This press release just landed in my e-mail inbox:
San Diego—As Americans approach the eve of election week, U.S. Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke is reminding Catholics in an exclusive 25-minute video interview that they are bound in conscience to vote for political candidates who oppose aborting babies, embryonic stem cell experiments, euthanasia and so-called homosexual "marriage."
"Millions of Catholics have no idea it's a sin to vote for candidates who favor these grave evils, which attack the very foundations of society," said Thomas McKenna, President of Catholic Action for Faith and Family. "This matter-of-fact, pointed interview granted to me by Archbishop Raymond Burke in Rome last week makes it very clear what the responsibility of every American Catholic will be next Tuesday."
In recent years Archbishop Burke, who is prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church's "supreme court," has taught repeatedly that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights may not receive Holy Communion and that Catholics who know of the politicians' voting record on these issues cannot vote for them and retain "a clear conscience."
McKenna interviewed Archbishop Burke in Rome on Oct. 20 literally hours after it was announced he would be elevated to Cardinal. The 25-minute interview is being released to help inform Catholic voters before the U.S. elections on Nov. 2nd. Some of the points the Archbishop makes are:
"As a bishop it's my obligation in fact, to urge the faithful to carry out their civic duty in accord with their Catholic faith."
"You can never vote for someone who favors absolutely the right to choice of a woman to destroy a human life in her womb or the right to a procured abortion."
"So, the Catholic Church in teaching that sexual acts between persons of the same sex are intrinsically evil, are against nature itself, is simply announcing the truth, helping people to discriminate right from wrong in terms of their own activities."
Is it ever appropriate for a church official like Burke to tell voters which candidates to vote for? He clearly is speaking in his official capacity and not as an individual. Burke is obviously promoting one political party over another. What are the politics of Jesus?
I've endorsed candidates before but have always used language similar to this statement that I offered when endorsing Barack Obama in 2008:
As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I trust deeply in the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state and my endorsement is therefore a personal one and does not reflect on the church I serve or my denomination. But as a citizen I believe that all Americans must engage in the political process as individuals for democracy to thrive. So I choose to add my voice today with millions of other Americans concerned about the direction of this nation.
Catholic Action for Faith and Family sent out this morning's press release.
The National Council of Churches USA developed a document a few election cycles back called Christian Principles in an Election Year. The difference between this statement and Burke's remarks - and it is a profound difference - is that: "The principles are not intended to be partisan, but rather to lift up common principles that have been affirmed ecumenically and that can provide guidance..." You'll note that the council never tells anyone who they should or should not vote for:
Our Christian faith compels us to address the world through the lens of our relationship to God and to one another. Public discourse is enhanced as we engage civic leaders on the values and ethics affirmed by our faith. At the same time, religious liberty and the integrity of our democracy will be protected as candidates refrain from using faith-based organizations and institutions for partisan gain. We offer these ten principles to those seeking to accept the responsibility that comes with holding public office.
1. War is contrary to the will of God. While the use of violent force may, at times, be a necessity of last resort, Christ pronounces his blessing on the peacemakers. We look for political leaders who will make peace with justice a top priority and who will actively seek nonviolent solutions to conflict.
2. God calls us to live in communities shaped by peace and cooperation. We reject policies that abandon large segments of our inner city and rural populations to hopelessness. We look for political leaders who will re-build our communities and bring an end to the cycles of violence and killing.
3. God created us for each other, and thus our security depends on the well-being of our global neighbors. We look for political leaders for whom a foreign policy based on cooperation and global justice is an urgent concern.
4. God calls us to be advocates for those who are most vulnerable in our society. We look for political leaders who yearn for economic justice and who will seek to reduce the growing disparity between rich and poor.
5. Each human being is created in the image of God and is of infinite worth. We look for political leaders who actively promote racial justice and equal opportunity for everyone.
6. The earth belongs to God and is intrinsically good. We look for political leaders who recognize the earth's goodness, champion environmental justice, and uphold our responsibility to be stewards of God’s creation.
7. Christians have a biblical mandate to welcome strangers. We look for political leaders who will pursue fair immigration policies and speak out against xenophobia.
8. Those who follow Christ are called to heal the sick. We look for political leaders who will support adequate, affordable and accessible health care for all.
9. Because of the transforming power of God’s grace, all humans are called to be in right relationship with each other. We look for political leaders who seek a restorative, not retributive, approach to the criminal justice system and the individuals within it.
10. Providing enriched learning environments for all of God’s children is a moral imperative. We look for political leaders who will advocate for equal educational opportunity and abundant funding for children’s services.
Finally, our religious tradition admonishes us not to bear false witness against our neighbor and to love our enemies. We ask that the campaigns of political candidates and the coverage of the media in this election season be conducted according to principles of fairness, honesty and integrity.
Burke's on-going partisan political activity in his official capacity harms both his church and democracy.