Via Media

Via Media


The Bully Pulpit

posted by awelborn

Eileen McNamara says revoke the Church’s tax-exempt status.

No one disputes the right of the Catholic Church, or any other religious institution, to be heard on the contentious issues of the day, but the bishops of Massachusetts want to rewrite the state constitution to conform to Catholic teachings. To assert that right, they persist in confusing sacramental marriage, which the SJC ruling leaves in their hands, with civil marriage, which is beyond their realm.

It was a Catholic legislator who spoke most powerfully to the danger of bending the constitution to the will of religious institutions. “Constitutional rights run to individuals, not to groups or organizations or institutions,” Senator Marian Walsh told her colleagues. “So today I ask, what constitutional rights would individuals participating in religious activities like to give up? Would individuals who worship surrender their own religion, and enjoy a state religion? Would individuals who are clergy like to give up the authority to perform civil marriage ceremonies that this Legislature gave them in 1692?”



Advertisement
Comments read comments(34)
post a comment
Don Boyle

posted March 31, 2004 at 10:04 am


BUZZ! Wrong, Senator. Corporations are “persons” in the law and are entitled to due process of law. If your basis for removing the Church’s tax exemption was the Church’s lack of constitutional rights, try another.



report abuse
 

PMC

posted March 31, 2004 at 10:13 am


What about the sacred guardians of liberal education, Senator? Didn’t the Supreme Court just rule last term that the U. of Mich. Law School’s constitutional right to pursue the goal of “educational diversity” as it sees fit justified an A/A quota scheme that would otherwise violate the Constitution?
I guess there’s absolutely no danger in “bending the Constitution” to the will of the academy. Academics are always right, after all.



report abuse
 

Jack Smith

posted March 31, 2004 at 10:17 am


McNamara and everyone would do well to understand the Church’s tax exempt status which has nothing to do with religion. The usccb has a good briefer on the subject, http://www.usccb.org/ogc/guidlines.html
most importantly:
“Where did the political campaign activity prohibition come from? Contrary to popular belief, the section 501(c)(3) political campaign activity prohibition is not a manifestation of Constitutionally-mandated “separation of church and state”. The prohibition applies to all section 501(c)(3) organizations, not just churches and religious organizations. The political campaign activity prohibition was introduced by then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson during Senate floor debate on the 1954 version of the tax code. LBJ appears to have been reacting to the support provided Dudley Dogherty, his challenger in the 1954 primary election, by certain tax-exempt organizations. There is no legislative history to explain definitively why LBJ sought this amendment to the IRC. However, there is no evidence that religious organizations were his targets.”
Oddly, Labor unions fit under a different category of tax exemption which allow them greater latitude in political affairs.



report abuse
 

Chris-2-4

posted March 31, 2004 at 10:23 am


Would individuals who are clergy like to give up the authority to perform civil marriage ceremonies that this Legislature gave them in 1692?”
Let’s see. Did the clergy all of a sudden receive the “authority to perform civil marriage ceremonies” in 1692? Or did the legislature merely acknowledge that the clergy were the ones who had that authority and they’d better recognize it?
I think these people need to learn about our real constitution. The one that says that a Government’s authority derives FROM the people, not the other way around.



report abuse
 

Dale Price

posted March 31, 2004 at 10:26 am


Marriage between a man and a woman is strictly a Catholic notion? Ooooookaaaaay….. Well, that assertion would certainly spice up the ol’ ecumenical dialogues.
It is likely uncharitable to speculate whether Ms. McNamara absorbed too many blows to the head from ruler-wielding nuns during her Catholic phase, but I can’t help myself.



report abuse
 

Gypsy Boots

posted March 31, 2004 at 10:45 am


What suffers from narrow ideological notions like this is not religion–believers will continue to believe what they believe. It’s neutral liberal secularity, which depends on many unacknowledged and covert assumptions from Christianity. When radicals (like gay-rights activists) challenge liberals on why, for example, “equal-protection” ought not to mean gay marriage, liberals are completely befuddled and have no response. When NcNamara charges that support of traditional marriage is a sectarian position, she’s really leaving the churches in charge of what used to be “mainstream” liberal positions.



report abuse
 

Rich Leonardi

posted March 31, 2004 at 10:50 am


Everytime the Church asserts itself in the public square, some secularist threatens to revoke her tax-exempt status. Think tanks faced the same pressure in the 90s when Clinton’s Treasury Department went after “conservative” 501(c)(3)s.
Their premise is that the money really belongs to the state and that the Church should show her gratitude by keeping her mouth shut.
“Keep quiet or we’ll take what’s ours.”



report abuse
 

John P Sheridan

posted March 31, 2004 at 11:00 am


I laugh when people say the NY Times is anti-Catholic. The Times is only incidentally anti-Catholic, like many other liberal secularists, because the editors don’t like it when people disagree with the Holy Writ that is on their editorial page. Having grown up in Boston, I know that the the Boston Globe has an active anti-Catholic agenda. Every single one of their op-ed columnists writes regular columns against the church, day in and day out. In fact the majority of them are nominal Catholics who say things like it’s OK for them to criticize the Church because “we’re catholic too”. Thay all also have very Catholic sounding names: Joan Vennochi; Eileen McNamara; and James Carroll.



report abuse
 

Mark R

posted March 31, 2004 at 11:10 am


Doesn’t anyone read The Boston Herald anymore?



report abuse
 

Bettnet.com - Musings From Domenico Bettinelli

posted March 31, 2004 at 12:39 pm


And so it begins: the backlash

Here it comes. Boston Globe columnist Eileen McNamara is calling for the Catholic Church’s tax-exempt status to be revoked because of our opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage. Of



report abuse
 

Gerard E.

posted March 31, 2004 at 12:54 pm


Why the surprise? Why the shock that the gay marriage proponents- specifically Senator Walsh-are considering this tactic? Why should we not consider the possibility that before this matter is resolved, Archbishop 0’Malley will be a guest of the city or state penal system? Its advocates are serious as a heart attack. We need to be the same.



report abuse
 

Ken

posted March 31, 2004 at 1:08 pm


So when candidates (generally Democrats) speak at the Sunday morning worship services of churches (generally black and protestant), why aren’t their tax exemptions at stake?



report abuse
 

Mark Shea

posted March 31, 2004 at 1:11 pm


Another advocate of the semi-permeable membrane of separation between Church and State.



report abuse
 

Julia

posted March 31, 2004 at 1:47 pm


“Would individuals who are clergy like to give up the authority to perform civil marriage ceremonies that this Legislature gave them in 1692?”
“Let’s see. Did the clergy all of a sudden receive the “authority to perform civil marriage ceremonies” in 1692? Or did the legislature merely acknowledge that the clergy were the ones who had that authority and they’d better recognize it?”
I asked my Jesuit cousin about the possibility of having a religious wedding that had no civil effect. He said that in the US that isn’t possible because of a concordat or something that empowered all ordained ministers to perform marriages which the civil authorities would accept as binding under civil law. In return, the ministers must require a license before a marriage ceremony is performed. That isn’t the case all over the world.
You may have noticed that in England and France, people get married twice. Once by the civil authority and then by the religious authority.
Unless there is some empowerment by the civil authority, religious marriages carry no civil consequences.
Does anyone know more about this?



report abuse
 

victor

posted March 31, 2004 at 2:14 pm


Of course I was advocating this as far back as August, 2002, though for very different reasons.



report abuse
 

gerald kerr

posted March 31, 2004 at 2:23 pm


Why not voluntarily give up tax exempt status so that the Bishops who seem to congenitally like back bone will not be so tempted to keep their mouths shut about important issues in the public square. Wouldn’t the Catholic Church in America be better off without being beholden to the state in the matter of taxes, and thus lessen the pressure to please the state and it’s cheerleaders in the media and political parties?
gkerr



report abuse
 

Jason

posted March 31, 2004 at 2:31 pm


Mark R,
The Herald sucks (pardon my French :))
But so does the Globe. McNamara regularly writes drivel against the Church. I always consider it a good day when I don’t read a diatribe against the Catholic Church in the Boston Globe. Gives me hope.



report abuse
 

Hunk Hondo

posted March 31, 2004 at 2:40 pm


One up to Victor and G Kerr! For a long time–and at my age a long time really is long–I’ve believed that exemption from taxes is a curse to religion.
There may be something to be said for a system in which all churches would be tax-exempt regardless of what positions they took. There is something to be said for churches sharing the costs of civil society–from which they benefit as we all do–and retaining their ability to speak and act freely. The one thing for which nothing at all can be said is a system in which tax-exemption for churches is *conditioned* on the church doing, or refraining from, certain acts specified by the government. That, of course, is the system we have under 501(c)(3).



report abuse
 

fr richard

posted March 31, 2004 at 2:45 pm


“I asked my Jesuit cousin about the possibility of having a religious wedding that had no civil effect. He said that in the US that isn’t possible because of a concordat or something that empowered all ordained ministers to perform marriages which the civil authorities would accept as binding under civil law. In return, the ministers must require a license before a marriage ceremony is performed. That isn’t the case all over the world.”
—————————————-
This is not correct. I may be a priest, but unless “I” am licensed to do this by the particular state where the marriage is performed, it is not a civilly recognized marriage. That’s why, when I concelebrated the wedding of my brother and his wife in Indiana, I could not be the person listed on the marriage license….the local pastor had to be. I’m only licensed in Ohio and Oregon.
(Naturally the couple must also have their marriage license and I must send this in after the wedding.)
On the other side of the coin, I CAN marry a couple sacramentally without MY being licensed by the state, and/or without THEM having a marriage license. They’ll be duly married in the eyes of the Church, but this marriage will not be recognized by the civil government.
Hope that makes sense.



report abuse
 

James Kabala

posted March 31, 2004 at 3:23 pm


The Puritans actually believed that marriage was best performed by the civil authorities, since they rejected the Catholic idea that marriage was a sacrament. (They also had very liberal ideas on divorce for their time.) 1692 was the year after a new royal charter was introduced in Massachusetts which, among other things, forced the Puritans to tolerate the Church of England. I suspect that the two events are related, since Anglicans did perform Church weddings, although not recognizing them as a sacrament. There were no Catholics in Massachusetts at the time.



report abuse
 

Marilyn

posted March 31, 2004 at 3:23 pm


I say let them have their taxes. I’m tired of the blackmail… “shut up, or else.” It may be helpful to our local communities anyway since theoretically taxes are going for the public good. Many parishes and dioceses already pay some taxes on property that isn’t used exclusively for a charitable or tax-exempt purpose. By the way, how come John Kerry can campaign from the pulpit of a Baptist church and no one is threatening that Church’s tax exempt status?



report abuse
 

John Hetman

posted March 31, 2004 at 3:39 pm


We poor humans have only so much time to spend in this world. Spending it by reading the drivel of one “recovering” Catholic columnist or another, whether here in Chicago or in Boston or New York, takes away some very precious time better spent fighting the enemy. I don’t need to read the crap that communist or Nazi supporters wrote to know the evil within their system. Better that we arm ourselves with the Holy Spirit and move our quest for human decency and moral values forward.
Thank you all for some very fine comments. I learn quite a bit from reading the responses.



report abuse
 

Fr. Rob Johansen

posted March 31, 2004 at 4:04 pm


If the Church lost its tax-exemption, not only would parishes have to pay taxes, but your contributions would no longer be tax deductible.
What do you suppose that would do to Sunday collections?



report abuse
 

PMC

posted March 31, 2004 at 4:23 pm


Give up the church’s tax-exempt status? For what? So that we can have pols speechifying from the pulpit, just like the black churches already have? No thanks. Or to really show those persnickety Cambridge and Upper West Side types that we don’t need their stinkin’ tax exemption? Sounds like cutting off your nose to spite your face. I say keep the exemption, and face off against these ignorant, anti-Catholic, history-challenged Globies and their ilk.



report abuse
 

Bill

posted March 31, 2004 at 4:38 pm


I agree that the Church should fight for its tax exemption. It is no surprise that there are many anti-Catholics, both in and out of government, who would try to have the Church’s tax exempt status revoked. However, the Church should not use a desire to protect its tax exempt status as an excuse to abdicate its obligation to teach. Even if the enemies of the Church are successful, the mission of the Church remains the same.
(As an aside, I note that many purported concerns about threats to tax status seem pretextual, such as when Catholic colleges sought to distance themsselves from the Church in the 1960s. Keeping crucifixes in the classroom was never a threat to tax status or federal funding, but the purported threat was used as an excuse by those at the colleges who wanted to purge classrooms of Catholic symbols.)



report abuse
 

Mark

posted March 31, 2004 at 5:00 pm


Would individuals who worship surrender their own religion, and enjoy a state religion?
Hmm . . . I guess it depends on what religion she has in mind. I know of one religion that wouldn’t even require my surrender and it’s no stranger to the rigors of being a “state religion.”
While it’s de rigueur in the U.S. to laugh at any suggestion of a state religion, and I’m certainly not suggesting such a path here, I do think it’s useful to be able to articulate why it’s not advisable rather than simply assuming that any idjit would agree that a state religion is nonsense.



report abuse
 

caroline

posted March 31, 2004 at 5:03 pm


Fr. Johansen, I don’t know about other folk and I am only a single retired old maid school teacher, can’t donate big bucks, therefore of no account, but I would love to have my priests and bishops free to proclaim the truth without fussing about losing tax dollars. Likewise I am sick of the rich laity in need of tax deductions getting sucked up to by our clergy for the big buck donations they are able to make in some cases given lifestyles and political positions in violation of church teaching. If the Church totally separated itself from government tax dollars including tax exemptions and tax deductions for donors we could get serious and figure out who is serious. And I would do my share to make up the difference. Presently I figure that I am supporting the church, its schools, its charities through a percentage of my local property, state, and federal taxes over and above personal contributions. I am contributing but in such a way that the Church to which I contribute is muzzled by its dependence on tax dollars, exemptions, deductions. I can’t get out of the system which enables, encourages my church to deny Christ’s whole truth and from the Church I get no help but only condemnation for not ponying up more so that they can be silent.



report abuse
 

Maclin Horton

posted March 31, 2004 at 5:14 pm


There’s a lot of merit to the idea of surrendering the tax exemption, but it would give the government even more power over the Church than it already has. “The power to tax is the power to destroy.”
It’s not really worth the trouble to argue with the Eileen McNamaras of the world, because in the matter of church-state separation they really have no fixed principle. They want the Church to be prevented from saying some things and encouraged (or compelled) to say others. It’s essentially a matter of brute force–legal force, not physical, but force nonetheless.
I note with a certain scorn McNamara’s willingness to specify what the Church’s “real” religious functions are.



report abuse
 

Mark R

posted March 31, 2004 at 5:21 pm


Jason,
Thanks. I was a Howie Carr fan once.
In re. tax exemptions…take the money and run.



report abuse
 

Donald R. McClarey

posted March 31, 2004 at 5:37 pm


In the mid nineteenth century Massachusetts was a hot bed of the anti-Catholic, and aptly named, Know-Nothing party. Except for the anti-Catholics now having been born Catholic, it seems little has changed.



report abuse
 

Chris Westley

posted March 31, 2004 at 5:52 pm


I am all for maintaining the Church’s tax-exempt status. I only ask that, in the name of equality and fairness, it be extended to me. (One obvious advantage of such an arrangement extended to everyone would be that, if the governments were funded by voluntary instead of involuntary contributions, we might be spared the bleating of such nanny-state senators.)



report abuse
 

Anson

posted April 1, 2004 at 1:33 am


If someone really believes in “seperation of church and state”, why then do priests pay income tax when it is paid to the priest by the parish? If government can’t directly support the Church, why should the Church support the government?



report abuse
 

Zach Frey

posted April 1, 2004 at 6:10 am


Dale,
Marriage between a man and a woman is strictly a Catholic notion? Ooooookaaaaay….. Well, that assertion would certainly spice up the ol’ ecumenical dialogues.
Just wait for it a bit … the Piskies and other LibProt denominations are working as hard as they can to make marriage between (one) (human) man and (one) (human) woman a sectarian Catholic thing.
At least among putatively Christian religions. I will not hold my breath waiting for a Boston Globe or New York Times columnist to hyperventilate over the tax-exempt status of mosques or Orthodox synagogues, no matter how much they oppose same-sex “marriage” as well.
peace,



report abuse
 

Puzzled

posted April 1, 2004 at 10:06 am


The First Ammendment establishment clause was put into place mainly to assure the several States that by ratifying the new Constitution, they would not have to give up their established State churches.
Jefferson’s “wall of separation” letter to the Danbury Baptists was to assure them that the government had no authority over the church.
The Reformed generally believed (like medieval Catholics) that the Church and the State are two separate spheres of governance, both answerable to God, not to each other. The State has no jurisdiction over the Church, and the Church can only preach policy, not dictate, policy. The Swiss guards may not arrest Presbyterians in the US. Neither can the IRS collect taxes on God’s tithe.
For the power to tax is the power to destroy, and the power to tax (collect tribute) implies sovereignty by the taxing body over the taxed body.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

There is nothing I shall want
A couple of weeks ago, a memorial Mass for Michael was held here in Birmingham at the Cathedral. The bishop presided and offered a very nice, even charming homily in which he first focused on the Scripture readings of the day, and then turned to Michael, whom he remembered, among other things, as on

posted 9:24:16am Mar. 05, 2009 | read full post »

Revolutionary Road - Is it just me?
Why am I the only person I know..or even "know" in the Internet sense of "knowing"  - who didn't hate it? I didn't love it, either. There was a lot wrong with it. Weak characterization. Miscasting. Anvil-wielding mentally ill prophets.But here's the thing.Whether or not Yates' original novel in

posted 9:45:04pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Books for Lent
No, I'm not going to ask you about your Lenten reading lists...although I might.Not today, though. This post is about giving books to others. For Lent, and a long time after that. You know how it goes during Lent: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving, right?Well, here's a worthy recipient for your hard-

posted 9:22:07pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Why Via Media
How about....because I'm lame and hate thinking up titles to things? No?Okay...how about...St. Benedict? Yes, yes, I know the association with Anglicanism. That wasn't invovled in my purpose in naming the joint, but if draws some Googling Episcopalians, all the better.To tell the truth, you can bl

posted 8:54:17pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Brave Heart?
I don't know about you, but one of effects of childbirth on me was a compulsion to spill the details. All of them.The whole thing was fascinating to me, so of course I assumed everyone else should be fascinated as well in the recounting of every minute of labor, describing the intensity of discomfor

posted 10:19:45pm Mar. 03, 2009 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.