Contrary to claims made by a political party and media reports, a Canadian priest did not receive permission from the Vatican to enter into politics and to run in a federal by-election, the priest’s bishop said recently.
Fr. Raymond Gravel, a priest of the Diocese of Joliette, north of Montreal, was nominated as a candidate for the Bloc Quebecois and is slated to run in the Nov. 27 by-election, which was called after the incumbent died in August.
In a statement issued last week, Bishop Gilles Lussier of Joliette stated clearly that the priest did not receive Vatican approval.
“The Vatican has not given the ‘green light’ to Fr. Raymond Gravel to enter politics,” the statement reads. Neither did the bishop “receive permission from authorities in Rome concerning Fr. Gravel’s project,” the statement adds.
"Church legislation is clear: all priests are to refrain from active involvement in political activities," the bishop’s statement reads.
Though there can be “truly exceptional circumstances” for making allowing this, no such circumstances exist in Canada, the bishop said.
"In choosing to become actively involved in a political party, Fr. Gravel retains his clerical state but is relieved from the exercise of his priestly ministry,” the bishop said in the statement. “He cannot undertake any priestly activity during such time as he is involved in politics.
“This measure is to avoid confusion among the faithful and to preserve the distinction between politics and religion,” he explained. “In any case, renouncing the exercise of priestly ministry always represents a painful situation for the Church.”
Contrary to previous media reports as well, the official statement from the diocese makes no mention of special agreements made between Fr. Gravel and the bishop that would allow him to enter politics.
Conservative candidate Stephan Bourgon criticized Fr. Gravel in a statement Monday, saying that the priest had misled voters by saying that he had obtained Vatican permission and that telling the truth is vital in politics, reported the Canadian Press.