‘The Catholic Church is still politically nonpartisan’: Arizona bishops warn voters about groups claiming to represent the Church

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PHOENIX (CNS) – Ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections, Catholic bishops in Arizona have alerted voters to “unsanctioned political efforts” they say are being carried out by a number of organizations and of publications claiming to represent the Catholic Church on a variety of ballot issues.

In a joint statement released Oct. 31 by the Arizona Catholic Conference in Phoenix, the Prelates said these entities “call themselves ‘Catholic'” but that they “do not represent the Catholic Church.”

In a joint statement released by the Arizona Catholic Conference in Phoenix, the Prelates said these entities “call themselves ‘Catholic'” “do not represent the Catholic Church.”

They “cover various ends of the political spectrum and often engage in partisan political endeavors,” the statement added.

Canon 216 of the Code of Canon Law “emphasizes that no initiative can claim the title of ‘Catholic’ without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority,” the bishops said. “The use of the name ‘Catholic’ implies that the initiative somehow represents the Catholic Church.”

“Therefore, the competent authority – in most cases the local bishop – must authorize any entity, business or movement to call itself ‘Catholic,’” they added. “Those who do so without permission are in violation of church teaching and law.”

“We must emphasize that the Catholic Church is always politically non-partisan,” the bishops continued. “Furthermore, it should be remembered that the Catholic Church has a long tradition that our beliefs influence our personal politics – not our personal politics trying to influence our faith. When we reverse these two, we place ourselves outside of the tradition and teachings of the Catholic Church.

“We must emphasize that the Catholic Church is always politically non-partisan,” the bishops continued.

The bishops directed Catholics to a YouTube video with further thoughts from them on the matter.

The statement was signed by Bishop John P. Dolan of Phoenix; Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, New Mexico, whose diocese includes part of Arizona; Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of Tucson; and retired Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, who serves as Apostolic Administrator of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Protection of Mary.

To help American Catholics sort through voting issues and their choices for public office, the U.S. bishops offer guidance in their quadrennial election document, “Training Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Accountability.”

It does not tell Catholics how to vote, but how to “form their conscience, apply a consistent moral framework to the issues facing the nation and the world, and shape their choices in elections in light of Catholic social teaching.”

The document has been offered as a guide to Catholic voters every presidential election year since 1976. It has been updated and revised every four years to reflect changes in the issues facing the country since its first appearance. A PDF of the document in English and Spanish is posted on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website at fidelecitizenship.org, along with additional resources.

On the USCCB YouTube channel, five videos in four languages ​​– English, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese – explore various aspects of Catholic social teaching while reflecting the teaching of Pope Francis.

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