The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Chaput cracks down on clergy involvement in politics

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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posted June 29, 2008 at 11:39 pm

Interesting that this affects permanent deacons too. It was my understanding canon law requiring clergy to stay out of politics does not apply to permanent deacons.

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posted June 30, 2008 at 12:59 am

Actully I do not see why this should not apply to us. We are clergy are we not?Do we really need one of us acting like that priest in Chicago, because he thinks that because he is a deacon, he can operate under another set of rules? This could happen.

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posted June 30, 2008 at 11:48 am

Shame on me for not reading the entire article. Your comment spurred me to do so, so thanks. The part that gave me pause was the ban on political contributions. A different part of the article seems to suggest that the thorny issue might be the fact that political contributions are public and that a deacon might still list “deacon of the Catholic church” as his occupation. It made me realize that even permanent deacons who are not employed by the church might sometimes have difficulty separating their private actions as citizens from their official position within the church.An interesting issue. Thanks Deacon Greg for bringing it to our attention.

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