Priesthood and party politics incompatible, says Spanish bishop

A Spanish bishop is reminding Catholic clergy that being actively engaged in politics is incompatible with priestly life.

The comments by Bishop Ingacio Munilla of San Sebastian follow the election of a priest to the city council in Gudina, Spain.

“The priesthood, as an aspect of parenthood, is the universal father of all,” Bishop Munilla told CNA while on a visit to Rome.

Fr. Antonio Fernandez Blanco was elected as a Spanish Socialist Party member in the Galician town of Gudina last month. After a suspension from priestly duties and a warning from his local bishop, Fr. Blanco offered his resignation as a local councilor.

“It’s specific to the laity to bring Christ into public life - political life as well. So it’s the domain of lay people to get involved in politics, but not for a priest, because he has to be a father to people with all political opinions and (this) may reduce the ability to be paternal.”

The internal law of the Catholic Church – which is called canon law – expressly forbids clerics from running for political office.

Canon law states: “They are not to play an active role in political parties or in directing trade unions unless, in the judgment of the competent ecclesiastical authority, this is required for the defense of the rights of the Church or to promote the common good.”

However, there have been some notable figures that have fallen foul of this law in recent times.

From 1979 to 1987, Fr. Ernesto Cardenal served as Culture Minister in Nicaragua’s leftist government. This led to him being publicly chastised by Pope John Paul II within the first minutes of a papal visit to the Latin American country in 1983. As Fr. Cardenal knelt before the pontiff on the runway at Managua Aiport, Pope John Paul repeatedly admonished him with the words “You must make good your dealings with the Church.”

Over the weekend, Fr. Blanco’s parishioners protested the suspension of their parish priest. Some even boycotted Mass, demanding his return. Once Fr. Blanco resigned his city post, their wish was granted.

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