The following is from the Director of the Human Rights Office for the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph:
Representing the Church
By Jude Huntz
Recently there have been a number of radio advertisements in the Kansas City area paid for by a group called Catholics United. These advertisements thank Senator Claire McCaskill for supporting the economic recovery package in the budget bill and stating that this piece of legislation represents the best in Catholic social teaching. While a number of things can be said in response, three essential points need to be stated.
First, no private organization – even if it has the word ‘Catholic’ in its name – represents the Catholic Church. The bishop of the diocese is the only official teacher, guardian, and interpreter of the Catholic tradition (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church # 888, 894, 895, 1560,, Code of Canon Law 375.1, 392.1, 393, 394.1, 394.2) While the bishop may appoint others, i.e. priests, deacons, lay people, to work and act on behalf of the Church, the task of authentically transmitting the deposit of Faith belongs to the bishops of the Church. Thus, while there are many well intentioned groups with the term ‘Catholic’ in their name, none of them represents the Catholic Church in any official capacity.
Second, this specific organization – Catholics United – is a clearly partisan organization that heavily supports the Democratic Party. A glance on their website shows endorsements for President Obama, his selection of Kathleen Sebelius as director of Health and Human Services, and support for the University of Notre Dame in its decision to honor the president with an honorary doctorate at its commencement ceremony. While every Catholic has the right to join whatever political party they choose (cf. Compendium of Social Doctrine #573), a person does not have the right to equate their own personal opinion as the official position of the Catholic Church (cf. Compendium of Social Doctrine #574 ). The Church cannot endorse particular candidates for public office, nor can she align itself with one particular political party over another. The Gospel transcends the political order while at the same time intersecting with it along the way.
Finally, while there are some aspects of the economic recovery package in the budget that are in accord with Catholic social teaching, notably the preferential option for the poor and the concern for the common good, there are also troubling aspects of the stimulus package that do not reflect Catholic social teaching. While the Church acknowledges the rightful role of the state in the life of society and the economy, there is also a concern for the principle of subsidiarity that becomes threatened with excessive government intervention. What is more, there are family planning provisions within the stimulus package that promote abortion and contraception, which clearly violate the inviolable life and dignity of the human person, which is the foundation of all Catholic social teaching.
The Church does not seek to take a position on every piece of legislation that passes through our various organs of government. To do so would blur the line that distinguishes the work of the Church and the work of the state. The Church does hold up the perennial values and principles of the Gospel and her magisterium that impact the moral life of society in political legislation. She also has the obligation to instruct the faithful on what constitutes authentic Catholic teaching and practice. These rights belong to her alone, not to private organizations who falsely claim to represent the Church.