Click for bigger Hell
Mortal sins (Latin: peccata mortalia) in Catholic theology are wrongful acts that condemn a person to Hell after death if unforgiven. These sins are considered "mortal" because they constitute a rupture in a person's link to God's saving grace: the person's soul becomes "dead", not merely weakened. A mortal sin is not necessarily a sin that cannot be repented, unlike an eternal sin. Thus, even after a mortal sin has been committed, there is a chance for repentance. [more details at wiki.]
The San Diego (California USA) Union-Tribune
Wednesday 2 November 2016
Catholic parish's bulletin says Democratic voters are doomed to hell, Clinton is satanic
by Joshua Stewart
Between requests for prayers for the sick and a notice for an upcoming chastity luncheon, a newsletter from a Catholic church in Old Town that doubles as an election-day polling site included a flier that told parishioners they’ll go to hell if they vote for Democrats.
Two Sundays later, the message had changed: Satan was working through former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Sunday 16 October bulletin from the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church was stuffed with a flyer written in both English and Spanish that cited five legislative policies — support for abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, human cloning, and embryonic stem cell research — that will doom a politician and their supporters to eternal damnation.
“It is a mortal sin to vote Democrat … immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell,” the flyer said. It cited the five public policy issues from the “Voters Guide for Serious Catholics” and said that Democrats violate each of them, while Republicans cross none.
The political messages continued as early voting began and the election drew closer. An article in the 30 October church bulletin claimed that Clinton is influenced by Satan.
The bulletin took a quote from a 2015 speech by Clinton out of context to make it appear that through Satanic intervention the Democratic nominee, using techniques from trailblazing community organizer Saul Alinsky, was telling Christians to change their religious beliefs to support abortion.
“The devil does this through tactics outlined by Saul Alinsky with the outcome as Hillary Clinton stated ‘And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed,’ to draw us away from God’s teachings regarding the sanctity of life to those of the world and its prince,” the bulletin said.
Clinton, speaking at the Women in the World Summit, was actually talking about eliminating cultural barriers that prevent girls from attending elementary school and women from attending college, as well as obstacles that stand between enforcement of domestic violence laws and access to reproductive and maternal healthcare.
Lawyers who study churches and other nonprofit organizations said the statements violate regulations that prevent tax-exempt groups from speaking in support or against political candidates.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego on Wednesday said the messages in the flier and bulletin do not reflect Catholic teaching or diocese policies, are inappropriate, and that voters should use their conscience to determine which candidates to support.
“It’s not a mortal sin to vote for Democrats, number one. And number two, the church doesn’t take positions on this, and we’re not going to,” diocese spokesman Kevin Eckery said.
In a speech Tuesday at the Center for Catholic Thought and Culture at the University of San Diego, Bishop Robert McElroy stressed the importance both for his faith and for the country of religious leaders like himself staying out of candidate elections.
“I speak to you tonight as a bishop who is part of a long tradition in Catholic episcopal leadership in the United States which holds that both the Church and society are best served when bishops refrain from publicly endorsing or favoring, either directly or indirectly, specific candidates in partisan elections,” a transcript of his address says.
The diocese said the flier was not authorized by the parish, but it was somehow inserted into the 16 October bulletin.
“For all I know someone thought that they were doing a service,” by putting it into the bulletin, Eckery said. “The pastor said it was not something he had reviewed or approved.”
In his homily three weeks before the flier appeared in bulletins the church’s pastor, the Rev. Richard Perozich, discussed those same five points from the flier and how they’re relevant in this upcoming election but didn’t mention political parties, candidates, or damnation.
“In the church, we have what we call the five non-negotiables, things that are most important, and they’re around life issues. There’s life, from conception to natural death. There’s marriage and sexuality, embryonic stem cell research, cloning and euthanasia. When we vote, we don’t vote for candidates who support these things, even if they support other things that we really like,” said Perozich, according to a recording of the Sept. 25 homily posted on the church’s website.
Eckery said Perozich was not available for comment.
Francine Busby, the head of San Diego County Democrats, said she saw the flier and thought it was absurd to the point it didn’t seem like something the faith she grew up in would publish.
“My initial reaction was that this was extreme and completely over the top in the accusations,” she said. “I thought it was important to bring it to the attention to the diocese, just as a friend. I know that they didn’t mean it. … Clearly this was something that the diocese would never ever approve.”
While the bulletin cites “The Voters Guide for Serious Catholics” from El Cajon-based Catholic Answers Press to claim that voting for a Democrat results in eternal damnation, the guide references neither Democrats nor Republicans, and says voting by political party is an ineffective way to align with Catholic teachings.
“Do not just vote based on your political party affiliation, your earlier voting habits, or your family’s voting tradition,” the guide says. “Years ago, these may have been trustworthy ways to determine whom to vote for, but today they are often not reliable. You need to look at the stands each candidate takes. This means that you may end up casting votes for more than one party.”
The Clinton-as-Satan comment was in an article from the 30 October bulletin headlined “Voting Catholic” that discusses contemporary issues that Catholics have long stood against like abortion and same-sex marriage, plus ones that Eckery said are not a part of Catholic teachings and out of line with diocesan policy.
The article, which was written in the bulletin and not an insert, listed 10 “sins” that have “enslaved” American society created by politicians, judges and the voters who support them.
Besides long-standing matters the church has opposed, it also spoke against the “importation of immigrants whose religious values are to eradicate every belief except those of their own prophet and god, and to impose this on America” and public assistance for immigrants adding to the public debt “while paying Americans to sit home and not work.” The article also criticized “regulating the right to bear arms for free citizens in a nation where criminals and terrorists will always have weapons, and where government is now in opposition to the citizens.”
The article goes on to criticize clergy and politicians who think Christians who are concerned about these issues are homophobic or Islamophobic. “We are called by politicians such as Hillary Clinton, deplorables,” it said.
This article does not reflect the Catholic church’s stance, Eckery said.
“There’s no Catholic teaching to national debt, there’s no Catholic teaching on the Second Amendment. Those are civil issues, not Catholic issues,” he said. “It doesn’t reflect official church teaching. We’re a welcoming church, welcoming to immigrants.”
Eckery said the article came from within the parish, but it’s not clear who the author was, or who approved it for the bulletin.
Legal experts said that flier and bulletin run afoul of U.S. federal Internal Revenue Service regulations that prohibit nonprofit organizations, including churches, from backing or opposing political campaigns as a condition of receiving a tax-free status.
“This is absolutely blatant. I would use that word. It is a blatant violation on the ban on campaign activity,” said Richard Schmalbeck, a law professor at Duke University who specializes in nonprofit regulations. “It’s among the worst. Really, when you’re threatening eternal damnation, there really aren’t bigger guns than that.”
But the infraction couldn't be fairly blamed on the church if it were inserted by a rogue actor, he said.
Bruce Hopkins, a law professor at the University of Kansas, said he didn’t think that the flier about Democrats is a problem because it mentions a party, not a specific candidate. The 30 October bulletin — the one that says Satan is working through Clinton — is an issue, he said.
“I think it is a problem, as a matter of law, when you have her mentioned, specifically, that close to an election day,” Hopkins said. “It’s an obvious criticism of her in the context of the campaign.”
They both also said it’s unlikely that the IRS will investigate or impose any sort of sanction, however.
“The IRS these days is not enforcing much in this area,” Hopkins said. “It doesn’t have the resources, and its been criticized so much on (Capitol) Hill and elsewhere that it's kind of skittish about moving in certain areas, and this is one of them.”
When there have been sanctions, they’ve been mild, Schmalbeck said. In 2004 the IRS audited All Saints Church in Pasadena for a sermon that depicted a hypothetical debate between Jesus and then-Sen. John Kerry and President George W. Bush. It didn’t say specifically who to vote for or against, but it could be inferred, and compared to Immaculate Conception, it was much milder, he said.
The IRS investigated, found that the Pasadena church had violated regulations for non-profits and gave it a warning, Schmalbeck said.
Churches aren’t entirely sidelined from the political process. The IRS says they can hold candidate forums and publish election guides and organize voter registration drives, but their efforts must be “conducted in a non-partisan manner.”
The Old Town parish has hosted a polling site for the last four elections, and the flier is not a problem for Tuesday’s general election because voting will take place in a hall adjacent to the church and the polling area will be politically neutral, county spokesman Michael Workman said.
Approximately 250 houses of worship across San Diego County are used for polling places, amounting to around one of every six voting locations. Of those, all but around 10 are Christian churches. There are also at least two synagogues and one Buddhist temple used for voting, but it does not appear that any mosques are used.
The morality of either political party is far from agreed upon among the Catholic clergy and lay people, and likewise, there are Catholics in all levels of government across party lines. There have been two priests in Congress — both were Democrats. There have likewise been two Catholics in the executive branch, Vice President Joe Biden and President John F. Kennedy, also Democrats. Also, Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, and California Governor Jerry Brown, also a Democrat, both studied to become Jesuit priests.
In 1989 then-San Diego Bishop Leo Maher became the first in the country to deny the Eucharist to a politician when the sacrament was refused to state Senate candidate Lucy Killea. She won her race, and years later worshiped with Episcopalians.
In 2004, John Kerry was the last Catholic to receive the Democratic Party’s nomination for president and while he was campaigning he was denied communion because of his abortion rights stance. Besides him and Kennedy in 1960, the only other Catholic to receive the nomination from one of the two major parties was Al Smith in 1928, a Democrat and three-time New York governor. Smith is still a figure in presidential politics as the namesake of a charity dinner where the two candidates appear together to roast each other and themselves to raise money for Catholic organizations that assist children.
Critics weighed in on Clinton and Trump’s comedic speeches, giving them both boos and praise, but Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of the Diocese of New York, laughed at them both.
Copyright © 2016, The San Diego Union-Tribune