Friday, November 02, 2007

Allowing political speech from the pulpit?

Mark Joseph has penned an interesting article on the FoxNews site suggesting the repeal of the LBJ-crafted amendment restricting political speech from any 501c3 (i.e. tax-exempt, non-profit) organization which includes almost all churches. Your assignment: read, think about it and discuss.

For my part, I think the LBJ amendment has been far less harmful than the Blaine amendment which the author mentions at the top. The Blaine amendment is understood by just about anyone who is honest to have been an attempt to stop Catholics from creating their own schools. The impact of the restriction on political speech, however, has been somewhat more difficult for me to quantify. Interestingly, the author spends a good amount of space describing cases where the amendment failed to stop political involvement but only required slightly more circumspect pronouncements.

I have to be honest. I'm frankly not interested in encouraging political speech from the pulpit in a country where we already waste about a quarter of our adult lives inundated by politics. Even with this restriction in place, I've heard more complaints about Iraq, taxes and immigration than I care to already and removing whatever restrictor plates are in place is not particularly appetizing to me.

First, as Catholics we believe in the principle of subsidiarity. That means, in effect, that those closest to a situation are generally the best to resolve it. It further means that the further removed you are, the more general your stance must be, sometimes to the chagrin of those who would like a specific over-arching statement requiring compliance. This also means that we adhere to a principle of allowing for prudential judgment by those whose role it is to make such judgments in cases of application. The Catechism is very clear on this. It would be contrary to the stance of the Church to now encourage direct political action from the pulpit.

Second, quite frankly I don't go to Mass to hear about politics - I go to Mass to hear about God and to be formed to Him. Our liturgy is intended (all other discussion about the state of our liturgy aside) to raise us up to Heaven, not to swirl us around in the mud pile of human politics. Certainly there are times when moral issues which are also political must be approached and rightly so. They must, however, be approached from God's perspective, not Man's. If you want to bring up, say, immigration that's perfectly fine - but do so from the dual perspectives of the inherent dignity of the human person and the need and right of a country to properly regulate immigration, not from the perspective of "Senator Jimmy JoBob is proposing XYZ and you need to call his office to support/attack it". Help us to keep our eyes fixed on God and our bodies, and votes, will follow.