RI: Priest tells pols that he will inform parishioners about their immoral votes on legislation

The culture wars are getting hotter.  “Social issues” will remain key issues in the next couple election cycles in these USA, which will probably cause a couple train-wrecks for Catholics and for libertarians… and even for Catholic Tea Party members.  On that point, the great Samuel Gregg has a new book coming out (pre-order HERE) which I am reading in an advance copy.

So… we track back to priest and bishops being involved in politics.  Whenever a priest or a bishop enunciates clearly and accurately a teaching of the Church which would bring any sound Catholic to shun certain candidates, those priests and bishops are accused of being political, of “imposing their views”, or of “interfering”.

It was with great interest that I read about a priest in Rhode Island, Fr. Brian Sistare.

At RI Future I read this (my emphases and comments):

Priest to legislators: I will campaign against you from church [Let’s see if that is actually what the priest did.]
By Bob Plain

A Catholic priest is said to have sent an email to legislators who voted for same sex marriage threatening to use his bully pulpit as a church leader to get them unelected. [Note reporter’s choice of vocabulary.]

“I’m praying for each of you, that you turn back to God,” said an email purportedly from Father Brian Sistare, who is now the priest at Sacred Heart in Woonsocket. “I’m also going to let my Parish know exactly how you voted, so come re-election time, you will not be re-elected.”

As non-profit entities, churches are legally forbidden from engaging in political campaign activity.  [Is what Father did “political activity”?]

The email was sent to the 26 state senators who voted for marriage equality and was signed and seemingly [Is the reporter purposely “hedging”?  Of is this a way of associating what the priest did?  Think about how newsies, for legal reasons, will say “alleged murderer”, for legal reasons.  But that commonplace reference now might have a broader rhetorical use.  Just sayin’…] sent by Sistare. Sistare, who was a priest at St. Rocco Church in Johnston at the time, did not return a call for comment earlier this week to RI Future and has since declined to comment to other media outlets as well.

Sistare is said to have told married gay parishoners that he would not serve them communion [The writer is ignorant of how Catholics phrase things.  Shouldn’t they do at least a little homework?] unless they ended their marriages. Divorce is considered a sin to devout Catholics but the church does have an annulment process. [How many things are wrong in this paragraph?  First, there is no distinction about “marriage”.  The writer simply asserts that the “gay” parishoners are “married”, and that they should end their “marriages”.  I guess we are talking about civil “marriages”, for if it were even possible that there could be such a thing as a “gay marriage” in the Church, then how could there be “gay marriage divorce”?  This is getting surreal, real fast.]

Here’s the full email sent to state senators:

Dear RI Senators who voted for “marriage” between members of the same sex,

Yesterday was a very sad day for our little state of Rhode Island. I’m still shocked that each of you took it upon yourself to take the place of God and redefine what He has established. Marriage has always been understood as the union between one man and one woman. This is a 5,000 year old fact! I’m wondering what you will do when a mother comes to you and asks to be married to her son, or a cousin wants to marry her first cousin, or when a man wants to marry 2 or 3 women, or a human being wants to marry his animal? [Or several animals… or several underage animals?] What will you do, now that you have decided that Marriage is no longer a sacred union between one man and one woman?
For those of you Senators who are baptized Catholics, I invite you to go to the Sacrament of Confession to receive God’s Mercy and Forgiveness for your grave sin of voting against God yesterday, so you’ll be able to receive Holy Communion again in the Catholic Church. [“Invite”… not so threatening.]
For those of you who claim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, I also invite you to repentance in your own faith tradition; and to those who claim no religious affiliation, I pray that you also see the error of your ways.
Your decision yesterday will have a lot of consequences on those of us who hold God’s definition of Marriage between one man and one woman. Already my Pastor from my hometown of Westerly is being accused by a confirmed lesbian [I think “confirmed” here means something like “self-avowed”.], of violating the tax exempt status of the Catholic Church for telling his parishioners to contact Senator Algiere about his upcoming vote [There is nothing wrong, in itself, with telling people to be politically involved.] – unfortunately, Senator Algiere, you betrayed your own Catholic Faith and your constituents in voting for sodomy yesterday. Also, my little niece Giana was coming out of school the other day when her fellow 4 year old classmate remarked to her that 2 women could marry. Thankfully, my niece told the little boy the TRUTH that this isn’t the case, that Marriage is only between one man and one woman.
I’m praying for each of you, that you turn back to God. I’m also going to let my Parish know exactly how you voted, so come re-election time, you will not be re-elected.  [He doesn’t say that he will tell them not to vote for X.  He says that he will tell them how X voted.  As a consequence, well-formed Catholics would on their own choose not to vote for that candidate without being told how to vote.  Right?]
Fr. Sistare
St. Rocco Church
Johnston, RI

Fr. Sistare isn’t afraid to speak up.

At the top of the news piece, the claim was made in the headline: “Priest to legislators: I will campaign against you from church”

Is that what Fr. Sistare did?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liberals, One Man & One Woman, Our Catholic Identity, Pò sì jiù, Religious Liberty, The Drill, The future and our choices, The Last Acceptable Prejudice and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. mike cliffson says:

    How long before lawfare and enemdia smearing turn physical? I have already suggested priesthole building on internet, anyone else with similar ideas better not say them by phone, internet or other, ever.
    Can’t happen here ? where I write from , a government telegram reporting “Perfect public order ,killing of priests and monks continues” is barely beyond living memory.

  2. Tim says:

    Fr. Sistare is not campaigning against the legislators…what he is doing to very clearly trying to lead them as a good shepherd should do. Bravo to Fr S!

    As for the writer….as Fr Z has stated the article is full of errors and misleading information. Never should have been published.

  3. Patrick-K says:

    I’ve never heard of RI Future, and I’d imagine most people haven’t. It seems like another example of liberal bubble-world journalism, where facts are framed or ignored in order to fit The Narrative.

    There was a very good interview in Crisis the other day which went through the type of things that can violate tax-exempt status for churches. Oddly, it seems to have been taken down, but I found a copy here: http://catholicnewslive.com/story/93341

    Note that it isn’t illegal for a church to promote a political campaign. Rather, it just puts them at risk for losing their tax-exempt status. In addition, churches can state their position on an issue, as long as do not support any particular candidate. Telling parishioners how someone voted and allowing them to draw their own conclusions seems to be okay, but I’m not a lawyer…

  4. If he’s hoping to get the legislators “unelected,” he has an uphill battle. Polls show close to 60% of Rhode Island voters—presumably, many of them Catholic—support same sex marriage.

  5. Supertradmum says:

    No, he is not telling people how to vote. He is trying to save souls. And, if we do not have more, brave priests, the Catholic Church will be persecuted and fined for not allowing ssm. Already, I know of one Catholic priest and one Anglican minister who have been asked to do a ssm in England. Both said no, but this is going to the EU Court of Human Rights in the near future, the ECtHR. Just wait. If Catholic clergy are not clear on these issues, they will find it will be too late to say anything.

    And the language of this rag above is awful. The writer is almost illiterate, and woefully ignorant of the entire “issue”.

  6. On the facts presented, I would say with near-metaphysical certitude that Father did nothing that violates any law, or that jeopardizes the church’s tax status.

    However, many church officials are as nervous as a cat in a room of rocking chairs about this, and as a result, the advice they tend to give, and follow, is–to my judgment–narrower than it needs to be. Understandable, however, because a bishop knows that his advice isn’t always followed, and we priests don’t always use the best judgment, so better to keep us far from the actual line.

    My advice would be to omit any reference to anyone not being re-elected. Just emphasize providing their voting record to parishioners. The same good is accomplished, without giving ill informed newsies something to latch onto.

  7. CPT TOM says:

    Deacon Kandra, Doesn’t the Lord tell us to look to him for help to do the impossible? Or are you suggesting a zero sum game? The fact that Father Sistare is essentially storming the fortress of the evil one is because, in general, the Church, through our bishops and clergy, for the most part, haven’t delivered the hard messages the last 40 years of speaking about what the Church actually teaches about Contraception, what is Marriage and the Family, defining sin and other “hard” social issues. The blame can be laid at their feet for De-emphizing the connection of Marriage to Children. It is the result of 40 years of bad catechisis that our laity is largely ignorant of the faith and have badly formed consciouses.

    This explains the many Catholics in Rhode Island (who make up 50 percent of the state) who actually favor Same Sex marriage, and the 50 percent of Catholics who voted for Obama in 2009 and 2012. I live in NY that has a supposedly Catholic Governor who lives with his mistress, pushed through the Same Sex Marriage law by hoodlum tactics, and almost was successful pushing through a law that would have allowed late term abortion. This man was called by his Bishop “the kind of Catholic we need more of in politics.” I don’t think so.

    Pope Francis said in Rio to “make a mess” (or however it is supposed to be translated), I say good for Father Sistare

  8. AngelGuarded says:

    Thank you Fr. Sistare for daring to speak the truth. So refreshing! It is time to stand up for what is right and name what is wrong. Fr. Sistare will be in my prayers.

  9. dcs says:

    a cousin wants to marry her first cousin

    Which actually would be valid if they were dispensed since they aren’t related in the first or second degree or in the direct line.

  10. JoyfulMom7 says:

    Praying for Fr. Sistare. God bless him for his courage!

  11. StJude says:

    Way to go Father Sistare!

  12. Sonshine135 says:

    Father Sistare is yet another Warrior Priest. Kudos to him! Leading the flock in this day and age is not without peril. Imagine if we had 10,000 Priests with his zeal in the USA. What a difference it would make. We need more trouble makers like him. More prayers for vocations and men with spines of steel.

  13. Tim says:

    This article presents another opportunity to thank all priests willing to publically stand up for the Faith (especially on the Internet.) Viva Cristo Rey!

  14. msc says:

    It’s funny how cultural liberals only object when a priest or pastor advocates something “conservative.” I never hear or read about them objecting to the intense pro-Democratic politicization of so many black-dominated Protestant churches in the U.S. Heavens, they went out of their way to ignore Jeremiah Wright.

  15. wanda says:

    Thank you, Fr. Sistare. The flock is perishing for lack of truth. May God bless you and his angels defend you. Dear priests, dear Bishops….we need you to speak out and defend and protect the flocks (including most importantly, their souls) entrusted to your care.

  16. iPadre says:

    One time we had the highest percentage of Catholics. Today, the majority are no-practicing or practicing who reject Catholic teaching on a number of issues. Every time I hear the word hurricane, I expect our just reward to come right up Narragansett Bay. Then again, I think that those few in the Adoration chapels throughout our little state are appeasing His just judgment. Revelation 3:16

  17. Salvelinus says:

    The militant homosexualists have already posted Father’s rectory Phone Number on the website combox and asked everyone to call. I cant get on to comment over there, but maybe folks from here can aide and defend correct Catholic teaching over there? I grew up (and was also poorly catechized in Southern New England) – I’ve thank God reverted back and found a TLM down here in TX

  18. Salvelinus says:

    Lets back Fr. Sistare on that goofy RI webpage with the angry homoheresy

  19. pfreddys says:

    May I remind: this whole slide into the abyss started a long time ago when the state permitted divorce.

  20. Traductora says:

    Good for him! Before the last election, our bishop sent out good information and told the priests that they should host parish meetings about the responsibility of Catholic voters not to vote for evil. One of our priests, unfortunately, was so vague and confused about the whole thing that he actually ended up giving people the impression that it was fine for Catholics to vote for an abortion and gay-marriage pushing politician as long as your “conscience” told you it was okay because you liked some other social position of his. I wasn’t sure whether he was a confirmed Democrat and really meant to say this, or whether he was so afraid of making any definite statement supporting Catholic teachings that he waffled to the point of being unintelligible.

    Interestingly, the people I spoke to afterwards were very disappointed, and I felt they had actually come hoping to be reinforced in their own ability to argue for Catholic positions and the responsibility of Catholics to use their vote to support them, but had instead been undermined by the priest’s vagueness.

    This is a very important thing for priests to talk about, and they have to do it clearly and in the right way, that is, without fear.

  21. Sissy says:

    Traductora said: “One of our priests, unfortunately, was so vague and confused about the whole thing that he actually ended up giving people the impression that it was fine for Catholics to vote for an abortion and gay-marriage pushing politician as long as your “conscience” told you it was okay because you liked some other social position of his.”

    Wait, Fr. Jim is your priest????

  22. Perhaps it’s time we just let the tax-exempt status go. It is not more important than the Church’s mandate and mission, and may even be a positive hindrance. Besides, the time is coming when it will be taken away, anyhow, with or without provocation.

  23. jpii_rox says:

    I know we want to support the home team here, but it would have been helpful if Fr. could have written his letter a bit better himself.

  24. Ben Kenobi says:

    Anita, I’ve been on both sides of the line. I used to work with a Campus prolife ministry that managed to earn official club status. It was a long slog and there were occasions when we felt we would be better off going at it independently. I was on the other side. I argued then, as now – that we were a club like any other and entitled to the same support as every other campus club. That we were politically active is irrelevant – plenty of the other clubs were the same. We won, and we kept our status. The benefit is that the university couldn’t just ban us from campus, (as they had done with other clubs), because we had permission to be there.

    As for the Church – there are good reasons to exempt the Catholic church from paying taxes. The Catholic church provides social services to many groups of people in America. The more the Church takes on, the more the state will save money. Exemptation is one hurdle that permits the Church to help more people than they would be able to help anyways.

    If they are going to take it – let them take it. But do not voluntarily give it up. Force them to step in and actually do it. Remember what Christ said, “If the man demands your purse, give him your tunic also”. Only in response to force do we do this.

  25. CPT TOM says:

    @Ben Kenobi

    Well stated. We have the constitutionally guaranteed right of Freedom of Religion (not just worship as the O one often says). Make them fight us every step of the way, make them look bad, or let them look mean spirited so that it wakes up Catholics and other Christians to the evil we face.

    One thing, the US Church, particularly Catholic Charities, takes a good deal of money from the US Government, too much IMHO. Catholic Charities budget is almost 50 percent government money…I suspect that explains their seemingly divided loyalties.

  26. OrthodoxChick says:

    As one who was born and bred in Little Rhody, I sadly must agree with Fr. Finelli. The decline in our Catholic culture in that state is astonishing. The silver lining is that we have good priests like Fr. Finelli and Fr. Sistare, among a few others, who won’t abandon their flock. And they have the backing of their bishop, who did speak out publicly against ssm.

  27. jhayes says:

    I don’t think Thomas Aquinas would have agreed with the proposition that any Senator who voted for same-sex marriage had sinned.

    The natural law is a participation in us of the eternal law: while human law falls short of the eternal law. Now Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5): “The law which is framed for the government of states, allows and leaves unpunished many things that are punished by Divine providence. Nor, if this law does not attempt to do everything, is this a reason why it should be blamed for what it does.” Wherefore, too, human law does not prohibit everything that is forbidden by the natural law….

    Again it must be observed that the end of human law is different from the end of Divine law. For the end of human law is the temporal tranquillity of the state, which end law effects by directing external actions, as regards those evils which might disturb the peaceful condition of the state. On the other hand, the end of the Divine law is to bring man to that end which is everlasting happiness;

    I-II, Q. 98, Art. 1

  28. Johnno says:

    Russia is the only nation so far to take a stand against this insanity. Good for them! And for those complaining that Russia is against free speech, well, do you imagine that the homoheretics and their government lapdogs care about protecting the free speech and rights of Christians? But now that the shoe’s on the other foot they are all up in arms about cancelling the Olympics and isolating and bullying Russia which only seeks to reverse their population decline and protect marriage and children and Christians from being asaulted, and churches and relics from being vandalized and stolen and set fire to by these ‘tolerant’ protesting homolobbies. Watch what those people do when the games get closer. Perhaps Pope Francis and the world’s bishops should support Russia in some way, hmmmmm? Unfortunately, I expect some ‘official’ Vatican spokesperson to decry how Russia is preventing ‘free speech’ and make that the focus.

  29. acardnal says:

    Deacon Greg Kandra wrote, “If he’s hoping to get the legislators “unelected,” he has an uphill battle. “

    Actually, I think Rev. Father is hoping and trying to save their souls and the souls of those who vote for immoral politicians.

  30. Lisa Graas says:

    I agree with acardnal’s response to Deacon Greg.

    Also, did the priest do something illegal? No. Is this reporter trying to make you believe he did something illegal? Yes.

    In short, what we have here is a case of demonization of priests and, as such, all Catholics.

  31. benedetta says:

    If more good and courageous priests spoke out like this one, that 60 % would noticeably decrease…

  32. Kathleen10 says:

    SAVE THE BAY! (that is for iPadre and Orthodox Chick) :)
    We lived in Rhode Island for 15 years, now we are 20 minutes away. It is liberal central. No wonder I walked around trying to sort out Catholicism for all those years, it’s positively schizoid in Rhode Island. I watched EWTN all the time and then attended Mass and said “what the….”
    No, I’m wrong, it’s not schizoid, it’s just what it is, mostly ultra-liberal Catholicism and populace and the voting makes no sense at all to a conservative trying to figure out how the most Catholic state (or is Massachusetts) can vote for every liberal thing that comes down the pike. BUT, when the hullabaloo was going on in Rhode Island over same-sex marriage not long ago, there was a very strong remnant of faithful Christians showing up and protesting at the top of their lungs. I wish I could say they were mostly Catholics. They were not. From my understanding I would suspect Protestant church members, mostly African-Americans and Portuguese (there’s the Catholics). A nice ecumenical effort. They did their best, and reports indicated when the angry gay mobs shrieked, for once the other side shrieked right back, and sung hymns to drown out the gay yelling too! Unfortunately, the fix was in, Rhode Island is lost, and same-sex “marriage” won the day. But I give those people props for the effort.
    Rhode Island is a little state jam packed with colleges and universities. You can’t toss a clam shell without hitting a professor, and Rhode Island professors never heard a liberal cause they didn’t support. It’s required. The media is all liberal of course, the Providence Journal is ho-hum rabid about gay rights, the usual suspects, in other words.
    Poor Fr. Sistare. He has kicked the fire ant hill. He has taken a stick and whacked the white face hornet nest. I hope he has a spine of steel. He’s going to need it. The Bishop, can’t remember his name, but as I recall, a good man with a right sense of priorities. He may be of some support, but, absolutely Fr. Sistare can use the support right now, in any way possible. This will be hitting the Providence Journal, and, all the news outlets will be picking it up. Like I said, little state with alot of “groupthink”. I may be way off here, but Fr. Sistare may not get peace from here on in. I don’t know.
    God bless Fr. Sistare, indeed. He has spoken truth where the truth is not welcome.
    This issue reminds me of public schools that have been lied to by certain groups who put pressure on them to avoid mentioning God, etc., in school. Yes there is a line to avoid crossing but that line is not nearly so defined as some say it is. Just threatening with lawsuits is often enough to keep the timid in line however. So teachers are petrified if a child mentions God or Jesus or church or anything religious in class, unless it is a Hindu, Muslim, or Jewish child. Then they applaud. Same type of issue. Of course there are hateful bigots just waiting to try to sue over tax exempt status. In Little Rhody, they may find a sympathetic ear for that. I will find that paper and leave a comment of support if I can. I will also email the Bishop. I encourage others to do the same, and perhaps Rhode Islanders can keep us posted on further developments.
    It’s so frustrating. New England is a wasteland.

  33. Nancy D. says:

    Our right to practice our religion in private as well as in public does not depend on whether a particular organization is for profit or not for profit. It is unconstitutional to suggest otherwise.

  34. BalmerCatholic says:

    Sadly, we just lost our parochial vicar in our parish. With being in the statist bastion of Maryland, we are now under the asinine rule of perverted license. The kicker: this brave priest made it a point to name the names of the legislators (who are also parishioners) when they voted to allow this dog of a bill to be passed in the General Asylum. Now granted, that was about 18 months ago, and before the bill was brought to referendum (and surprisingly allowed).

    Sorry, I can’t be more charitable about this. I refuse to acknowledge this purported “right” to something that is entirely optional, and is nothing more than a supposedly “legal” excuse to degrade another person.

  35. It’s not the Church interfering with politics, it’s politics interfering with morality. This is what needs to be understood by the MSNBC types.

  36. Thank God for this priest. I wish we had more like him.

  37. Palladio says:

    It is wonderful to hear what this good Father is doing.

    I agree that New England is a wasteland, as one of the posters says, as a matter of hyperbole. Rhode Island has more Catholics per capita than any other State. Its lamentably unCatholic ethos and habits are not only bad in themselves, they bode ill for the rest of the region and country. However, we must not write off either Rhode Island or New England: there are Latin Masses here and there (see Una Voce New Hampshire online; even its list is incomplete); there are reverent Novus Ordo Masses a plenty. We drive out of our way for one. No easy answers, but it has never been easy in this most protestant of nations to be a Catholic, though our potted histories like to suggest otherwise. Please never despair. Please pray in joy and hope. Please take up this cross and act as far as you are able to change things. Brick by brick, as Fr. Z says.

  38. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Father doesn’t make the news.

    He just reports it.

  39. Scott W. says:

    Every Catholic should review this: The Church, Nonprofits, and Taxes: http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/1891/the_church_nonprofits_and_taxes.aspx#.UgZTfKx26QG

    Executive summary: In the last 20 years, the IRS has revoked just ONE church’s tax-exempt status. When ministers or others hide behind the IRS regulations as an excuse to avoid confrontation on hot-button issues, call them out on it.

  40. Palladio says:

    Very interesting, but the reasons may have less to do with the IRS (pbuin) than with the pulpit, beginning with, say, indifference, but by no means limited to indifference. It seems to me that the Father in question was very careful to respect the law, spirit and letter, as well as completely faithful. Prudence is as ever a virtue, and I shudder to think what the IRS (pbuin) could do to ruin a parish, especially where so many are struggling after the refinancing necessary after certain scandals.

  41. SKAY says:

    “It’s funny how cultural liberals only object when a priest or pastor advocates something “conservative.” I never hear or read about them objecting to the intense pro-Democratic politicization of so many black-dominated Protestant churches in the U.S. Heavens, they went out of their way to ignore Jeremiah Wright.”
    I agree, msc —
    It is interesting. When Al Gore was campaigning, it was perfectly OK for him to do so
    in many African American churches. I don’t remember hearing a word of criticism from
    the MSM.
    There are links to other examples of him doing this. This is just one.


    Of course Rev. Wright had no problems campaigning in his church for a particular candidate. I don’t remember anyone talking about taking away his tax exempt status.
    The same goes for Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan.

  42. Scott W. says:

    Prudence is as ever a virtue, and I shudder to think what the IRS (pbuin) could do to ruin a parish

    Yes. I’ve said for a long time that at all levels of the Church need to have in place contingency plans as society becomes increasingly hostile to the faith. In short, act like any perks handed to you by the State won’t be there tomorrow. But if your church is muzzling itself on important truths today to avoid as Benedict XVI put it, “the Moloch of the future”, you are doing it wrong.

  43. av8er says:

    God Bless Fr. Sistare. We, the laity, are the foot soldiers in the Church Militant and need more members of the officer corps like Fr. Sistare.

  44. Palladio says:

    “. But if your church is muzzling itself on important truths today to avoid as Benedict XVI put it, “the Moloch of the future”, you are doing it wrong.” I agree.

  45. cl00bie says:

    As much as I applaud the good father’s sentiment, I have to say that if he left off the last paragraph, he would have been fine. But the last paragraph wanders dangerously close to (if not over) the campaigning against a candidate prohibition.

Comments are closed.