More Catholic Chicanery

Douglas Kmiec, an otherwise Republican law prof at Pepperdine has been denied communion by his priest because he expressed an endorsement for the pro-choice Barack Obama rather than the (presumably) pro-life McCain. Kmiec remains pro-life; he’s just done the math this time around and believes that on the whole, Obama is the better candidate for our country in spite of his disagreement on the subject of abortion. In other words, like most voters, he knows he can’t get everything he wants, and he’s happier with the set of values promoted by the Democrat this time around.

And for that, his priest and church are punishing him. They are of course free to do so, since the church is a private entity, but it is very, very difficult to see how this should not result in an immediate re-examination of this diocese’s 501(c)(3) status. Churches pay no taxes on their income, but to keep it that way they must stay out of politics; from

Currently, the law prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one “which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

And more from here, also at

…[V]oter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.

Let them, and any church, behave any way they want — but they shouldn’t get a free ride if they decide to ignore the rules under which they operate.

2 thoughts on “More Catholic Chicanery

  1. Yikes. An interesting interpretation of the facts here. This was one priest acting alone, not “his priest and church”. The priests’ boss, Archbishop Mahoney, condemned this action. I’m not sure how you get from one priest acting alone (assumably an act of conscience) to condeming Catholics, even realizing how negatively you view them.

    Also, why does this say “his” priest? I thought Kmiec was invited to speak elsewhere than his normal parish.

    Third, yes, churches must stay out of politics. However, that law was not enforced in the 2000 and 2004 elections when mega churches were openly promoting Bush (there may have been a couple warnings?). Does that make it right? No – I’d like to see that law enforced across the board.

    Yes, this priest was in the wrong, and the head of the diocese said so in very clear terms. Individual priests do not set policy, for obvious reasons. I trust there will be a particularly scratchy hair shirt in his future.

  2. I blame the organization here largely because denying communion on this point is something the current pope supported as cardinal (in a June, 2004 letter widely available online). It’s not just local priests; it’s bishops, cardinals, and the current pope. It keeps happening, and it keeps happening because the church hierarchy wants it to keep happening.

    They’re absolutely using their church for overt political ends, at levels above the local priest. They need to get slapped for it, and so does any other church that behaves this way.