I received a response from Archbishop Wenski of the Archdiocese of Miami today.
Here is what he said:
Thank you for your booklet on “Defeating the Culture of Death.” I think, however, those clerics that tell you that bishops (and the Church) don’t weigh in on political candidates is because of the fear of losing our tax exempt status are wrong. Our reasons for not endorsing candidates are based on principle – and not because we want to protect an accommodation that governments have, to date, given the Church in this country (i.e. tax exempt status). This status is already under attack and may be abrogated regardless of our position of non-endorsement of candidates.
Our USCCB statement, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, enunciate, I believe, clearly enough why we don’t endorse candidates. Simply put, this is not the mission of the Church. Mission drift in this area would hurt and not enhance our ability to preach the gospel coherently. History bears this out.
“Faithful Citizenship” also clearly teaches that a Catholic cannot support a pro-abortion candidate because of his or her advocacy of abortion. But, it is nuanced enough to recognize that in today’s political scene, one is faced more often than not with a choice between two evils – which case one must choose the lesser evil. You are of course correct that the Democratic Party’s platform is heavily invested in identity politics and its support of abortion is very extremist. It’s position on religious freedom, especially given statements in the past by the party’s standard bearer could well represent an existential threat to the Church in the US.
The Scriptures speak of four sins that cry out to God for vengeance: murder, sodomy, oppression of orphans and widows and cheating laborers of their due. Each of these sins represent a manifestation of the culture of death. I think your booklet would have had a broader and perhaps more catholic appeal had you dealt in your essay with all the sins. The five intrinsic evils you speak of only touch on the first two sins.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Thomas Wenski
Archbishop of Miami
Thank you for responding to my call for action. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity for open dialogue with you.
I do think you have mistaken my intent. I have not called for the Church to endorse any candidate or political party. In fact, in my book and letter to you I have explicitly said that is not my intent. My call is for the Church to call out the party and politicians advocating evil. Somehow, it has become fashion in this country that acknowledging a politician’s support for evil is equivalent to political endorsement. That view is just a tool to silence earnest voices.
I don’t disagree with you on your citation of Scripture. Those four sins are cited in the Bible. Here’s the problem… “intrinsic evil” are those actions that fundamentally conflict with the moral law and can never be performed under any circumstances. The first two are cited in my book, as you noted. The latter two (oppression of orphans and widows and cheating laborers their due) are only in play in any election to the extent of your perspective on public policy. We do not have political parties in this country making either of these positions planks in their platforms. You may disagree with how a party or politician goes about caring for these two issues, but that is a public policy debate—not intrinsic evil.
You say that the Church’s tax-exempt status is already under attack, and that is true. Surely you recognize, though, that only one major political party has ever threatened this status. Interestingly, they do so to silence you on their malfeasance while they openly campaign in churches sharing their political philosophy. Why do you put up with such hypocrisy?
I don’t call for the Church to become an adjunct political tool in America joining the ridiculous political chorus. All I have asked for from the Church in this regard is to not cede the ground of human dignity to the politicians when they enter. If a party or politician in America advocates for evil, the Church should be at the forefront of the condemnation parade. All we have been able to muster for years is a condemnation of policy with which we disagree. In a representative republic, it is illogical to condemn policy without calling out the sponsors of such policy. We end up with what we have been doing… marching annually in January to protest abortion while allowing half of the Church to vote to put the same abortion-sponsoring politicians back in public office in November.
“Faithful Citizenship” is a wonderful exercise for political wonks to discuss policy. It is useful for choosing among those parties and politicians not advocating for evil. It does next to nothing for stopping actual and real evil in this country. The five intrinsic evils I noted in my book are also noted as such in your book in paragraph 64. The problem is that it is buried in the middle of 91 other paragraphs watering down the impact of that one paragraph. It gives no real guidance to the faithful who truly want to vote their faith and think the Democrats are the “lesser evil” on some social issues. In the choice between “two evils,” our brothers should be taught that abortion does not receive the same weight and consideration as opposing unionization and welfare reform.
If anything I have said here comes across as an attack on you or the Church, it is not my intention. I called this a dialogue at the beginning of my email because I want it to be just that. Where I am wrong, I am open to learning. Where I am right, I pray for action. I don’t think my approach has been less than Catholic in appealing to our bishops to lead us in this fight.
May God bless all of our efforts to end the culture of death.
Respectfully and Prayerfully,