The election, the Church and the IRS

Thanks to The Hub, via Rocco, for this letter on the coming election from John C. Favalora, Archbishop of Miami. The archbishop writes in response to an announcement from the Alliance Defense Fund that it plans a nationwide challenge September 28 to Internal Revenue Service rules that prohibit preaching in support of one candidate over another from the pulpit.

My dear friends,

A group called the Alliance Defense Fund is urging pastors across the country to join their Pulpit Freedom Initiative by preaching a sermon “that addresses the candidates for government office in light of the truth of Scripture.”

The group’s goal is to challenge the Internal Revenue Service’s restriction on tax-exempt organizations “by specifically opposing candidates for office that do not align themselves and their positions with the scriptural truth.”

Needless to say, none of our Catholic churches or priests will be participating in this initiative. For one thing, we can do a lot for our communities with the money we save by being tax-exempt. That is why we accept that status and agree to abide by IRS rules that ban religious organizations from becoming involved in partisan politics.

For another, “scriptural truth” is not that easy to attain. Which is more “true” in terms of scripture: The Old Testament passage that says “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” or Jesus’ admonition to “turn the other cheek”?

The problem is that people often quote selectively from Scripture in order to back their own opinions. The other problem is that rarely, if ever, does an individual candidate or political party embody the gamut of “scriptural truth.”

The Catholic Church values Scripture, but we also value 2,000 years of oral and written tradition handed down from the apostles and their disciples, and another 2,000 years of ongoing theological reflection by some of the greatest thinkers and saints.

When we teach on a particular moral issue, we rely on the whole of that tradition rather than on any individual’s opinion or interpretation of Scripture.

That is not to say that we are not involved in politics. Catholics do not give up their right to vote or take political sides when they are baptized.

But the role of the church is not to be like the “party boss” who goes around telling people how to vote. Our responsibility is to remind people to vote wisely; to reveal to them the wisdom of Scripture, the wisdom of the church’s moral tradition, so that they can base their votes on solid moral ground.

Too often, people vote based on their feelings, or on the partial sound-bites of candidates pushing a particular point of view. More often than not, decisions based on feelings or partial information turn out to be wrong.

That is why it is especially important for voters to study all sides of an issue — or candidate — and examine that information in light of their own beliefs and values.

When church leaders speak on issues such as immigration, poverty, health care, abortion, war or embryonic stem cell research, we are not telling people how to vote. We are reminding them of the moral teachings that should inform their lives, and as a result, their votes.

We will not speak on behalf of individual candidates or parties. But we will speak in support of legislation that we consider to be morally sound and beneficial to the whole community — regardless of which party or candidate proposes it — and we will speak against legislation that we consider harmful to individuals and society as a whole.

In the coming weeks, you will be hearing from the bishops of Florida regarding important issues that we believe will impact the future well-being of all the people in our state.

That is our duty as teachers and successors of the apostles.

Your duty as Catholics is to listen to those teachings before making rational, informed, conscientious decisions regarding whom or what to vote for.

+ John C. Favalora,
Archbishop of Miami


  1. I think Archbishop Favolara has written an excellent informative letter to the parishioners in Miami.

  2. I’m sure this issue will continue to be discussed before and after the election. For a related article please go to http://blog.catholicvote.com/?p=110

    Please take the time to read the whole article. The story quotes Deal Hudson, “a Catholic conservative” who worked for Bush, and now for McCain. It doesn’t mention the fact that he was accused of sexual abuse, while a college professor, and settled the case. Some of the quotes from parishioners are kind of frightening. Faithful, church-going Catholics voting based on race?? Is that church teaching?

    McCain met privately with Cardinal Rigali of Philly and Archbishop Chaput of Denver (“strictly ceremonial”) meetings. “But the campaign welcomed the bishops’ comments about the Democrats and abortion, Mr. Keating said, as “statements of affectionate support” for Mr. McCain.” Will the bishops influence this election? If parishes are distributing literature to parishioners, should that effect their tax exempt status? This is a very slippery slope.

  3. I read the article suggested by Michael at blog.catholicvote.com/?p=110. Frank Keating (former governor of Oklahoma) is now a director of Catholic outreach for the McCain campaign. This is the same Frank Keating who was the first chair of the lay review board established by the USCCB to oversee its Charter for the Protection of Children. Towards the end of his first year as chair, frustrated by his dealings with the bishops, Frank Keating very publicly likened them to the "Mafia."

    Politics certainly makes strange bedfellows!

  4. Oh dear. A challenging time of year to be certain.

    I had read that over at Rocco's- I thought it was well done, really great on Favalora's part.

    My mind rarely rests around politics and never rests around faith really. As a result, as I plumb the depths of my heart (should I be here as my blog id or just as me? let me be clear i speak for myself as fran right now!) as to what to do, I bought and am reading Douglas Kmiec's book.

    He makes some really interesting and thought provoking posts and it makes me wonder a few things... Not the least of which, why is he telling us this and not the USCCB?

    I think that no matter what one thinks, one should read this book.

    Truth be told - there is no one party or candidate that can satisfy all elements of the Catholic vote. I must delve deeply as you all must to do what seems most appropriate for my Catholic conscience.



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