The attack dogs have been sicked on Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria. Last week, he spoke out very bluntly and courageously against Obama’s assault on the Church. The enemies of the Church are now counter-attacking:
On Thursday, the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State claimed the homily violated federal law by taking sides in a political campaign.
“No rational person could believe the bishop was doing anything but saying vote against Obama,” said Barry Lynn, the group’s executive director… Churches are tax-exempt institutions, and they aren’t allowed to intervene in partisan politics.” (Source)
They’re absolutely right, by the way. The good bishop was indeed telling the faithful that they shouldn’t vote for Obama. That’s a no-no under existing tax rules. In both the U.S. and Canada, registered charities have restrictions on how they may intervene on political issues (a principle that makes perfect sense, in my view). The good bishop crossed the line. Americans United for Separation of Church and State make a valid legal point.
You wanna strip us of our tax-exempt status? Go ahead, make my day.
The tax-exempt status of Catholic churches has been an obstacle to their preaching of the truth, in my opinion. Many priests and bishops are afraid to preach the fullness of the Gospel, including its obvious political ramifications, because they don’t want to lose their tax-exempt status, which allows them to hand out tax receipts for donations. They fear that donations would decrease if people can’t get a tax receipt. So in an effort to get a bit more loose change in the collection, they short-change the Gospel.
How do you suppose that’ll go down on Judgement Day? “Sorry Jesus, but we couldn’t have afforded the new rug in the parish hall if we had lost our charitable status”. You can’t serve God and Mammon. The clergy already made their choice, in theory, when they were ordained to the priesthood. Now they have to be coherent with their decision.
Personally, I’m not entirely convinced donations would go down. If they did, shame on the laity for also putting Mammon before God. That wouldn’t play out too well on Judgement Day either.
The strength of the Catholic Church over the centuries in overcoming the threats of the wicked has precisely been because Her sights were set on heavenly things, not on earthly things. You wanna burn our village? Go ahead. You want to steal our crops? Take ’em, and don’t forget the orchard. You wanna kill me? Be my guest. But. I. Will. Not. Abandon. The. Gospel.
The genuine Catholic response to the potential loss of tax-exempt status should be: “So what? We’re not in it for the money. God will provide for our needs if we’re faithful to the Gospel.” If the clergy and the laity reacted in this way, the threat of losing tax-exempt status would be powerless and the enemies of the Church would have failed to make a dent in Her missionary zeal. We’d just keep chugging along as if nothing happened. And our enemies would be stunned.
So in reality, this isn’t a threat at all, unless we allow it to be through our attachment to money. It’s a test, an opportunity to further purify our motives and bear witness to the world about the evangelical virtue of spiritual poverty. Rather than put us down, it can be a source of greater unity and public testimony, both of which will bring much glory to God and salvation for souls.
So let Bishop Jenky and his brothers keep preaching brimstone. Our enemies will have to come up with a better counter-attack than that.