Bishops urged to lobby politicians
Oct 21, 2006
'No compromises,' cardinal tells group
(Toronto Star, Oct. 18, 2006) CORNWALL, ONT.—Bishops should use their authority as church leaders to influence how Catholic politicians form public policy, a past archbishop of Washington, D.C., told Canadian Catholic leaders meeting here yesterday.
"We are not just another constituent or community leader," Cardinal Theodore McCarrick told the annual meeting of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. "We are their pastors and their teachers."
McCarrick led a task force of U.S. bishops looking into how to better lobby government and politicians on issues important to the church, including abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.
The group decided the most effective method is for bishops to meet regularly with Catholic politicians from their parishes to remind them of the teachings of the church, and to tell them they have an obligation to uphold those teachings when developing public policy.
Catholic politicians need to be told they cannot call themselves good Catholics if they support policies that go against the church's stand on the issues, he said.
"Our concern is not politics, nor just particular policies, but their faith and even their salvation. These dialogues are not about winning votes, but saving souls," he said.
The same message must be passed on to ordinary parishioners, as well, he said, and they should be told to consider their church's teachings when it comes time to vote.
"No compromises," said McCarrick, who retired over the summer. "We teach what we teach, but we do it with respect and love."
McCarrick, 76, said he and other church leaders have had some success persuading Catholic politicians to put Catholic doctrine into action when forming policy.
But he remains frustrated by Catholic politicians who have attended church all their lives and may have even been educated in Catholic schools and universities, and yet support policies that go against the church.
"They need to be re-catechized," he said.
McCarrick rejected the argument of some politicians he has met that they have a duty to uphold the constitution and civil rights of all citizens, so cannot allow their religious beliefs to dictate policy on issues such as abortion.
"I always go back to slavery," he said, adding that slavery was once considered constitutional in the U.S., and yet no politician now would support it. Also yesterday, a representative of the Orthodox Church in Canada, the Very Reverend John Jillions of Ottawa, offered his church's support for the Catholic bishops in their fight against same sex marriage and abortion.
"We cannot let our differences stand in the way of this," he said.
The same-sex marriage debate is expected to heat up in Canada this fall, with the Conservative government promising to put the matter to a free vote in Parliament by the end of the year.
Same-sex marriages were legalized last year by the previous Liberal government, a move that put many Catholic Liberal politicians on the opposite side of the debate from their church. Some were denied communion over the issue.
McCarrick said the issue of whether to allow Catholic politicians to take communion if they support policies that go against Catholic teachings has been a subject of much debate among U.S. bishops.
He said he would never deny communion, but does ask politicians who support policies that go against the Church not to come for communion in the first place, out of respect for the church.