CNA: Catholic Answers sues IRS for intimidation

From CNA with my emphases and comments:


Catholic Answers sues IRS, alleging ‘intimidation’ on political issues

El Cajon, Calif., Jun 6, 2009 / 07:58 am (CNA).- The apologetics organization Catholic Answers has filed suit against the Internal Revenue Service claiming the federal tax collection agency has “intimidated” churches and non-profit groups into silence on politically controversial moral issues.

In an announcement posted at the organization’s web site, Catholic Answers president Karl Keating explained that the IRS fined the group for a 2004 e-letter it wrote saying that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry should not be allowed to receive Holy Communion.

Keating charged that Francis Kissling, then-leader of the pro-abortion front group “Catholics for a Free Choice,” ["Catholics"] had instigated the IRS action with a complaint.

He said Kissling “hated” Catholic Answers’ “Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics,” which aimed to educate Catholics on issues such as abortion. However, the guide did not mention any candidates or political parties [the key] and was cleared of any violations by the IRS.

According to Keating, the IRS did rule that the e-letter’s remark about Sen. Kerry was “intervening” in the election, a charge Keating called “preposterous.

He said the IRS has been using “very vague criteria” to “intimidate” churches, non-profits and ministries into “silence” on controversial moral issues.

The intimidation has become so bad that nowadays, most churches and non-profits in America are scared to death even to talk about moral issues that are deemed ‘political’ (such as abortion).”  [churches… fine… read: individual bishops and priests as well]

If you’re wondering why you don’t hear more about abortion in your parish, especially during election time, this is why. It’s IRS intimidation,” Keating wrote.

“All of this tail-between-the-legs cowering comes from the IRS’ ability to intimidate churches and non-profits into silence on political issues.

“And it’s simply wrong.

“For the IRS to claim that a non-profit organization cannot even so much as talk about a political candidate or ballot issue is something that must be strenuously opposed.”

Keating announced that Catholic Answers officially began its legal action against the IRS on April 3. Its lawsuit alleges that the IRS violates First Amendment Rights and intimidates non-profit organizations into silence.

The suit, he said, would serve not just Catholic Answers but the Catholic Church as a whole and all religious organizations. He said a victorious lawsuit would set a legal precedent holding that the IRS cannot prohibit speech on religious or moral issues. 

CNA contacted Catholic Answers for further comment but did not receive a response by publication time.

I wonder if other organizations will get behind this suit.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. EDG says:

    I hope somebody in Rome gets behind the suit. I am very concerned that our good bishops here are being dumped by Rome.

    I realize that the Vatican rarely interferes in the affairs of local churches, so on one hand, I’m not reading too much into the silence of the Vatican. But I read a gushing article by John Allen in the NCR yesterday that said and/or implied that the entire Vatican is gaga over Obama and believes that his program coincides exactly with Catholic “social justice” and that his approach to Islam (groveling and saying it was just the same as Christianity) was the one that most people in the Vatican have or should have.

    I live in a small and unimportant diocese, filled mostly with “Spirit of Vatican II” clergy, so we never ever know what’s going on here. But our EF-hating, Mass-improvising but fundamentally orthodox bishop actually did go out on a limb and oppose Obama’s attempted takeover of the Catholic Church at Notre Dame. Yet I feel that even people like him are being hung out to dry. Any ideas on this?

  2. michigancatholic says:

    1. The IRS has no right to tell us what our doctrine is or what our rules for receiving the sacraments should be any more than the Mormons should have to kowtow on their endowments or the jews on their bar mitzvahs. We have every right to control who has what standing and what rights within our own ecclesial body.
    2. However, we have steadfastly acted as though the entire American political body is as Catholic as anyone else (read: the Pope) and has a right to an opinion on the Catholic church’s internal behavior. They don’t, but who’s fault is it that they all think they do?
    3. WE don’t have a clear idea about what we are doing and who we are, and that’s most of the problem. Because we don’t, neither do the non-Catholic people around us. When we lust to be them, and let them have as much say as us, then we are guaranteed to have these problems.

    I suggest that we make it clear that non-Catholics have no understanding and no say about what goes on within the Catholic church. I suggest that we stop trying to force the rest of the population to abide by Catholic rules & understandings against their will and without their comprehension. If we don’t, we are going to pay and pay big.

    Look, I keep trying to tell all you cradle catholics that the world FROM YOUR POINT OF VIEW may revolve around the Catholic Church, BUT from the POINT OF VIEW of the other 80% it doesn’t! Get it through the skull folks, you just cannot march in and make people do things against their wills like that. You have to use other methods.

    AND if we are having a huge amount of trouble within the church over identity, belief and behavior (and we are), then airing our laundry in public certainly doesn’t help matters any. YOu know, this isn’t the 13th century anymore. THINK!

  3. Londiniensis says:

    EDG has obviously read an entirely different article by John Allen. The one which appeared in NCR with the by-line \”by John L Allen Jr on Jun. 05, 2009\” says nothing of the sort implied by his second paragraph. The article is quite short and can be read here:

  4. michigancatholic says:

    And about the Catholic voting thing: Well, we’re carrying on our campaigns to try to coerce Catholics to vote in accordance with Catholic doctrine in the public media. That’s also doomed to failure.

    Look, if bona fide Catholics don’t know how to think about moral issues in a Catholic way, it’s because the Church in the private religious realm has totally failed them. That cannot be remedied in the New York Times with the entire population, kicking and screaming in tow.

    The ONLY way to deal with voting morally is to enrich the education and religious lives of Catholics *within the Church* so that they understand better from a Catholic point of view what they look at when they see politics. And so that they have a forum for ideas and a way to understand what’s genuine and what’s not. The Baptists, in all their homemade glory manage it. What’s our problem? This ability to communicate its own doctrine & morality is part of the Church’s job and the people who work for the church had better get at it, and stop trying to manipulate the media to do it for them. It doesn’t work. Clearly. Blaming other people for one’s own failings seldom does.

  5. Mark VA says:

    I think that our orthodox Bishops must find a way to stand together in solidarity, and resist all encroachments and attempts to co-opt or intimidate our Faith from within and without. This is their hour. Individually, they remain vulnerable, their orthodoxy notwithstanding.

    I also hope that those Bishops who so far prefer to just watch from the sidelines, will reconsider their position.

  6. Ad Orientem says:

    Though not Catholic I support Fr. Keating in his suit. I would like to see the Orthodox Church sign on to this as well. Perhaps it could be made a class action lawsuit.


  7. TJM says:

    How can this be? We were told if the “One” was elected it would be the dawning of the Age of Aquarius with harmony and truth abounding. Make no mistake folks. This Obama is the closest thing to a third world dictator this country has ever seen. And to think so many Catholics (useful idiots) helped get this guy elected. By the way, does anyone know if Francis Kissling was excommunicated? Tom

  8. EDG says:

    The article by Allen that I read was not short by any means – it was the usual big John Allen analysis piece – and clearly said that the Vatican was not pleased by the bishops who were opposing Obama’s appearance at ND and that the Vatican (most of it at least) loved Obama’s take on Islam. I’ll have to go look for it, but you and I seem to have read two different articles. Actually, it’s possible that we did, since the article I’m referring to was about Obama’s visit to the mosque but also mentioned the Vatican’s silence on the US bishops’ opposition to Obama’s ND honor.

    As I say, I’m not sure that’s terribly significant, nor am I sure that “the Vatican” always means “the Pope.” In fact, it probably generally does not, since Allen cited Lombardi and a few other loose cannons to support his thesis. But Allen is not making this up, he’s getting it from somewhere, and I think it’s something to be concerned about.

    As for Islam, Allen may not take it very seriously. I saw him give an address two years ago in which he did not even mention Islam as a problem for the Church in the ME, Africa or anywhere else (even though it clearly is). An elderly monsignor finally got up and asked about it, and Allen basically responded to him the way enlightened folk treated boobs who saw “Reds under the beds” decades ago. Of course, the latter folk were perfectly correct, and I think the people who are worried about Islam, especially now that we have a president who considers us a Muslim nation, are correct too. But I suspect Allen is among those who don’t share that opinion, and clearly a lot of people in the Vatican are as well.

  9. Latekate says:

    The huge irony is that faith in government is ITSELF a religion. This religion has the power to forcibly convert children, force “tithing” to itself and pass laws oppressing other religions.
    Yes, the state shall establish no religion except itself.

  10. mpm says:

    I read the Allen article Londiniensis linked, which does contain the reporting on the “glowing” sense of Vatican-based people (and others) that with respect to the Muslim world, the Pope and Obama are on what they see as wavelengths which if not the same, or at least harmonious. I think that’s about typical for these kinds of “events”. Something very much like that was often in the air in the ’60s: I think it’s fed by an emotion that we are all alike, without reasoned focus on why there are still differences.

    My response to Allen would be simply this: If they are so alike, it probably means that Obama would have been a better clergyman than he is a POTUS.

    I hope it does “lighten the air” in the Muslim world (as one of the interviewees mentioned). In the meantime, exactly how Obama/Clinton are going to a) delight the Muslims and b) push their socialist, feminist and gay-based agenda in the international arena remains a mystery to me. It might be more interesting if Allen interviewed Bishops from Latin America and Africa, and got their take on what lifting the Mexico City policy is beginning to look like from their standpoint, rather than merely reporting on the joy and rapture in the Vatican over a speech.

    With regard to Catholic Answers move, I hope we are not going to witness a situation where Karl Keating is allowed to “take one for the team”. I hope there are bishops, and others, who are willing to help Keating out financially, or legally, or whatever, because when you take on the US Government, apparently it has trillions and trillions of dollars and lots of time to wear you down!

    But the 1st Amendment violation seems pretty clear to me. If any government gets to dictate doctrinal nuances, or disciplinary actions, of a Church (otherwise not illegal), how is that NOT a government establishment of religion? That the citizens of this country OUGHT to form their beliefs and consciences according to the religious traditions they see fit to embrace, was the very inspiration behind its enactment. Constitutionally, the Fed Govt is prohibited from telling the citizens of this nation how or what to think!

  11. Mark says:

    “I realize that the Vatican rarely interferes in the affairs of local churches”

    lol. Except when it appoints their bishops, micromanages their liturgical texts, handles the beatifications of their saints, and creates a cult of personality around the Pope that is seemingly more important to many Catholics than their relationship with their own pastor and Ordinary.

    And we wonder why many of the bishops are seemingly spineless bureaucrat administrators instead of courageous leaders! I’ll tell you why: Rome is more than willing to institutionally castrate them, but then unwilling to take on the responsibility of discipline when they are weak.

  12. CFS says:

    Michigan Catholic,

    I, a cradle Catholic, sympathize and concur with almost everything that you have to say. But this part left me scratching my head a little: “I suggest that we stop trying to force the rest of the population to abide by Catholic rules & understandings against their will and without their comprehension.” Are you trying to say that “the rest of the population” _perceives_ the Church as “trying to force” them “to abide by Catholic rules and understandings against their will” and that this is mostly or partly the fault of the Church? Or do you think that the Church is actually and intentionally trying to do so? Or both?

    If your point is simply that we would do better to evangelize and catechize than to browbeat people and call them wicked and stupid, then of course I agree — although I doubt that most of the Catholics who engage in such browbeating and name-calling are really trying to “force” others to abide by Church teaching. That is a mischaracterization. They are simply trying to stand up for their beliefs and letting their anger and frustration get the better of them.

    But there _are_ many people out there who seem to think that, whenever the bishops or ordinary Catholics speak out on issues relating to the common good, it can automatically be assumed that they are “trying to force” others to abide by Church teaching. No doubt the Church bears some of the blame for being so stereotyped — we have done ourselves no favors by either, on the one hand, supinely submitting to the spirit of the age or, on the other, calling it names — but surely it is very difficult, if not impossible, in a deeply fragmented culture of slogans and sound-bites, for _any_ intelligent dialogue to occur on a large scale among any religious or political groups. This is not to adopt a defeatist attitude or to let us off the hook; it is simply to say that, if we measure our efforts by the success we are likely to have in changing attitudes or opinions on a large scale, we will get very discouraged very quickly. Indeed, it is doubtful whether a Christian should be worried about “success” at all, even when he is focussed, as he should be, on the local and the everyday. Christ himself was not much of a “strategist” in this regard. He simply told the truth and, oftentimes, didn’t seem very concerned that the world was mystified by what He said.

    Maybe I’m not really disagreeing with you. I just thought I’d throw these thoughts out there. A very wise priest friend of mine once said, “Don’t defend the faith; wrap yourself up in it so well that it defends you.”

  13. Mark VA says:


    The Vatican “creates a cult of personality around the Pope”? Rome “castrates” the Bishops? You criticize the Vatican for the beatification of “their” (i.e. local Churches’) saints, and for appointing “their” Bishops?

    Where are you coming from? What you write sounds like something out of a Chick tract. What you advocate is severance of ties with Rome.

  14. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    While I sympathize with Keating, the IRS does have the right to dictate this, because Catholic Answers is a 501c3 corporation, and is being subsidized by the federal government. When you decide to take federal money even indirectly, ie those that contribute to Catholic Answers do not have to pay taxes on that money, you are agreeing to abide by certain rules and regulations of the IRS, and the IRS decides what those rules and regulations are. This would not be happening if Catholic Answers did not have 501c3 status. Catholic Answers gave away their first amendment rights (which are actually individual rights, not corporation rights) when they filed for 501c3 status. I am on the board of a 501c3, and the paper work is clear, the corporation does not have unlimited free speech rights. A corporation is a creation of the government and as such has no natural rights, but only the “rights” given to it by its creator the government.

  15. Neal says:

    Would it be such a bad thing if the Church lost its tax-free status? I wonder if it’s being used as a carrot and/or stick by the state to bind the Church. Would we have better leadership if they had nothing material, and everything spiritual, to lose?

  16. Willebrord says:


    While I understand what you’re saying, at one point the law was different; I believe this was the case up until the 50’s or so. Up until that point, churches were free to speak about political candidates.

    What I hope for, is that this case can lead to the law being changed. A while back, there was a protest done by several churches against it.

  17. anon for this says:

    Part of my work as a tax attorney, in my previous life, involved the representation of tax-exempt organizations. We spent many hours advising these organizations regarding their lobbying and political activities. Based on what was posted above, this seems to be a clear case of over-reaching on the part of the Service, and could probably have been handled without resorting to litigation and inflammatory rhetoric. Many folks at the Service, especially those who handle exempt organization matters (i.e., not the big bucks), are just not very well-versed in the relevant law. Incompetence rather than political intimidation is the most likely explanation for this fine. I hope that Karl Keating is working with good outside counsel who really understands the Service.

  18. matt says:

    incompetence rather than political intimidation is the most likely explanation for this fine.

    I think you’re being a little naieve here. This might be true if it randomly affected all sorts of charities who involve themselves with advocacy. The reality is that these efforts are almost exclusively aimed at intimidating Christian church organizations into being silent on moral issues, suppressing their free exercise of religion.

    While the IRS can make those rules, they are still bound by the constitution. If they apply the rules equally to religious and non-religious institutions they are not discriminating.

  19. ChristopherY says:

    Thank God for Catholic Answers. When I was coming back to the Church their ministry was invaluable.

  20. paul says:

    I hope other Catholic organizations join in this suit- Catholic league for religious rightsa? If enought organizations join it will put the IRS back in its legitimate place- not interfering in religious rights.

  21. Thomas says:

    I say preach more vociferously than ever before. Take the fight to the pro-aborts and pro-homo marriagers. The government wants to tax the Church and intimidate Her ministers, let them try. See the sleeping giant they wake. See if we’ll be pushed around.

    If the Church engaged in civil disobedience and refused to pay up, what would the government do? When their aggression is taken as a personal affront by even a majority of Democratic Catholics who aren’t ideologues but simply habitual Democrats from previous generations, what will Obama and his minions do then?

    I say it’s time to fight back hard against these attacks and punch their deformed version of Uncle Sam right in the face.

    Obama has already shown a preoccupation with causing schism between the Church in the US and Rome. Through his Notre Dame shennanigans and his appointment of miriad “Catholics” to high offices, he’s trying to set up a false American Catholicism. He does this because he knows the Church is the one agent for Truth left in the world. His use of the IRS for intimidation is an obvious next step for him. The Libs tell us we cannot preach the Church’s doctrine when it might impact public mores, or culture, or the legal order. How far off is the argument that the Pope is a foreign ruler trying to covertly control the United States.

    Wake up now to the early signs! Oppose them now before they turn into a juggernaut.

  22. michigancatholic says:


    1. Are you trying to say that “the rest of the population” perceives the Church as “trying to force” them “to abide by Catholic rules and understandings against their will”.. YES, most definitely YES. (Include a good part of the so-called-American-catholic-church in that too but then the boundary between the general population and that is tenuous at best.)

    2. And that this is mostly or partly the fault of the Church? PARTLY. However, see the next item.

    3. Or do you think that the Church is actually and intentionally trying to do so? Or both?
    It depends on who you are speaking of when you say “Church” because the properties of the “Church” you’re referring to are no longer clear to Catholics, at least. Not to be like the dissidents by talking about “models of Church,” but we have the Pope, the bureaucrats in Rome (the ones John Allen apparently listens to), the bishops in the USA, the “spokespeople” the American media always run to (heretics that they are, let’s be honest), Right to Life, various self-appointed “authorities (including some angry ones),” and then the laypeople who do whatever the hell they want whenever they want, and claim it’s perfectly Catholic because they don’t know any better (?), and then the non-Catholics who hear all this pontificating about Catholics this and Catholics that, but don’t hear the delimiters about whether we think that includes them or not, and they know damn well it doesn’t, etc etc. And they are offended and think, rightly, that we have no right to tell them what to do or not do. Especially given our very visible and nasty track record (which we usually think is confusing, but the non-catholic public isn’t confused about at all). So…who are you asking me about here?

    4. “but surely it is very difficult, if not impossible, in a deeply fragmented culture of slogans and sound-bites, for any intelligent dialogue to occur on a large scale among any religious or political groups”
    And there you have the problem in a nutshell. This is not about “dialogue.” There are so many things wrong with this statement, it’s hard to know where to start, but I’ll try.
    a) We can’t “dialogue” with the surrounding culture if we can’t figure out what we practice in the first place. There are a bunch of pieces to this statement:
    i) we don’t know who we are as a group (no identity), so we don’t know who’s speaking in our behalf 99% of the time and apparently have no control over it
    ii) we don’t know what we believe as a group and are not willing to act on it in any case
    iii) we assume we have to “dialogue” with the outer culture, but what exactly does that mean? Why are we “dialoguing” EXACTLY? What are our objectives EXACTLY? What EXACTLY is negotiable and what is not? Is “dialogue” the right word, or is that part of the general culture in itself!?!? And once exactness was not so important because we all understood. BUT we’re way past that now, due to our unwillingness to be honest and precise about our own claims.]
    iv) is religion really, really about “dialogue?” Really? Are there truth claims and how do they fit into this? You tell me.

    *For example*, yes, there is beaucoup judgmental talk about abortion (don’t misunderstand me–abortion is wrong), but we tolerate huge amounts of it in our own families and parish churches. In fact, our abortion statistics are almost exactly the same as the surrounding culture. So no one wants to offend anyone, and heaven forbid we should call wrong wrong, so our parish priests don’t like to talk about it or deal with it. Catholic women do it, get a little slap on the hand and walk away from it. The bishops are divided about what they say, do, how they *actually* act, etc. The Vatican speaks with the tongues of 100 bureaucrats and the likes of John Allen, the morons at ND, etc, blather off into the sunset. Then the news media gravely nod at some heretic from Georgetown or ND or someplace who holds impeccably high church office but is a complete raving heretic. Then the bishops take this divided, yet partial stand, everyone gets angry and starts name-calling. Game on. Half the church has a fight with the other half (+ half the general population) over giving Holy Communion to somebody. Everyone is repulsed and we have done nothing but make people angry with us. And then we elect someone who hates us like the devil himself — by a Catholic MAJORITY. Under those conditions, “dialogue” if that’s what you want (and I’m not convinced that’s what we should have), is absolutely & completely impossible. Yes, argue with me here if you want, but you know this is how it works — every darned election cycle and sometimes in between.

    What we have in public is a holdover from the old “Boston hotline to the mayor” method of getting things done. But that died years and years, decades and decades, ago. YOU CANNOT FORM A “CATHOLIC BLOC” BY USING THE NEWS MEDIA ANYMORE. It doesn’t work!!! So stop. Please. We’re only doing damage.

    Rather, we need to do whatever battling, networking and convulsing it takes to clean the church up from the inside and let the surrounding culture alone for a while. We cannot help them the way we are. We can’t even help ourselves. We are only making things worse–much worse. Our unborn are as dead as theirs. I’m sorry, but it’s true.

    Many Catholics are confused and most of them are angry about something or another. (When I first became Catholic, I was amazed–totally different than I thought it would be. There are things you DON’T WANT TO SAY. It’s still like that.) Fix this. Get it straight what we believe enough to stand behind — and what we are willing to be blamed for when the culture comes to the door, okay? Figure out who speaks for us. Figure out who stands on the edges with a big mouth. Otherwise, it’s going to be a bloodbath. Understand??? It can’t go on like this. Not in public. We are going to get tarred & feathered and dragged through the streets. And we’ll be darned lucky if that’s all we get. Do you understand me?

    We (Catholics) are confused and frustrated about all this. The general public is NOT. They think they’re right and they think we’re a very clear example of something. Do you understand me?

  23. michigancatholic says:

    Thomas, be careful. The actual Catholic church – the one willing to stand by truth claims when things get even a little tough – is much smaller than you think.

  24. michigancatholic says:

    Thomas, you asked:
    “If the Church engaged in civil disobedience and refused to pay up, what would the government do?” The same thing they will do if we refuse to perform abortions: make us do it or face the penalties — with the general population in agreement.

    “When their aggression is taken as a personal affront by even a majority of Democratic Catholics who aren’t ideologues but simply habitual Democrats from previous generations, what will Obama and his minions do then?”
    Charm them and get their consent because those people aren’t largely even aware of what the church actually teaches. They’re largely oblivious and unconsciously part of the general population at this point. To wit, look up their birth control and abortion rates.

  25. IvoDeNorthfield says:

    I find it amusing that anyone should say that a tax exemption for charitable giving is a “subsidy.” By the way, have any clerics who have taken a position on, say, amnesty for illegal immigrants, border enforcement or the welfare state been contacted by the IRS?

  26. RBrown says:

    Except when it appoints their bishops,

    Are you saying Rome shouldn’t name the bishops? When Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary were in the Communist Bloc, what would their bishops have been like if they had been locally named?

    micromanages their liturgical texts,

    40 years ago Rome stopped micro-managing liturgy, and what did it produce? The low grade liberal Protestant sentimentalism that still dominates most masses.

    handles the beatifications of their saints,

    How many dioceses have people competent enough to investigate the sanctity of someone?

    and creates a cult of personality around the Pope that is seemingly more important to many Catholics than their relationship with their own pastor and Ordinary.

    Obviously, you are unaware of some of the pastors around here–and some of the two ordinaries whose dioceses discouraged anyone interested in the priesthood who wasn’t a liberal.

    And we wonder why many of the bishops are seemingly spineless bureaucrat administrators instead of courageous leaders! I’ll tell you why: Rome is more than willing to institutionally castrate them, but then unwilling to take on the responsibility of discipline when they are weak.
    Comment by Mark

    I haven’t seen too many spineless bishops, but I have seen many who had been indoctrinated by the liberal Protestantism of the 70’s. Deo gratias, they are either gone on getting close to retirement.

  27. Mark VA says:


    I agree with much of your sentiment.

    Regarding your question “Figure out who speaks for us”, the only plausible answer that I can see is that the faithful, orthodox Bishops need to assume the leadership of the Church in our country. They are grown men, and should recognize the gravity of our rather quick march toward either a declared schism, or a deepening internal disunity and complete irrelevance. They need to learn to speak with one voice, as the shepherds whom we can trust.

    We know who they are, since they were courageous enough to take a clear stand on ND and its Catholic status. I wouldn’t presume to tell them how to organize and exercise this leadership, though I can’t see them doing it thru the USCCB, unless they posses it. I hope that when they take a more decisive control of the internal situation, the rest of the Bishops will follow them.

    In the meantime we should pray for them, that their courage may not fail.

  28. brendon says:

    I’ve come to the opinion that it would behoove the bishops – and especially young priests who will one day be the bishops – to educate themselves on tax resistance. We should certainly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But the question of what, if anything, Caesar currently has the moral authority to claim as his own – not the power to take at the point of a gun, but the actual moral right to claim – is another question all together.

  29. matt says:


    that is completely outside the mission of the Church. In any event, if I’m not mistaken, the issue is not with the IRS trying to collect taxes from the Church, but with the IRS denying deductibility to donations to the Church.

  30. Karen says:

    Let me see, black churches, having obaminator parties and canonizing “the one” — remind me if the IRS has been going after them? Oh. Wait. They’re BLACK. and they'[re democraps. Never mind, turn up the volume on the crickets.

  31. Dino says:

    Fr. Z,
    In surfing the net yesterday, I came across a piece by an evangelical preacher who posted the entire Catholic Answers announcement and encouraged his readers to “join the fight”.
    Here’s hoping that our many Catholic groups and organizations, join in, as well as separated brethren.

  32. brendon says:

    I’m not sure how it is outside the mission of the Church to make sure She cannot be kept from preaching the Gospel by the jackboot of the secular state. It would do well for everyone to remember that the power to tax is the power to destroy.

  33. michigancatholic says:

    Mark VA, within the church: I absolutely agree with your statement (about the bishops) that “They are grown men, and should recognize the gravity of our rather quick march toward either a declared schism, or a deepening internal disunity and complete irrelevance.”

    The problem is EXACTLY that either they don’t seem to recognize it, or that they don’t care to acknowledge it as recognized in any way. Or horrors, maybe they can only talk therapeutically because they themselves have come to believe that this is all that religion is about (be nice!). Those are the only 3 possibilities, Mark. And so on we go with the march.

    I don’t know how bad it will have to get before they finally might become motivated to do something about it. Mind you, Europe is lost and the European bishops didn’t get any incentive to do anything anywhere along their way down the plumbing. What grounds do we have for believing ours will?

    Outside the church: Most non-Catholics are quite unaware of much of this, although the noise re ND, Obama, Kerry, etc is making them more conscious of it. And less likely to think we have anything to offer or say, in spite of the fact that we seem oblivious to this, and keep yelling moralistic things at them — that most Catholics don’t even think they have to abide by. Let’s be honest.

  34. Thomas says:


    I thought I conveyed sufficiently a tone of warning and framed the call to action as a “what will they do IF” scenario.

    I pointed out the potential strength of the Church in America, I didn’t make a prediction.

  35. michigancatholic says:

    Except Thomas, I don’t think we have that kind of strength today — June 7, 2009 — right now. The whole thing is like a giant puffball just waiting for a little gust of air to collapse into the little kernel that it really is. That’s a statement of the current condition, not a prediction.

    You asked, “If the Church engaged in civil disobedience and refused to pay up, what would the government do?” And I told you what I think they would do, without a doubt. I think they would make us do what they want or make us pay the price.

  36. CFS says:

    Michigan Catholic,

    Thanks for the clarification. I don’t think we have any substantial disagreements.

    In 2004 I heard Archbishop Timothy Dolan make many of the same points at a lecture he gave for First Things in New York (before he was archbishop thereof). He sketched a history of the Church in America and showed how the Church has only been effective in its “ad extra” mission when it has its “ad intra” affairs in order. And he suggested that now is a time when the Church has to focus ad intra, i.e., on the reform/renewal of things like catechesis, liturgy, and, yes, the episcopate. Once we have these things in order — and it will probably take a while! — then the ad extra stuff will follow.

    The situation is urgent, yes. But it is well to remember that, historically speaking, the situation has, more often than not, been urgent. When people say that the Church is falling apart, we should remind ourselves that it has been falling apart for two thousand years. We’ll do more good by living our respective vocations in the here and now, being faithful to our daily duties, knowing what those duties are, than by succumbing to panic and overreaching. Indeed, it is more than arguable that many of the problems of the “post-conciliar Church” are the result of hastiness and a sense of “urgency” in carrying out “reform.” It takes very little time to tear things down; it takes much time and patience to rebuild. Witness the serenity and “ad intra” quality of the most effective agent of reform in Church history: monastic life.

    I’m not saying these things in opposition to your remarks. Indeed, I think they fit in with and/or are complementary to what you’ve said. And I’m reminding myself of them as much as anyone else. Anyway, thanks for the exchange.

  37. John says:

    “Perhaps it could be made a class action lawsuit.”

    Though I am not an attorney, government institutions, and especially the Federal government have sovereign immunity. Collecting monies from them is near impossible.

    The “intimdation” charge is unlikely to work unless if can be shown that the government agency was clearly acting outside of its authority. An agency tasked with enforcing particular laws Simply stating that one “maybe” in violation of an existing law that that agency enforces after receiving a complaint from a “concerned citizen” is unlikley to be sufficient. (liberal peace groups learned this during the Reagan era)

    In the end, we are probably going to have to eat this one. It maybe better to challenge specific instances of actual tax exempt status revocation in court.

  38. anon for this says:

    I don’t think I’m being naive. Years of experience with IRS agents in general, and my own work in the exempt organization community in particular, suggests to me that a deliberate campaign of political intimidation is the LEAST likely explanation for the fine Catholic Answers received. The rules governing the permissible lobbying and political activities of exempt organizations are largely based on “facts and circumstances” tests, and a good tax attorney with experience in this area could probably have settled this matter with a well-written letter and a few phone calls. It is very difficult for taxpayers to prevail in litigation of the sort that Catholic Answers has undertaken, and such litigation consumes precious resources that might be better directed elsewhere.

  39. anon for this says:

    The Catholic Answers website contains a link to a fundraising appeal. The organization is endeavoring to raise $100K in contributions to defray the costs of its litigation.
    I wonder how much the fine was.

  40. anon for this says:

    Here is a link to the Catholic Answers’ complaint in the litigation (the legal document setting forth its cause of action), for any tax nerds who might be interested.

  41. Remember,

    Paul blasphemed the Church before he became a Christian. pray

  42. michigancatholic says:


    I agree with you on many points. Thanks for the conversation. It’s been constructive, and I think, helpful.

    My only comment is that we have to be careful not to say “it’s always been this way and that’s somehow divine,” and then let that lead to complacency of the sort that preceded the Reformation. Those kinds of ideas are very presumptuous and can flirt with permitting or denying evil in the hope that good will come out of it. It doesn’t happen that way as the post-Reformation church found out. History was changed forever.

    One of the major story lines of the OT is that one who loves God is supposed to try to do the right thing for the right reason. The story line is NOT, we always screw up so why bother. Yes, God draws straight lines from crooked ones, but he expects us to do something not only on his behalf but on our own!

  43. michigancatholic says:

    Not saying what I’m saying in opposition to your ideas either. I think we agree substantially.

  44. I’m wondering something that maybe one of the tax experts on here can answer: When individuals are charged with this or that infraction by the IRS, the accused is considered guilty until proven innocent in the IRS courts. Is such the case also when the IRS takes aim at 501c3’s for violating various and sundry ridiculous laws on political speech? The present lawsuit will probably be a different story, but perhaps the reason the IRS gets away with so much intimidation is that it is practically impossible to defend oneself against this Leviathan.

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