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Father Peter West Under Fire

I find this absolutely hilarious:

 

A pro-life activist who previously served as vice president for missions at the group Human Life International, West is an associate pastor at St. John’s Catholic Church in Orange, an ethnically diverse community in Essex County.

He declined to comment on his social media postings when approached by a reporter at the rectory last week, referring questions to Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

In a statement to NJ Advance Media, Goodness said the archdiocese would move to curtail West’s political pronouncements.

“Certainly, a priest doesn’t give up his civil liberties when he is ordained, and he maintains the same right to freedom of expression as anyone else in the United States,” Goodness said. “That said, we are concerned about Father West’s comments and actions, and will be addressing them according to the protocols of the Church.”

The spokesman declined to elaborate or answer additional questions.

A minority of commenters on West’s Facebook page have denounced him as a “hatemonger” who promotes divisiveness, and at least one person complained about him to the archdiocese in December — a development announced by West himself on Facebook.

His response? A harangue against “leftist apparatchiks” and “Comrade Obama.”

Directly addressing the complainant, whom he did not name, West added: “You should be ashamed of yourself for supporting pro-abortion, anti-family politicians. If I get in trouble for denouncing them, so be it! But I won’t be scared off by a totalitarian jerk like yourself!”

The Rev. John J. Dietrich, the director of spiritual formation at the nation’s second largest seminary, Mount Saint Mary’s in Maryland, called West’s comments about politicians, Muslims and liberals “way over-the-top inappropriate behavior.”

“The thrust of his priesthood is not to be political. The thrust of his priesthood is supposed to be sacramental, preaching the Scripture,” Dietrich said, adding, “There’s a red line you don’t cross.”

“We discuss things like this in the seminary,” he said. “We would never countenance anything like this.”

Catholic leaders in recent decades have navigated the intersection of religious belief and politics carefully, stressing, for instance, the sanctity of life but rarely launching personal attacks against politicians who support abortion rights.

One modern exception to the tread-lightly rule has been Cardinal Raymond Burke, a former St. Louis archbishop who made headlines in 2004 when he said presidential candidate John Kerry, then a U.S. senator, should be denied Communion because of his pro-choice views. Francis demoted Burke, also a vocal Trump supporter who has criticized Islam, to a largely ceremonial Vatican position in 2014 amid several public disagreements.

A handful of other outspoken priests took public political stances in the 20th century, said David Campbell, who has written about religion and politics as chairman of the American Democracy Department at Notre Dame University.

Those priests include the brothers Daniel and Philip Berrigan, who led protests against the Vietnam War, and the Rev. Charles Coughlin, an early radio talk show host who challenged the policies of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s.

But politically hard-charging Catholic priests remain a rarity, said Boston College theology professor Stephen J. Pope, an expert on Catholic social teaching.

“Catholic priests are forbidden from using their office and their priesthood to promote partisan political positions,” Pope said. “A priest’s job is to be a bridge-builder, not a wall-builder.” Continue Reading