WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) – When the Catholic Bishops called for a nationwide protest against the HHS mandate they fundamentally changed the topography of Catholic outreach in 2012. The battle over the Catholic vote was moved closer to the parish, not just its parking lots, but the pulpit itself. 

In the last three presidential elections, bishops, priests and deacons were accused of partisanship when they spoke on opposition to abortion or the defense of true marriage and opposition to the counterfeit notion of “same-sex marriage”. Archbishop Chaput, for example, while in Denver had to pay $45,000 to defend himself against an accusation made to the IRS by a ‘Catholic’ group supporting abortion.

With their highly visible stand for religious liberty, against the HHS mandate, the US Catholic Bishops made it much easier for clergy and concerned lay Catholics to state their opposition.  For the Catholics supporting Obama, such speech is just another example of what they call partisanship.  When a Catholic priest or deacon preaches on religious liberty, “it is code for ‘Vote Republican,’” claims Chris Pumpelly, communications director for Catholics United, “Everybody knows what it means.”


Sadly, the real “code language” comes from those partisans like Catholics United who dance the “two step” of these new censors who actually seek to silence the Church from speaking to the great moral issues of our age. The dance is very deceptive. It begins by equating all moral issues with “political” issues. Then, it promotes a misguided and legally errant view of the separation of church and state which tries to lock us behind closed Church doors.

Now, they want to censor our clergy? This is nothing less than an attempt to stop the Church from speaking to the great moral issues of our age in the public square. That is because they do not agree with what we have to say. In truth, they now want to censor our clergy even in their our own pulpits. Perhaps the saddest aspect of all of this dance of deception is that some of the very people dancing bear the name “catholic” in their group affiliation.


We have four retorts for Pumpelly and his crowd:

1. It’s clear from the way that some Catholics actually vote that not all of them know ‘what it means,’ but we ardently wish they did, in the proper sense. These great moral issues transcend political party. However, they have intensely important implications on how we inform our political participation.

2. If preaching the truth of Catholic social teaching influences Catholics to vote for Republicans then its the fault of Democrats and, especially, the Catholics like you and your organization who ignore those teachings, even attack them.

3. If the goose has ‘code language,’ so does the gander: Catholics United, like other dissenting Catholic groups, sometimes have code language that works in precisely the same way. For example, ‘care for the poor,’ an important obligation of Catholic Social Doctrine which must be accepted as part of our obligation in solidarity, can be applied differently, depending upon the principle of subsidiarity. However, these groups want to equate it with federalized solutions.

4. They use loaded code language in an attempt to intimidate us. For example, phrases such as as ‘divisive social issues,’ and ‘divisive culture wars’ are used to refer to our absolutely appropriate efforts to defend life and marriage. We are simply exercising faithful citizenship and being morally coherent. In truth, when we insist upon defending the fundamental human right to life of our first neighbors in the womb, we defend a right revealed by the Natural Law and enshrined in our founding documents. Yet, we are lambasted as somehow forcing our “religion” on others.

This is all being done to confuse and intimidate Catholics and other values voters. It will not stand!

Fortunately for our culture and our Church, most Catholics don’t understand the code language of Obama’s Catholic supporters any better than than the supposed code language of authentic Catholic social teaching.

Catholics United, however, has taken an unusual step to suppress freedom of speech and religious liberty of Catholics and their clergy (and, of course, raise some money for themselves at the same time!). Here is Catholics United’s Keep Politics Out of Our Pulpits Pledge—By the way, the CU’s pledge is aimed directly at clergy, not at the lay faithful.

“In an effort to protect the sacredness of our sanctuaries, I pledge to keep my house of worship free from partisan activity. As Christians, we have a moral obligation to engage in our nation’s public debate. But our public witness must not involve using Church assets to expressly support or oppose candidates for elective office. We demean our church when we allow it to be used for partisan purposes. I pledge to do everything in my power to prevent this from taking place.”

Excuse us while we wipe a tear from our eyes—we are so deeply touched by the sincere piety of this effort to protect Catholics from the code language that defends innocent life, authentic marriage, and religious liberty.

If Catholics United had the guts to be honest, to lay their cards on the table, their proposed pledge would be entitled, “Eliminate Any Church Teaching That Might Help a Pro-life, Pro-Marriage Candidate.”

Again, honesty would require that Catholics United change their three examples of partisan activity, as well:

“Attacks on one candidate over another” would become “Don’t let Catholics know that both President Obama and Vice President Biden support abortion, same-sex marriage, and the HHS mandate.”

“Allowing partisan literature to be disseminated in the bulletin or on church grounds, including the parking lot” would become “Limit information about and discussion of political participation to the Peace and Justice coordinator of the parish – if he or she agrees with our political positions.’

“Making critical or supportive political statements about a candidate for elected office during worship services” would become “Make no mention of the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life, marriage and the family, the dignity of the human person, or the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

That’s the pledge that Catholics United really has in mind—if you strip their ‘code language’ away.