NewsWed Oct 20, 2004 - 12:15 pm EST
Diocesan Lawyers continue to Ban Voting Guides
WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 20 (Culture of Life Foundation/CWNews.com) - According to documents obtained by the Culture of Life Foundation, officials of the Dioceses of San Bernardino, California, and La Crosse, Wisconsin, have instructed pastors and parish administrators not to allow the distribution of “Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics,” published by Catholic Answers. With two weeks remaining before election day, the dioceses’ actions are another episode in the political drama surrounding the question of the Catholic vote. In an August 20 letter from Diocese of La Crosse attorney James G. Birnbaum to pastors and administrators, Birnbaum said the “Voter’s Guide” ought not to be distributed on parish grounds or during parish activities. The “Voter’s Guide” cites papal and Vatican documents and identifies five issues it calls “non-negotiable”: abortion, euthanasia, fetal stem cell research, human cloning, and homosexual “marriage.” Supporting any of these issues, according to the guide, would disqualify a candidate as a viable option for a faithful Catholic. Birnbaum claimed the “listing of issues is too narrow to pass legal muster” according to the provisions of the tax code that govern non-profit organizations like churches. He said that a voter guide from the Wisconsin Catholic Conference that had not yet been published at the time the letter was written was the “only guide we believe is safe to distribute or rely upon at the parish level.” On October 6 Jeanette Arnquist, Director of the Office of Social Concerns for the San Bernardino diocese, issued a memo saying that “Voter’s Guide” is “not to be distributed from the parish.” Arnquist also added “Guidelines for Catholic Voters,” which is published by Our Sunday Visitor, to the list of banned voting guides. She instructed parishes to use only material from “Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility.” Produced by the lay staff of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Faithful Citizenship” has been criticized even within the Church for placing the paramount issue of abortion on the same moral plane with lesser issues like promoting “social justice” and “global solidarity.” Bob Laird, Director of the Family Life Office of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, said, “It equates abortion with debt relief. They are not equal.” Catholic Answers, a San Diego-based lay apostolate, has already answered charges that their guide does not conform to tax law earlier this month when Frances Kissling of “Catholics” for a Free Choice, a pro-abortion advocacy group, asked the Internal Revenue Service to withdraw the charitable tax status of the organization. “We had it thoroughly checked out by legal experts, and we’re well within the law. In the voter’s guide, we don’t mention any candidates, any specific election, or any party, and we don’t endorse or oppose anyone. We merely state the principles that real Catholics are obligated to abide by when voting,” Catholic Answers president Karl Keating said. Sources indicate that a total of three dioceses have banned distribution of the Catholic Answers guide. The Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul was the first. However, the archdioceses of St. Louis and Chicago are distributing the Catholic Answers guide, and sources say that another major diocese is set to accept it. See the Catholic Answers Voting Guide at http://www.catholic.com/library/voters_guide.asp sj
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