Bishops, That is a Pretty Nice Tax Exemption You Have There. Wouldn’t Want Anything Bad to Happen to It.
Modern liberals are not noted for their subtlety. Case in point is Melinda Henneberger. A writer for the Washington Post, she is a liberal in good standing and a Catholic, a graduate from Notre Dame in 1980, who has written for the New York Times, Commonweal, a Catholic journal for those who like a dollop of incense with their leftism, and was a contributing editor for Newsweek, the magazine that is almost worth the buck its latest owner paid for it. Henneberger is pretty ticked at the Church in regard to what she perceives as political attacks on the South Side Messiah. Her recent column on this subject is deserving of a fisk, and I am happy to oblige:
The Catholic Church practically invented politics, so it may be asking too much to expect American bishops to steer completely clear of affairs of state.
Good, a snide start illustrates the fury with which this column was written as the good ship Obama begins to take on water. Liberal writers are usually at their nastiest when they start to perceive that a political pasting of Biblical proportions is on the way for their team
There are times when they couldn’t if they wanted to, and they think this is one of those times.
Ah, but you know better, don’t you Ms. Henneberger?
The upcoming “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign to push back against this administration’s health-care mandate for contraceptives, however, sounds so much like a “Fortnight to Defeat Barack Obama” that I’ve gotten to wondering what our prelates would have to do to cost the church its tax-exempt status. (IRS rules are pretty clear that churches have to give up their exemption if they campaign for or against a political candidate.)
Please, that paragraph is a bad joke. Democrat candidates for decades have campaigned in black churches and many of those same churches are quite forthright in their political advocacy. Think of the Reverend Wright, the man who Obama, hilariously, claims led him to Christ, and his sermons which were merely long political diatribes. The IRS has long turned a blind eye to this type of blatant political activity.
That is not going to happen, and I’m not suggesting it should. But as a thought exercise, what would it take to provoke such a thing?
She is certainly right that it is not going to happen unless the Democrat party has a true death wish.
If a bishop compared Obama to, I don’t know, Hitler and Stalin, would that be campaigning against him?
Oh, but wait, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria tried that already. Jenky wasn’t exactly a household name before that tirade.
We can see from the above that whatever Ms. Henneberger studied at Notre Dame, reading comprehension was not high on the list. What Bishop Jenky actually said was:
In the late 19th century, Bismark waged his “Kultur Kamp,” a Culture War, against the Roman Catholic Church, closing down every Catholic school and hospital, convent and monastery in Imperial Germany.
Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.
Now things have come to such a pass in America that this is a battle that we could lose, but before the awesome judgement seat of Almighty God this is not a war where any believing Catholic may remain neutral.
This fall, every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences, or by the following fall our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries — only excepting our church buildings – could easily be shut down. Because no Catholic institution, under any circumstance, can ever cooperate with the intrinsic evil of killing innocent human life in the womb.
No Catholic ministry – and yes, Mr. President, for Catholics our schools and hospitals are ministries – can remain faithful to the Lordship of the Risen Christ and to his glorious Gospel of Life if they are forced to pay for abortions.
What Bishop Jenky was doing Ms. Henneberger is called issues advocacy and is perfectly permissible under IRS regulations. Nice try however to ignore the obvious.
What if, however, the best-known bishop in the country — and among the most likeable — said “the White House is strangling the Catholic Church”?
No again; Cardinal Tim Dolan of New York did that, too. And Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland said we have reason to fear “despotism” under Obama.
What Cardinal Dolan actually said:
The exemption given to the church is so strangling and so narrow and it’s also presumptuous that a bureau of the federal government is attempting to define for the church the extent of its ministry and ministers,” said Dolan on CBS’s “This Morning.”
What Bishop Cordileone actually said:
My own experience, I sort of backed into this religious liberty debate by my involvement with her Siamese twin–the definition of marriage in the law. And I got swept up in that, not exclusively, but in large degree because I was enlightened by Dr. [Robert] George and other people of his kind as to the erosion of the rights of religious institutions to serve the broader community in accord with their moral principles precisely because of this issue. As well, the rights of individuals to have their freedom of conscience respected.
When I saw what was happening my eyes were opened, it made me fear that we could be starting to move in the direction of license and despotism.”
Once again, both examples of issues advocacy.
(Even Pope Benedict XVI has joined the fray – though the former Joseph Ratzinger is really not much of a fray-joiner. “Many of you, he told American bishops, “have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection…with regard to cooperation in instrinsically evil practices.’’ Abortion, he means. Birth control, which is barred under church teaching, must be provided free to employees of Catholic institutions as part of their health care plans under the Affordable Care Act. Where does abortion come in? Some opponents argue that the Part B ‘morning-after pill,’ which is also provided as part of the bill, is an abortifacient, though science doesn’t support that claim.)
Ah, how Pope Benedict does set the teeth on edge of “progressive” Catholics! Go here to read the Pope’s warning of the erosion of religious liberty in this country. Once again, the Pope’s remarks would be considered issues advocacy. The fact that Ms. Henneberger brings up these remarks indicates the depth of her ignorance on the subject of political activities deemed impermissible by the IRS regarding churches. Continue reading