Catholic parishioners in the Diocese of Green Bay received a letter last week from their bishop, David Ricken, warning them against voting for positions he claims are “intrinsically evil.” The letter included five non-negotiable issues, including what Ricken referred to as “homosexual ‘marriage,’” that made candidates ineligible for Catholics voters. TheNorthwestern.com reports Ricken also told those in his diocese voting for candidates who support those five issues would make them complicit and jeopardize their souls.
After a similar letter was released by Bishop David Kagan of the Diocese of Bismarck claiming Catholics could not vote for anyone supportive of marriage equality, North Dakotan Catholics reacted against what they saw as electioneering. National Catholic Reporter reports that Tim Mathern, a state senator from Fargo, replied to the bishop’s letter by emphasizing the primacy of conscience in Catholic morality and the by questioning the Church’s tax-exempt status if bishops engage in explicit partisanship. Mathern writes:
“To direct parishioners toward or away from one particular political party is a misuse of faith and trust. Sitting in the pews, parishioners have every reason to expect that the message will be relevant to current events and issues of conscience. However, endorsement of a political candidate, either by inference or direct statement, serves to disenfranchise, discourage, and even,to some, harm. Such an act bends religious faith toward service of a political party.”
With Catholics playing central roles in political races from presidential down to ballot questions, the bishops continued partisanship, including against marriage equality, will continue to divide Catholics nationwide.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry