situations people in need encounter in every society around the globe. To say that the church’s stand on unions is out of date implies that the church has nothing to say to workers in India, or Brazil or China.
Winter Haven, Fla.