What do you think?

Image by Ross

UPDATE: I incorrectly used the term PAC in this post to identify what is actually a BQC or Ballot Question Committee in the state of Maine. The BQC Stand for Marriage Maine is, as far as I can determine from their website, supported by Catholic groups but not a Catholic founded or based group. In light of this I've made the appropriate revisions in my own text below. An interesting chain of responses can be found in the combox.

Here's a press release from the Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine:
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has filed a Campaign Finance Report with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices as required for Ballot Question Committees (BQC). The Church registered as a BQC in support of question one which seeks to repeal the new law allowing same sex couples to marry.

The report indicates the funds raised have been given to the Stand for Marriage Maine political action committee. Between July first and the end of September, money contributed by other dioceses and bishops amounted to $214,550. Contributions from a statewide second collection in September was just over $41,000. (More info here) This is the portion of the collection that parishioners chose to put in the collection plate without using the envelopes that were provided and sent directly to Stand for Marriage Maine (SFMM). SFMM will be supplying information to the state regarding parishioner contributions that were received directly by the PAC in the envelopes. Another $33,000 was contributed by the diocese for in-kind services which includes salaries for two employees who are on a leave of absence and whose time is being donated to the campaign.

The diocese reported all individual contributions received in excess of one hundred dollars.
Unlike Massachusetts where the state is divided among 4 Catholic dioceses (Boston, Worcester, Fall River, Springfield), the entire state of Maine is served by the Diocese of Portland. Thus, "statewide collection" refers to a collection taken up in all the Catholic parishes in the Portland diocese.

My interest in posting this is not with particular regard to the question of gay marriage (nor am I looking for comments on that issue) but rather to ask for your thoughts and reflections on the institutional church raising funds to contribute to the support of moral/political causes.

Should the church solicit and raise funds to support ballot question committees?



  1. NO, absolutely not!!!!!

  2. Absolutely, positively NO! (Especially when money came from people who had no idea it would go to support this, or any other, issue.)

  3. I do not think that churches should collect money to donate to political action committees.

    Talk about moral issues yes. Exhort - yes. Teach - yes. Catechize - yes. Collect money for politics? No!

  4. I just read this and thought of this post, for what it is worth.

    Church and State

    The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.-Church and State

    Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Those contributions can get messy, that is what I think. Then the real opportunity for transformation and change is lost.

  5. This is from the USCCB 2007 "Political Activity Guidelines for Catholic Organizations":

    "A Catholic organization should not conduct fundraising events or activities, or otherwise solicit funds, for or on behalf of any candidate, political party, or PAC. Likewise, a Catholic organization should not permit fundraising for or on behalf of any candidate, political party, or PAC at any sponsored event."
    read more here:

    There must be loopholes if the Maine diocese is collecting from parishioners. Spread the gospel,teach about social justice and change hearts etc...stay away from financing controversial political issues.

  6. The teaching of the Catholic Church has always include activism on the part of the Church, such as sermons from the pulpit against segregation in the 1960s and pro-life Sundays. We collect money for the missions in Muslim states which may be illegal missions there. We support schools in nations which have serious prejudices against Catholicism, such as parts of India, where radical Hindus have attacked Catholics? Why is this consider different? It is a heresy, eirenism, to state that religion has nothing to do with public or political life. Why quote Martin Luther King, Jr., when we have Ss. Leo the XII, Pius IX, and Pius X, who state the opposite. In fact, it is the teaching of the Catholic Church that the State must protect the Church from harm and bias.

  7. I may be using PAC incorrectly here, Anne. My question is limited to formal PACs but to the support of groups legislating on behalf of particular causes of a moral/political nature. If there's a reader from Maine out there, perhaps he/she can shed some light on this.

  8. Marie: I don't think anything here is suggesting the Church not have a voice in matter moral and political. The question is about collecting moneys for funding political action agroups to push particular leglisation. For example, I'm not in any way questioning the appropriateness of the Archdiocese of Boston having its lobbying agent, the Mass. Catholic Conference working at the State House and elsewhere to speak the Church's teachings on such matters.

  9. I think as a church we should be collectively involved in the process of forming and informing our parishioners about political issue that impact our church teachings. I have no issue with individuals, who have formed their consciences, donating some of their dedicated "stewardship" monies to PAC's. However, to donate as a diocese or as a parish might leads us into "muddied" waters, that could eventually involve us in matters we never intended to be involved in. We must keep our "contributions" of the non-monetary sort and focus on uniquely Catholic centered church teaching. Money might lend power to a group that we may not intend to give them.

    I am with Fran here, let us teach, catechize, exhort,and I would add pray, lobby, and dialogue around all these critical issues, but stay away from "corporate" donations.

  10. Then what, exactly, are you questioning, Concord Pastor? If the parishes asked to hold a collection and give the money to the Mass. Catholic Conference to promote legislation favoring a "conscience clause" regarding abortion and contraception, would you support that? To purchase ads on the T? Radio time?

    Irish Gal

  11. I went to "more info" site to find that 56 dioceses and bishops had contributed to the Stand for Maine Marriage campaign. Philadelphia and Phoenix sent $50,000 each. Are the parishioners from these dioceses aware of how THEIR money is being spent? Was THEIR input sought before the money was sent to support a Maine ballot initiative? My inclination is that these parishioners were not only not asked if they would like for THEIR money to be sent to Maine, but also were not informed that it had been sent.

    How many other political causes are being supported with parishioners' money without their knowledge?

    The main reason the church should not be involved in supporting PACs is because of separation of church and state issues. But another compelling reason, in my view, is "the taxation without representation" that unwitting parishioners are being subjected to by their bishops.


  12. I believe that the Mass Catholic Conference SHOULD be on Beacon Hill lobbying for the stands the bishops of Massachusetts take in light of Church teaching. I believe the dioceses of Massachusetts should support (financially and otherwise) this effort. I would not favor special collections designated to work on particular issues because clearly, some issues would be chosen and others not for such support. As I said above, it's my understanding that this collection went to support an effort outside of the diocesan structure. If I'm incorrect about that, I'd be happy to learn that.

    So yes, I'd support the MCC lobbying for a conscience clause on abortion but I'd not be in favor of a special collection to push this or other particular pieces of legislation.

  13. I was about to write - more or less - what you just said CP.

    Lobbying - yes. Special collections for particular legislation - no.

    I will add, that the real problem, as I see it, is our church were to "buy" their way into changing legislation in a particular way, such as this one is potentially dangerous.

    Another "church" could do the same thing with results that would be disatrous for our own faith.

    Let me also add that while I think that we must have a collective voice in our society as Catholics, we must also remember that this is a pluralistic society. That will always cause tension and be a challenge.

  14. I hope my update and vocabulary revision is helpful towards greater understanding here.

    Again, I am certainly supportive of the Church's voice in the public square on all issues and concerns. My question concerns the Church lending financial support to advocacy groups outside the Church's structure.

  15. www.maine.gov/ethics/bqcs/index.htm

    explains the Ballot Question Committees (BQC) relationship to Political Action Committees (PAC)


  16. Concord Pastor,
    In the "Respect Life" item above you didn't link to a discussion of marriage. An item about a pastoral letter in support of marriage is forthcoming: http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2009/09-205.shtml

    This will undoubtedly support the position of the Catholic Church in Maine in defining marriage as between a man and a woman (which is at issue in the minds of many).

    Irish Gal

  17. IG: What I linked to was the complete list of issues found on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops web site under "Life Issues."

    If you believe the bishops' list of life issues is incomplete, I suggest you send your criticism directly to them.

    When the bishops' pastoral letter on marriage is published I will certainly publish a link to it here.

    I share your confidence that the position of the Diocese of Portland on same-sex marriage is just what we will find in the bishops' letter.

    My question on this post is not about same-sex marriage but rather more generally about the ways in which the Church speaks to and supports positions on moral/political issues in the public square.


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and PRAY before you think!