The Deacon's Bench

Denver’s Archbishop — perhaps hoping to avoid the confusion and PR misery that followed L’Affair Pfleger in Chicago — is about to draw a line in the sand for his own priests on the subject of politics and the pulpit.

From The Coloradoan newspaper:

Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput will issue a new directive this week that clarifies what political activity is allowed by clergy and prohibiting them from endorsing or contributing money in partisan elections.

Clerics in the archdiocese, which includes Larimer County, “may not publicly participate or endorse political campaigns or initiatives, or publicly affiliate themselves with groups whose primary purpose is to do so,” according to an amendment to the Pastoral Handbook to be published in Wednesday’s Denver Catholic Register.

The directive means priests and deacons in the archdiocese will avoid partisan political activity such as endorsing or contributing financially to candidates, spokeswoman Jeanette DeMelo said.

William Trewartha, deacon at Fort Collins’ St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, has contributed to Republican candidates for years but will no longer do so. He and other deacons were told of the decision in a January meeting with Chaput and in an April letter that spelled out the directive being published this week.

“We were told we’re not supposed to do this (political contributions) anymore. We’re supposed to cease and desist,” said Trewartha, a retired podiatrist who gave $1,200 to presidential candidate John McCain in the current election and $300 to Senate candidate Bob Schaffer. Those contributions were made before the January meeting with Chaput.

While restricted in partisan political activity, clergy have an obligation to speak out on important moral issues such as abortion or immigration, DeMelo said.

“The church’s role in the public square is to help Catholics understand the teaching of their church regarding moral issues and encourage them to make informed decisions in light of those moral principles,” she said.

Chaput has been one of the U.S. church’s pre-eminent voices on how faith should guide individual Catholics’ voting choices. His new book, “Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life,” will be published by Random House in August.

There’s more detail at the link, so take a look.

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