I received a response from my Bishop’s office this morning. The correspondence between us is below:
Dear Mr. Yanke,
I received a copy of the email below, and I just wanted to take a brief moment to offer my perspective. I assure you that Bishop Burbidge read your previous communications, and at least on the most recent one, I responded to you on behalf of the Bishop.
While there are some lines that the Church cannot cross, mindful of its tax exempt status, it can speak and does speak regarding how Catholics should engage in the public square and vote, based on an informed conscience, undergirded by Catholic teaching.
There are various examples on the Diocesan website at www.dioceseofraleigh.org in the Faithful Citizenship Resources section where Bishop Burbidge speaks about this matter. In an letter to be published in parish bulletins this weekend, which is also on the Diocesan website, Bishop Burbidge invites parishioners to read several documents which address how they can form their consciences in advance of the election, with an emphasis on Church teachings. In addition, the Diocesan website also contains a recent letter from Archbishop Kurtz, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, regarding Catholics and the election process.
Thank you for your passionate embrace of the stance and teachings of the Church on the issues of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, euthanasia, traditional marriage, and the respect and sacredness of all human life.
Russell C. Elmayan, M.B.A., M.P.S.
Chief Administrative Officer
The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh
Thank you for responding. For ten years, I have reached out to Bishop Burbidge to discuss these issues with him. I have only received three responses… all through surrogates. All along, I have asked to be corrected, if I am wrong. If I am right, these matters deserve attention… and more than an arms-length, tangential mention.
If you truly read my most recent letter to the bishops (put in the mail last Saturday), you would know that the tax-exempt argument is the wrong tack to take with me. From our founding, churches have been exempt because it violates the basic principle of “free exercise of religion” for it to be otherwise. When the government can place restrictions on the speech and teachings of the Church, we do not have freedom of religion. Churches were added to the 501c3 section of the IRS code in 1954 to “merely codify an existing relationship.” In reality, Sen Lyndon Johnson championed this addition for the express purpose of reining in the Church in the public sphere. Once codified, it has been used as a hammer to silence the Church. Even now, when faced with the most consequential election of our lifetimes, we still feel the weight of the government on our throats… and it is illusory. Read the code… you will find that churches are actually exempted from most of the requirements of it because churches are automatically exempt by their nature.
Our silence is self-imposed, voluntary… and misguided.
I have seen the examples of teachings on faithful citizenship and even made reference to them in my writings. These teachings fail because they give equal weight to all issues. When faced with the intrinsic evils of the dignity of life, we are wrong to keep advocating for minor political priorities. There is a bigger issue here. I have been told by another bishop that the Church does have priorities in this election… just not the same ones I am advocating. Please explain to me how the Church can feel free to exercise its advocacy on behalf of Obamacare, immigration reform, and climate change but not feel free to denounce the sponsors of intrinsic evil! I have heard from Archbishop Kurtz (Archbishop Releases UNPRECEDENTED Video Calling for Catholics to Dump Trump – Video). If it wasn’t his intent to denounce Donald Trump, then taking the middle road has only sown more confusion. If both sides can claim your support, you have failed in teaching.
The best argument I have heard to date for the Church to stay out of political fights is that it hurts our authority when we take partisan positions. I agree with that. I don’t want the Church to take part in partisan politics… so can you tell me why our bishops have engaged to help the Democratic Party with Obamacare, immigration reform, and climate change? You see, people aren’t stupid. They see this and rightly conclude the bishops are with the Democrats. No? When was the last time you heard a bishop call for lower taxes, national sovereignty (strong borders), and the natural right of self-defense (2nd Amendment)? You will strain hard to find it. If they had, they would have been castigated by the Left and their mouthpiece, the Press, for siding with the GOP. Even now, when some bishops try to take a harder stance against the intrinsic evils, they receive a harsh backlash for supporting the GOP. Many have rightly concluded the Church favors the Democratic Party and they are voting in accordance with that position. The Church needs to speak clearly to clear up that misconception.
What the Church has been doing is exactly what it says it should not be doing… being partisan. I am advocating for the Church to only take a position in support of Church teaching—against evil. Nothing more. It has been done eloquently by the Bishop of Phoenix through his priest, Fr John Lankeit in a homily on EWTN, October 2, 2016. This is the teaching that should be given throughout our country as we head into this election! Clearly, it can be done. There is a Catholic position in this fight and it is the fight against evil.
In a misguided attempt to maintain our moral authority by not getting involved in the election, we are hurting our moral teaching authority by failing to stand firmly against clear and present evil. The Democratic Party has been very forthright that their plans are to cement abortion and homosexual marriage in the laws of this land—it says so in their Party Platform. This is our last chance to stop them for generations. If Hillary Clinton (or any Democrat) becomes our next president, they will tilt the Supreme Court 7-2 against the pro-life position. They have said so clearly. When that happens, no amount of Pro-Life marching will help us. Our last line of defense for human life is right in front of us.
By the way, so far I have focused on the national picture. Here is an excerpt from the NC Democratic Party State Platform:
“Furthermore, abortion must be safe, legal, accessible to all North Carolina women regardless of ability to pay; therefore, the State abortion fund should be fully funded and accessible to indigent women.” – page 9.
They are promising the use our tax dollars to support abortion in the State of NC. Our bishops can stop this. We are praying you will. Time is short.