Diocesan lawyers ban Catholic voting guides

Officials in three U.S. dioceses have instructed pastors and parish administrators not to distribute the "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics," published by the San Diego-based lay group Catholic Answers. According to some diocesan lawyers, the guide does not pass the provisions of the tax code that govern non-profit organizations.

The Culture of Life Foundation discovered documents to this effect and published a report about it in its latest issue of Culture & Cosmos.

The three dioceses include San Bernardino, La Crosse and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

In a letter Aug. 20 from Diocese of La Crosse attorney James G. Birnbaum to pastors and administrators, Birnbaum said the "Voter's Guide" should not to be distributed on parish grounds or during parish activities. The "listing of issues is too narrow to pass legal muster,” he said.

He added that the voter guide of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference is the "only guide we believe is safe to distribute or rely upon at the parish level."

Jeanette Arnquist, director of the Office of Social Concerns for the San Bernardino Diocese, issued a memo Oct. 6, citing two guides that are not to be distributed: the “Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics” and the "Guidelines for Catholic Voters," published by Our Sunday Visitor.

Instead, Arnquist instructed parishes to use the guide, produced by the lay staff of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, called "Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility." 

The USCCB document has been criticized for placing the paramount issue of abortion with lesser issues like social justice and global solidarity.

Catholic Answers has already answered charges that its guide does not conform to tax law earlier this month, when Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice, a pro-abortion advocacy group, asked the Internal Revenue Service to withdraw the charitable tax status of the organization.

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"We had it thoroughly checked out by legal experts, and we're well within the law,” said Catholic Answers president Karl Keating. “In the voter's guide, we don't mention any candidates, any specific election, or any party, and we don't endorse or oppose anyone. We merely state the principles that real Catholics are obligated to abide by when voting."

The "Voter's Guide" cites papal and Vatican documents and identifies five issues it calls "non-negotiable": abortion, euthanasia, fetal stem cell research, human cloning and homosexual "marriage." Supporting any of these issues, according to the guide, would disqualify a candidate as a viable option for a faithful Catholic.

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