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The Catholic Church opposes abortion, and some of its leaders have taken that opposition so far into the political realm that they should be endangering the church's tax exemption.

One example recently comes from Scranton, PA, Joe Biden's birthplace and a purple part of the state that has attracted several visits from presidential and vice presidential candidates in the last two months.

Scranton's Roman Catholic bishop, Joseph Martino, barged into a presidential forum at St. John's Church in Honesdale Sunday, and created a scene that made the papers.

Details, below.

Martino is one of the relatively few Catholic bishops who are pushing the tax-exemption envelope.

Martino has said that he "will not tolerate any politician who claims to be a faithful Catholic who is not genuinely pro-life," and has implied that Biden, as a "Catholic politician who supports the culture of death" should not dare to take Communion in his diocese.

Adding that he "will be truly vigilant on this point."

Martino's intervention in the presidential forum was almost medieval.

One person on the forum panel cited the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops position that a political candidate’s position on abortion must be weighed against other moral issues, such as unjust wars or stem-cell research.

According to the USCCB’s "Faithful Citizenship" statement, approved by the full body of U.S. bishops in 2007, "A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity."

That statement really pissed Martino off.

Martino, who arrived while the panelists were stating their viewpoints, took issue with the USCCB statement, which was handed out to everyone at the meeting, and that his letter was not mentioned at the forum.

"No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese," said Martino. "The USCCB doesn’t speak for me. The only relevant document ... is my letter. There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable."

His letter, published Sept. 30 and circulated throughout the diocese, states that a candidate’s abortion stance is a major voting issue that supersedes all other considerations due to its grave moral consequences.

That's the medieval part -- Martino believes that he is the religious lord of the Scranton diocese, and can disregard national Catholic policy because his more extreme views are "not debatable."

Many Catholics, alas, bow to their ecclesiastical lord:

After the bishop’s comments, most of the audience stood and clapped loudly while some were angry that Martino usurped the forum.

About a quarter of the audience left after the bishop’s comments, which preceded the last half of the forum, a question-and-answer session with the panelists.

Martino exited shortly after his comments.

The Catholic vote is important in many states, including Pennsylvania, and it is not a one-issue constituency, no matter what Martino tries to decree.

According to a recent poll, less than a third of Catholics vote solely on abortion issues.

A sociologist at a Jesuit college has an insightful quote in that story:

Only 21 percent said their own parish priest had an effect on their vote. The majority said that their priest had little or no effect on their vote. The same with bishops -- only 27 percent said they would follow what the bishops said."

No wonder Martino felt the need to barge into a parish meeting and try to bully Catholics into voting for McCain.

Which probably will increase the Scranton area Catholic vote for Obama.

Thankfully, Pennsylvania is solidly for Obama, no matter what one wingnut bishop does to lord it over his flock.

Originally posted to devtob on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 07:46 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip jar (38+ / 0-)

    The IRS should be looking carefully at religious leaders, of whatever denomination, who implicitly endorse politicians, of whatever party.

    The Republicans want to cut YOUR Social Security benefits.

    by devtob on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 07:49:44 PM PDT

  •  these people are a fringe group (10+ / 0-)

    they have existed throughout history, and the most we can do is minimize their power.

    People panic too much on this site.

    by thematt523 on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 07:52:19 PM PDT

    •  A large and powerful one. I was Catholic (6+ / 0-)

      and am now a proud Unitarian Universalist.

      Bishop O'Malley here in Boston issued an edict that pissed me off.  I need to respond to him (it was published in the Boston Globe), but my essential gripe is that in abortion all the other issues are ignored and the hypocritical ruse of defending the weak really rings hollow when the Catholic Church ignores issues of poverty, death penalty, immigration, domestic violence, exploitation, women's right, etc.  It especially rings hollow to talk about defending the weak when so many priests were allowed to abuse children for so long and when caught, the Church was more concerned with covering its tracks and defending the perpetrators than with helping the children/victims (after all I understand that many of the perpetrators really are sick, but what about an institution that refuses to root out the (few) bad apples and allows them to (in many cases with the knowledge of superiors) continue doing it or moving them elsewhere where the will strike again).

      I know most Catholics are wonderful people, I love many priests, nuns and lay ministers withing the Church, but I had to leave an Institution so corrupt that it not only fails to live the teachings of Christ, they actively go against it.

      Then they came for me - and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.

      by DefendOurConstitution on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:17:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ask the "bishop" about Galileo.... nt (5+ / 0-)
    •  Only took the RCC 500 years to apologize (5+ / 0-)

      For that.  For them that is progress.  How about nearly 1900 years of Jewish persecution and pogroms.  I despise the RCC, not individual members, they are doing everything they can to scare back as many people as possible, as they watch their churches empty.  I'll be happy when the RCC is nothing more than a sad footnote in history.

      We are not princes of the earth, we are descendants of worms. Nobility must be earned. - PZ Myers

      by Mercuriousss on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:03:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed. Don't forget Crusades and Inquisition. nt (4+ / 0-)
        •  I could fill a dairy (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          devtob, ExStr8, Wilberforce, Old Gardener

          On the crimes against humanity that the RCC has committed.  Based on what? The hodgepodge of Middle Eastern mythology, bad writing, mistranslating and the making up of "divine rules" out of thin air.  Makes you wonder what religion would look like today if it was never entered into dogma that Mary was a virgin at conception of Jesus.  That one single mistranslation is probably the greatest factor in the sexual repression of humanity.

          We are not princes of the earth, we are descendants of worms. Nobility must be earned. - PZ Myers

          by Mercuriousss on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:13:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  My favorite RCC war crime is the (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ExStr8, Old Gardener, Mercuriousss

            Albigensian Crusade in southwest France in the 13th century.

            The Pope conspired with the French King to kill a lot of Christian heretics and steal their land.

            The RCC is not killing people they disagree with these days, thankfully.

            Though it's obvious that wingnut bishops like Martino would if they could get away with it.

            The Republicans want to cut YOUR Social Security benefits.

            by devtob on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:28:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  They may not be killing people via force (5+ / 0-)

              But I would say many of them are indirectly causing death and suffering.  How about a bishop telling people in AIDS torn Africa that condoms will come with the HIV virus already implanted and will cause the disease.  How about Mother Teresa, during her crisis of faith, let others suffer because she thought it would do them good.  

              We are not princes of the earth, we are descendants of worms. Nobility must be earned. - PZ Myers

              by Mercuriousss on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:32:56 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Mercuriousss, they are killing women in Africa (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              devtob, ExStr8, Mercuriousss

              by denying them birth control (condoms) that will also help prevent STDs.  I've seen women dying with my own eyes.  I've seen the orphans they have left behind.

              I can never comprehend this obsession with priviliging a microsopic clot of cells over living children, living women...and making them starving, dying children, dead women.

  •  By "Genuinely pro-life," does he mean genuinely.. (13+ / 0-)

    Martino has said that he "will not tolerate any politician who claims to be a faithful Catholic who is not genuinely pro-life,"

    Does that mean he opposes politicians who support the death penalty? Does he even distinguish between those who justify their support on the Deterrence issue and accept the burden of proof?

    Does he oppose politicians who get us mired in wars? Even when they get us in under false pretences and fight lackadaisically?

    There must be 8 or 10 issues where one side can claim to be pro-life, from AIDS research to highway safety. It sure seems to me that by "Genuinely pro-life," Bishop Martino means "Genuinely pro-Republican."

    Proud Citizen of Barackopolis.

    by Judge Moonbox on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 07:58:29 PM PDT

  •  Man, these guys won't rest until they push (5+ / 0-)

    anyone left-of-center out of the Church

    I worry the Church's descent into wingnutery will only continue given the the present system in which Super Conservative Pope Benedict appoints the cardinals that will choose his successor and the bishops that become likely future cardinals.

    For example, Conservative Bishop John Nienstedt was recently appointed the head of Minneapolis/St. Paul Archdiocese replacing the somewhat progressive, Harry Flynn.

    "Never separate the life you live from the words you speak" -Paul Wellstone

    by WellstoneDem on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:06:01 PM PDT

  •  Not to put too fine a point on it (6+ / 0-)

    The honorable bishop can go fuck himself.

    I'm sick of the literally holier than thou enabling hundreds of thousands of people to be killed in war, endangering the entire planet, and abandoning millions to death or terrible poverty because of his one precious issue.

    If that is his conception of religion it is simply barbaric.  How he could be considered a leader and moral person is simply beyond me.

    I'm not one of those who condemns all religion, but when I think of those like Martino I just want to puke.

    You can't reason someone out of something they weren't reasoned into. - Jonathan Swift

    by A Mad Mad World on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:08:48 PM PDT

  •  Four years ago I attended a funeral in PA (6+ / 0-)

    there were fliers in the back of the RC church saying anyone voting for Kerry were sinning if they took communion.

    Vote for a dem and burn in much worse than vote for a dem and the terrorists win, don't you think?

    "Look Dave, I can see you're really upset about this...I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over." ~ HAL

    by LuLu on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:10:31 PM PDT

  •  The Episcopal Church welcomes you. (7+ / 0-)

    We traded in Republicans like Dubya and McCain and over a million others who didn't like our views on racial equality and other aspects of social justice.  In return, we got a bunch of Roman Catholics, who are now a majority in the denomination.  In size, we are 800,000 smaller than we were 35 years ago.  

    It was a good trade.  

    Episcopalians:  Running interference for Christ.


    Dems in 2008: An embarassment of riches. Repubs in 2008: Embarassments.

    by Yamaneko2 on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:13:30 PM PDT

    •  Hey, no poaching! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It's not fair, loitering around airports and rail stations, looking for middle-aged Catholics who seem alienated, and then pouncing with your sinister "Hey, Jesus accepted everyone, why shouldn't we?" line.

      grumble grumble episcopals grumble.

      •  You bet I'll poach. (0+ / 0-)

        You're always welcome at:

        St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
        1360 State Street
        Hobart, IN

        Holy Eucharist:  9:00 am on Sundays.  All baptized Christians are welcome to receive it on hand or on tongue, kneeling or standing.  Sunday School for the children during the service;  the kids come in for Communion.

        Healing service the first Sunday of each month.  

        Coffee hour follows the service.  

        In early December we will open our new wing, which will be used by the Sunday school and for community outreach.  

        Our Presiding Bishop ++Katharine came to us from the RCC at age seven, and was a marine biologist.  

        Dems in 2008: An embarassment of riches. Repubs in 2008: Embarassments.

        by Yamaneko2 on Sat Nov 01, 2008 at 10:56:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Starve The Beast (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, ExStr8, Old Gardener, Mercuriousss

    Hit them where it hurts, in the collection plate. Maybe leave a campaign button.

  •  Catholic Bishops Pro-life? - Hardly (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, ExStr8, Old Gardener, Mercuriousss

    This is from the OFFICIAL CATECHISM:

    The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time: - the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; - all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; - there must be serious prospects of success; - the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

    These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine.

    The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

    For Christ's sake, every Bishop in America knows that the War On Iraq is NOT A JUST WAR.  And they can do something about it - by prohibiting every Catholic from participating in or profiting from the war.


    Iraq is Arabic for Viet Nam.

    by sen bob on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:16:44 PM PDT

  •  Why aren't they as rabid about death penalty (6+ / 0-)

    supporters holding office, including District Attorneys? I thought anti-capital punishment was part of the Catholic "pro-life" stance?

  •  I am a Catholic (5+ / 0-)

    Sometimes a good one, sometimes not. But I would hate to see the Scranton Diocese lose its tax exempt status because it has a senile, egomaniac,   wingnut as its bishop.

    However, one must render unto Caesar what is Caesar's....and if Martino insists on acting like a Holy Roman emperor his diocese will have to pay.

    60 for the Senate. Obama 08.

    by bornadem on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:25:37 PM PDT

  •  Religious Blackmail (5+ / 0-)

    That's how I see the church's stance. I wonder how much it works since so many Catholics ignore the church when it comes to birth control and pre-marital sex.

  •  Without members, Clergy have NO MONEY (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, Old Gardener, Mercuriousss, dwayne

    Members are, all too often, asked to leave their brain at the door, swallow the teachings, and leave like zombies to act out the teachings in their lives.

    They are told if they live the Clergy's prescription, they will be saved.

    Tax Exemption allows for this IF the teachings are religious, not political.

    What I find strange, and I am a born spiritual seeker, is that the more they shovel and expect you to adhere to, the more I feel l pushed away, seeking the solace of my home sanctuary where I can feel the spirit and hear the promptings of the spirit.

    Of course our spirit, trapped within our bodies, wants to be free and return to its origins. This same spirit remembers that we are all connected and necessary to each other and that we are here to learn, grow, and share.  We need the diversity of this human experience in order to have the experiences (of heart, mind, body, and soul) in order to progress.

    Churches play to this and forget that God's most important gift to humans:

    Free Agency, the freedom to chose

    Requires each of us to find our unique path to godliness.  It can't be taught, it can only be encouraged.

    We are each others keepers.  Love one another.  And no, some anothers are not better than other anothers!  Although it seems as though some might be more mature than others.

    •  As long as people sit in their pews (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and put money in their collection baskets,

      those people are complicit.

      That's really hard for people who come from traditional Catholic families, and who are sincere in their beliefs, but as long as these people keep feeding the hatred and ignorance, the hatred and ignorance and abuses of power will go on.


  •  A bit about Bishop Martino... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, Old Gardener, Mercuriousss

    From Cancer Capital:

    On Feb. 29, Martino celebrated Mass and dedicated a new $35 million student center at the University of Scranton which was financed either in all or in great part by DeNaples, a longtime Dunmore businessman.

    "I congratulate the DeNaples family," Martino told those in attendance. "I don't know what I'd do without the assistance I receive from this wonderful family."

    DeNaples, who reportedly is a billionaire, is awaiting trial for perjury after being accused of having lied to the State Gaming Control Board when asked if he had ties to organized crime figures.

    The diocese also derecognized its teachers' union and is closing parishes and schools left and right.

    As for The Scandal...

    Bishop Martino was one of eight bishops served by a county sheriff in regards to a Nevada lawsuit against all 178 bishops.  I wonder why he earned that distinction.

    Dems in 2008: An embarassment of riches. Repubs in 2008: Embarassments.

    by Yamaneko2 on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:42:24 PM PDT

  •  The current Pope-whatshisname the IV (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, Old Gardener, Mercuriousss

    or whatever is really bad news. Much worse than the last guy.

    But, I think his policies will only further remove them from being a serious force, as more and more simply ignore or leave.

    "The military industrial complex not only controls our government, lock, stock and barrel, but they control our culture." - Mike Gravel

    by Wilberforce on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:44:18 PM PDT

    •  Bennie the Ratz (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      devtob, Wilberforce

      He renamed himself Benedict XVI and before that he was a German Hitler Youth named Joseph Ratzinger.

      Pope John the XXIII, the good Pope who called for Vatican II, would rotate in his grave like a chicken on a spit if he saw what this evil Rat is doing to the Church and the poor and desperate.


  •  Like I said before this Bishop is trying to make (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, Old Gardener

    a name for himself. Back in the late 80's or early 90's we had Bishop O'Connor who late became Cardinal O'Connor of New York City. Bishop Martino thinks he is going to follow in his footprints and become a Cardinal. Bishop Martino is no Bishop O'Connor by any means. The teachers in the Scranton diocese wanted to form a union and Martino refused to let them form a union.

  •  My Republican, Cadillac driving, Catholic (4+ / 0-)

    beaufonted, Mother-IN-Law  from Michigan:

    It's time for a change

    "The military industrial complex not only controls our government, lock, stock and barrel, but they control our culture." - Mike Gravel

    by Wilberforce on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:50:00 PM PDT

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