Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Catholic Church, Rules, and American Law

One of the stereotype assumptions about the Catholic Church is that we have rules about everything. There's something to that.

Here in America, we even have rules about what we're allowed to say in our churches. Quite a lot of that comes from the bishops in this country making an effort to conform to local law and custom: being Catholic while dealing with a non-Catholic ruling culture.

For example:
"Parishes and other IRS-designated section 501(c)(3) church organizations are prohibited from participating in political campaign activity. Thus, certain political activities that are entirely appropriate for individuals may not be undertaken by church organizations or their representatives...."
(Political Responsibility Guidelines to Keep in Mind during Election Season," United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB))
There's more detail on the USCCB website. ( Happily, we're not required to keep our mouths shut on moral issues.

Like any legal system, a great deal depends on which parts of their laws the secular rulers of the area feel like enforcing. And how they feel like enforcing their laws.

A case in point, from the weekend news:
"Congressional Candidate Robbed at Gunpoint in North Miami"
NBC Miami (August 22, 2010)

"Congressional candidate and advocate Marleine Bastien was robbed at gunpoint while waiting to make a campaign appearance after mass at a church in North Miami on Saturday.

"Another car pulled up alongside Bastien's as she waited in her car with her sister outside the Church of the Living God...."

"Congressional candidate robbed at gunpoint on campaign trail"
The Miami Herald (August 21, 2010)

" The campaign trail turned into a crime scene Saturday for 17th Congressional District candidate Marleine Bastien.

"The community activist running for U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek's seat was robbed at gunpoint outside a North Miami church where she was going to meet voters before Tuesday's primary...."
17th Congressional District candidate Marleine Bastien is fine, by the way, aside from having been robbed.

A Political Candidate at a Meet-and-Greet - at a Church?

Here's part of what the USCCB has to say about Catholic organizations and political activity:
"...Section 501(c)(3) of the IRC prohibits organizations that are exempt from federal income tax under its provisions, including Catholic organizations exempt under the USCCB Group Ruling, from participating or intervening in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. This prohibition has been interpreted as absolute...."
("2007 Political Activity Guidelines for Catholic Organizations," Office of the General Counsel, USCCB)
That's pretty clear: although we're allowed to say that something like cannibalism is morally wrong, we're not allowed to say "don't vote for the Cannibal party." I'm sure there's more to it than that, of course.

So, what was a candidate doing, having a campaign function at a church?

Like I said, much depends on which parts of their laws the secular rulers feel like enforcing, and how they prefer to enforce them.

17th Congressional District candidate Marleine Bastien is a Democrat.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.