Church has right to speak out on electoral issues, says Chilean bishop

.- Auxiliary Bishop Cristian Contreras Villarroel of Santiago, Chile reminded Catholics yesterday that they are members of civil society and have the right to speak their minds about electoral issues. The bishop also critiqued an editorial that derided the bishops’ call for an austere campaign.
In a letter to the editor of El Mercurio, Bishop Contreras said that a September 3rd editorial which criticized the Church’s call for an austere campaign amidst the current economic crisis was incorrect.

The editorial had stated that the executive committee of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference claimed “Chileans hope for a campaign season without excessive spending.”  Such a statement “cannot be found” in their declaration," he said.
Bishop Contreras said the bishops understand that in order to get their messages out, candidates need to spend money, “but it should not therefore be excessive and disproportionate.”  “To say this is not to imply that the Church ‘unrealistically’ suggests this can be done without financial resources, marketing campaigns, attendance at events across the country or ads in the media,” he pointed out, countering the spin of the editorial.
What the bishops call for is “a special gesture of solidarity” towards the poor by carrying out “austere and simple” campaigns, the bishop explained. To attribute to the Church any intention other than the one it has clearly expressed “could be seen as another attempt to regulate the private and cultural spheres,” he added.


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