Catholic Citizen

faith informs life

An Open Letter to Bishop Sheridan, Colorado Springs Diocese

[Since I wrote this appeal, and copied Bishop Sheridan, I have been informed by those who are expert in the field that it is a violation of federal tax law for this material to be distributed by a church.  It should be noted that while Dobson attempted to disguise the fact that the material was from his organization by using a front out of Castle Rock easily traceable back to Focus, Sheridan blatantly distributed the information in a plastic mailer with the Catholic Herald.  Seeing as how the government is desperate to find ways to generate more income, it’s probably not a good time to be violating the laws which keep religious institutions tax exempt.  I would personally be disappointed in Bishop Sheridan, except he has done it before.  Both the Church and the federal government have forbad this type of activity, yet he apparently considers himself “a law unto himself” and will no doubt answer for it at some point.  There have been so many blatant examples by Right Wing religious organizations over the last several decades that it may be years before the feds get it all sorted out – if they want to.  I have to consider favoring removing the tax-exemption for religious organizations as a reasonable action in response to these willful violations of Church and federal law.]

Dear Bishop Sheridan,

We love you because you are our brother in Christ, and because, in our Church, we look to you for guidance and leadership in living the Christian faith.  However, since I have received materials from Dr. James Dobson, a Christian of a different political stripe than myself, included with my copy of the Catholic Herald, which is your newspaper for you to communicate with the people of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, I have been contemplating writing this letter.

I object to blatant political propaganda being sent out by my Bishop.  It may be appropriate to point out that the money it takes to print and distribute our newspaper comes from your people in the diocese.  I believe it is wrong to attempt to influence how people vote because of your own political persuasions using your office.  Certainly, you, like every American, have every right and responsibility to decide for yourself how to vote, and, as an individual citizen, you have every right to attempt to persuade others to believe as you yourself do.  But when you do it as Bishop, you misuse your position.  I believe JPII was pretty clear on that, and that Benedict has reiterated that the clergy should not be active in politics.  This would be particularly true, I think, of a Bishop.

Unfortunately, you are not the only one in America misusing your office.  Other Bishops across the nation have stated outright that if I as an American vote for someone who does not “toe the line” of Catholic theology in every detail, they should separate themselves from the Catholic Church and not receive at Eucharist.  This is a horrible prospect for most Catholics.  We love the Church, our Pastors and our communities.  They are our family.  We love the Lord Jesus Christ, without whom we would have no Life.  If we cannot receive his body and blood, then we are denied the most precious source of Grace we possess as Christians.

Yet, we are also persuaded in this particular election that an administration of the federal government under John McCain would be perhaps even more disastrous than that of the eight years under George Bush, if that were possible.  For most of us, a particular persons view on legal issues regarding maternity is secondary to the things that will effect all of us; economic policy, foreign policy, social policy.  We believe that Barack Obama, also a Christian by his account, who holds a different view on who should be making medical decisions for a woman than you do, is better equipped than the other candidate to help this country survive the awful situation the Bush administration has left to us.

I know “Right to Life” is very important to you personally.  It is to me too.  With Joe Biden, I agree and accept the authority of the Roman Catholic Church in my own life.  However, as an American, I also believe that others have the right to reach their own conclusions in these matters.  I also agree with the Supreme Court when it states that slavery in this country is illegal, and that when a conflict arises between the Mother and the unborn, the Mother, with her doctor, are the only ones who can make these decisions.  If the Mother chooses to involve a Priest, so much the better from my viewpoint.

However, in no way does my faith dictate that I have a right, nor the government, nor the Church, to impose into that situation my political religious views.  How arrogant to believe that anyone who is not directly involved in the situation at hand, including Congress or the President or the Bishop or Pope, has any right whatsoever to dictate their preferences to another citizen in what is a private medical decision.  How can a reasonable American citizen reach any other conclusion?

Just as slavery and lynching of those less fortunate than ourselves is absolutely unAmerican and certainly anti-Christ, just as witch trials and burning at the stake of unbelievers is not accepted in our society nor our Church, neither do we as a society or our government dictate to people what they can do with their own bodies in heartbreaking medical situations.

To tell your fellow Catholics from your position of power and influence that it would be a sin to vote for someone who does not meet the test of being “the right kind of Christian” is just wrong.  You owe your diocese an apology, and so do other Bishops across America.  Not only for this Presidential campaign, but for the previous two as well.


October 25, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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