Elections Issues: “So what is a parish priest to do?”

This is an interesting bit of news that touches on many point of interest as we rocket to Election Day.

From an editorial in the Albuquerque Journal.

Editorial: Archbishop reacts to priest’s abortion letter
By Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016 at 12:05am

At places of worship across the country, abortion is not an unusual topic for discussion, or even instruction.
That the subject may be given more intense attention during an election season isn’t unusual, either. That’s because even though abortion is legal, based on a 1973 Supreme Court decision, it remains one of the most divisive issues across America and an important one for many religious denominations.

That a Catholic priest in Santa Fe would issue guidance to his flock that is consistent with the Catholic Church’s official position – that abortion is a “moral evil” – shouldn’t come as a surprise – particularly after the presidential candidates staked out their positions in a nationally televised debate.

What perhaps is surprising is the archdiocese’s reaction to Father Larry Brito’s display of a sign on the side of the St. Anne Parish church proclaiming “Vote Catholic, Vote Pro-Life” and a letter to his parishioners urging them not to “vote in representatives into office who are ‘Pro-Abortion’ or as they sheepishly call themselves ‘Pro-Choice.’ ”

Brito did not name any candidates he had in mind, though in discussing Planned Parenthood he made it clear that there is “one candidate who has been endorsed by this evil organization and who has proudly embraced their endorsement.” In the presidential race, of course, that could only be Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Why is a controversy involving one denomination a public issue here? That’s because more than 380,000 New Mexicans are Catholics.

In a response to news coverage of Brito’s letter, the relatively new Archbishop of Santa Fe, the Most Rev. John C. Wester, issued a statement that said something about concern for the unborn, but appears to be a clear reprimand of Brito.

The archbishop wrote that while emotions are running high as the election nears, “these emotions do not give us license to endorse or denounce a candidate because of his or her position on a given issue.” He referred the Catholic faithful to consult a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops document called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” for advice as they prepare to vote.

“One of the fundamental points that is made in Faithful Citizenship is that the ‘Church’s leaders are to avoid endorsing or opposing candidates or telling people how to vote,’” Wester wrote. “Rather, ‘This is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.’ ”

Wester also could be concerned that abortion rights supporters might attempt to cause problems between the church and the IRS, threatening the church’s status as a nonprofit. Or it could be that he is setting a new tone on this “given issue,” that perhaps the church’s position is no longer as black and white as portrayed in the church’s official Catechism, which says:

“You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish. … Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”

So what is a parish priest to do?

Wester’s statement seems to emphasize that abortion is just one thing for a Catholic voter to consider in a complex political world. Brito’s would seem to be that the church teaching on an “abominable” crime should figure much more prominently than other issues.

While Wester’s statement implies that the clergy can’t talk about who to vote for, or not vote for, if a pastor can’t speak about what many religious groups consider to be a moral crime in the context of an election, then what do the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of religion or speech really mean in a country that was founded upon those principles?


Read the rest there.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Prayerful says:

    I hope Archbishop Wester is not following the Cardinal Bernardin ‘seamless garment’ line on abortion which just made it one issue among many with social justice seemingly a higher priority. Fr Brito was correct. He named no one and there are anti-abortion third party candidates. Maybe even Hillary Clinton might become pro-life, butb that’s along a lines of hell freezing over, or maybe something more far fetched.

  2. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Interesting that Archbishop Wester is quoted as bogusly deflecting the matter to an idea of “emotions” giving or not giving “us license”, and apparently to a particular time: “as the election nears”. What, fundamentally or prudentially, do time and emotions have to do with the propriety of denouncing “a candidate because of his or her position on a given issue” of assiduously, consuetudinally promoting “abominable crimes”?

  3. Priests and bishops are given supernatural weapons to fight evil in Holy Orders, but too many will not use them. How do they expect to escape responsibility for this?

    This is why darkness engulfs the earth.

  4. carbonunit4 says:

    It’s the Archbishop that needs the correction, not the parish priest. So disappointing and discouraging on so many levels, and no doubt adding even more confusion to Catholics already confused by watered-down proclamations from those charged with leading and teaching.

  5. New Sister says:

    @ Anita Moore – you are so right. Fr Michael Rodriguez of El Paso is the model for this! Of course the priest also has to be supported (not undermined/stabbed in the back) by his own bishop.

  6. jhayes says:

    There was a similar issue in San Diego, where someone inserted a flier in a parish bulletin. The bishop issued a letter saying:

    Catholic teaching points to the importance of several major issues in this presidential election year: abortion, poverty and economic justice, the environment, euthanasia, immigration, religious liberty, and solidarity within society. Ff This final issue of solidarity has a particular importance at this moment because the very democratic impulse which is the foundation for our national unity is being eroded by partisan venom and personal attack.

    In this environment, it is vital that all institutions in our nation participate in discussions about the election with civility and balance. It is particularly vital that religious communities do so.

    This duty has been violated by one of our parishes, and thus it is essential to make clear:

    It is contrary to Catholic teaching to state that voting for a Democrat or Republican automatically condemns the voter to hell;
    It is contrary to Catholic faith to state that gun control legislation is a form of slavery;
    It is contrary to Catholic faith to fan the flames of hatred against Muslims or any religious group.


  7. YoungLatinMassGuy says:

    This is why we’re losing to the mohammedans.

  8. Kathleen10 says:

    We have waited for our pastors to provide guidance on the election, to almost no avail. One brief mention of the election and life, but not what you could call a spirited exhortation. The church is stepping back from being the guiding force in our lives, not helping us to make those tough decisions. When JFK was assassinated, Americans flocked to churches for consolation, I’m certain it was the same when Pearl Harbor happened and other times of crisis. The church was relevant then. She provided comfort and guidance, solace and certainty. Today on the USCCB website, they are touting the Campaign for Human Development. Need more be said.

  9. Dave N. says:

    “At places of worship across the country, abortion is not an unusual topic for discussion, or even instruction.”

    I’m not sure where this person goes to church, but here in California, abortion would be a pretty unusual topic for discussion and/or instruction.

  10. kiwiinamerica says:

    The schism must come. We need it. The Church must be purified.

    Most US bishops spend their days searching for new and inventive ways to grovel before the zeitgeist. They sell out their flocks and any priest who shows signs of pastoral and moral courage is thrown under the bus. They’re no damn good.

  11. Ralph says:

    It seems to me the Bishop is wary of a fight with the IRS. He doesn’t want the Diocese to lose the tax exemption. He’s not alone – just about every leader in the American Church does the same.

    If the price for speaking the truth on sin is payment of tax – perhaps it’s time we pay Caesar his gold and start preaching the unadulterated gospel? The silence is costing souls.

  12. Markus says:

    I know and have worked with Fr. Larry Brito. He is one of the newer priests here in SF that have been ordained in the last 10-15 years. There are 4 or 5 such priests here that are of the “newer” ordained that my wife and I seek out for Mass. They are orthodox, reverent and their sermons are real. I will pray for him.

    Our archbishop is new. But this situation here is not. 12 years ago, during the election, a Catholic group placed flyers on windshields of cars during Mass. They listed public voting records on abortion, of the candidates. Then ex-Governor Richardson called in the then Archbishop for a “meeting.” The diocese then released a statement that they did not support the group and banned them from Church property.

    Every few weeks, over 25 some years, I would visit an establishment that the political leaders, many retired, would gather. I knew many on a first name basis. I know firsthand that the catholic political leadership is rabidly pro Democrat. They are also heavily allied with the Masons. A State Senator, catholic and a Mason, was just convicted of selling state property for personal gain. Many are not too smart but their backs are covered. I have not been back in two years after a “discussion” with a catholic ex-governor.

    There is a memorial here for martyred priests killed some 300 years ago. Please pray for these “newer” brave priests. They need our support.

  13. WVC says:

    Vote Trump. He wants to appeal the Johnson Amendment. If he’s successful, that will be one less excuse for the bishops to use when it comes to avoiding doing their job.

  14. KateD says:

    Whose face is on the dollar bill?

  15. KateD says:

    Give unto Wahington what belongs to Washington…

  16. Benedict Joseph says:

    Living in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe myself, I’ve been waiting to see the relatively new Archbishop put his cards on the table. He has. My participation in the Annual Appeal will now be directed to where I am assured it will be utilized for the promotion of the Faith.
    It appears the Archbishop is rather more wary of disapproval “from abroad” than a fight with the IRS. If he and other ecclesiastics are worried about the penalty of lost tax exemption they best vote for Mr. Trump who has assured us the “Johnson Amendment” will meet its terminus in a Trump administration.

  17. SKAY says:

    Apparently we have already lost our freedom of religion and speech or should I say religious speech.
    Hillary has said that she will use government to make sure religion(and that is in reference to Christianity) in the US becomes more “progressive” in its teachings. That refers to same sex marriage and abortion on demand. She will have plenty of help in this effort from Tim Kaine and Pelosi. Remember the mayor of Houston tried to require certain pastors to bring in their sermons to be approved by her before they delivered them on Sunday. She failed in that attempt but nationally Hillary will use the IRS and the justice department to achieve her goals.
    It looks like they will be very few that will speak up against this attack on our First Amendment.
    Islam will be a different story particularly since the wealthy Middle Eastern Islamic countries have
    donated millions to the Clinton pretend charity. Bringing many thousands more Muslims,
    who cannot be vetted. into our country is also a result of these countries buying political influence
    from her when she was Secretary of State. Islam is playing the long game using the Clintons and Obama.
    I watched a documentary on EWTN -THE WOLF IN SHEEPS ClOTHING-yesterday. It is
    about Saul Alinsky’s life, dangerous political beliefs and the effects it unfortunately has had
    on our country and on the Catholic Church. It is well known that Hillary and Obama are both Alinsky disciples.

  18. tzard says:

    It will be hard, but I think it’s time we let them take our tax exemption away. The moral cost is too high. It could happen anyway, whether we like it or not.

    Were not a beholden as Germany, but we’re still like the “rich man” in scripture.

  19. LarryW2LJ says:

    To put a twist on an old saying:

    “I would rather stand with Christ and be judged a fool by the Archbishop; than stand with the Archbishop and be judged a fool by Christ.”

  20. frjim4321 says:

    It’s pretty easy. Just preach the gospel faithfully every week. Remind the parishioners of their civic responsibilities and to know the issues and candidates, and apply their faith accordingly.

  21. mwa says:

    SKAY, I am wondering if they mentioned that Obama’s Alinskyite training was partly paid for by the Catholic Church (CCHD)? https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/catholic-bishops-helped-to-fund-alinsky-training-for-barack-obama-according

  22. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    KateD asks, “Whose face is on the dollar bill?”

    God’s (pars pro toto)? – cf.:


  23. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    It would be interesting to see the original(s) to which Bishop McElroy is referring. Are certain statements accurately represented, here? And, with reference to the actual details, to see him motivate his three pronouncements.

    The phrasing “one of our parishes” is interesting, too. Is a ‘parish’ a sort of notional ‘person’?

    It would also be interesting to learn whether he considered “fanning the flames” of, say, orthodox zeal against the errors of “any religious group” was, by contrast, preeminently in keeping with the “Catholic faith”?

  24. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I just encountered some details about the events in San Diego, suggesting that Bishop McElroy curiously (and utterly unclearly) by his use of “one of our parishes” (as if it were some sort of personal entity) has in fact conflated a flier placed without the parish priest’s authorization in a weekly bulletin – for which a “lay group called Ecclesia Militans has taken credit” – with a column written by Father Richard Perozich for the bulletin. It has links to an interview with Fr. Perozich and to a “copy of a draft of the alleged flier […] available from a local media site” (among other links), and a quotation from Fr. Perozich’s column:


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