And this is nothing like moral consistency. I'm not the first one to point this out this morning, but that's only because those other bloggers on the East coast have an unfair time zone advantage.
The Roman Catholic bishop of Colorado Springs has issued a pastoral letter saying that American Catholics should not receive communion if they vote for politicians who defy church teaching by supporting abortion rights, same-sex marriage, euthanasia or stem-cell research.
Is this a political statement or a religious statement? Let's look at the list of issues he mentions "abortion rights, same-sex marriage, euthanasia or stem-cell research." Are any politically charged issues missing from the list? How about the death penalty and unjust war? Does this unbalanced list seem to favor one party over another. Is the Bishop making the sort of partisan endorsement that could endanger the church's tax-exempt status? Looks that way to me, but don't take my word for it, let's go back to the Bishop.
The letter from Bishop Sheridan will undoubtedly intensify the debate, partly because it sounds in places like a political endorsement, Catholic observers said.
Bishop Sheridan wrote that the November elections were "critical" because for the first time since the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court legalizing abortion in 1973, the number of abortions was declining.
"We cannot allow the progress that has been made to be reversed by a pro-abortion president, Senate or House of Representatives," the bishop wrote.
No politician or career bureaucrat in their right mind is going to remove the tax-exempt status of the Catholic Church or even threaten it in public. That would be career suicide. Still it might be a good time for Bishop Sheridan's colleagues to have a talk with him and tell him to tone it down. The American Church is already woking on a policy for dealing with contentious political issues. Grandstanding by conservative bishops will just make their job more difficult.
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, who is heading a committee studying how bishops should relate to Catholic politicians, said Thursday in his archdiocesan newspaper that he did not favor using the eucharist as a "sanction."
Cardinal McCarrick wrote, "I do not favor a confrontation at the altar rail with the sacred body of the Lord Jesus in my hand."
The committee of bishops headed by Cardinal McCarrick is not expected to issue recommendations until after the presidential election.
Just to be clear, the problem here is not that Bishop Sheridan is strongly defending the Church's position on sensitive issues that are also being debated in the political realm. The problem is that he is picking and choosing his issues in a way that favors one political party and he is explicitly telling his parishioners how to vote. He is not asking them to vote their consciences; he is telling them to follow orders. This crosses the line of separation. If his was a small independent Protestant church, their tax exemption would be on the line. Only the fact that he is part of a large, politically influential body saves his church from the consequences of his actions.