Law Prof at Catholic College Says Bishops Crossing the Line Separating Church and State, Suggests Penalties
A law professor at Duquesne university is accusing the bishops of crossing the line separating church and state and even suggests an appalling interesting array of punishments and penalties in America Magazine.
Nicholas P. Cafardi, dean emeritus and professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh, Pa. accused some bishops of vexing and oppressing people, electioneering and lobbying, and attempting to take away people’s constitutional rights. Cafardi suggested that as a penalty the IRS could remove the Church’s tax exempt status or simply fine those bishops their per diem salaries every day they open their mouths against the HHS mandate or gay “marriage.”
Cafardi accused Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Illinois, of “electioneering” for his forceful words about the “extreme secularist agenda” of the Obama administration in light of the HHS mandate. Cafardi also points to Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, Wash., launching a signature drive in parishes to put Referendum 74 on the statewide ballot to repeal Washington’s new same-sex marriage law as an example of “lobbying.”
“Churches cannot electioneer at all. The prohibition is absolute. They may not intervene in any way in a campaign for political office either in favor of a candidate or in opposition to one,” writes Cafardi. “With lobbying, an attempt to influence legislation, there is some wiggle room. There the law allows churches to lobby, but only to an ‘insubstantial’ degree.”
Cafardi explains that he believes the Church’s tax exemption is akin to a tax subsidy and then adds, “Our tax dollars should not be used to subsidize partisan political activities of tax exempt organizations.” So in Cafardi’s view, donations you might make to the Church are “tax dollars.” But isn’t the entire point that they’re not taxed dollars?
Cafardi quotes James Madison who wrote in the Federalist Papers, No. 10, that “a zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government and many other points…have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good.”
“Bishop Jenky’s odious comparison and Archbishop Sartain’s support for an initiative to repeal the civil rights of a significant sector of our fellow citizens do seem disposed ‘to vex and oppress,’ to use Madison’s words.”
So to be clear, President Obama attempts to force religious individuals and institutions to provide coverage for sinful things like abortifacients, contraceptives and sterilization procedures, and just by talking about what the president is doing, the bishops are guilty of “electioneering” and putting the tax exempt status of the Church at risk?
What if the White House is guilty of vexing and oppressing? Shouldn’t the Church speak out on behalf of the vexed and oppressed? Or would Cafardi prefer the bishops speak of less vexing and oppressive things?
Using even one tax-exempt church dollar, though, to stir up opposition to what Cafardi calls “the legally recognized civil rights of others is objectionable, no matter what the tax code says about it.”
Ah. So this isn’t really about the tax code then, is it? It’s about what Cafardi thinks is right and wrong. But that doesn’t stop him from suggesting a few options for the IRS to penalize the Church:
The I.R.S. can either use the nuclear option and revoke the archdiocese’s tax exemption, which is so drastic as to be unthinkable, or it can use the fly-swatter option and fine the diocese for the amount it spent on the prohibited political activity under Section 4955 of the tax code. For example, what was the cost to the Diocese of Peoria of Bishop Jenky’s political homily? The cost of opening up the cathedral that day? The utility costs? A prorated portion of the bishop’s salary? We are talking about a small amount, hardly the kind of fine that hurts.
Cafardi frets that this probably wouldn’t do enough to dissuade the bishops so he asserts that, according to polling, nobody’s listening to the bishops anyway. But if that were true, that would beg the question if a bishop electioneers and there’s nobody around to hear it, did he actually electioneer?
Cafardi cites surveys that say young people think the Catholic Church is “anti-gay.” One must wonder why young people might believe that when you have professors at Catholic colleges accusing bishops of interfering with “the legally recognized civil rights of others” and vexing and oppressing people?