"Padre, daghan lagi mga pari ug pipila ka mga obispo moapil-apil ug criticize o kaha moingon nga dili angay iboto ang usa ka kandidato. Mitugot ba diay ang Simbahan niini?
This question shows the degree of the faithful’s confusion nowadays on the legitimacy of the Catholic ministers’ involvement in political affairs. To what extent should priests and bishops get involved in the coming elections?
Let’s be clear, first, about certain facts!
Firstly, priests and bishops participate in the coming elections by casting their votes, thereby, exercising their rights as citizens of this country. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country” (CCC, 2240).
Secondly, the Church clearly prohibits priests and bishops to run for public office as it is “unbecoming to their state” (Canon 285). They must not actively campaign, endorse or publicly support particular candidates or political parties.
In the same manner, priests and bishops are also advised not to tell the people who not to vote for. Either to endorse or to oppose a political candidate or party is divisive; hence, it is “unbecoming” of Church ministers who are supposed to gather, not to scatter, the flock.
But I agree with Fr. Dwight Longenecker in his article entitled “Should a Priest Comment on Politics?” published in his blog, Patheos, on February 22, 2016, (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2016/02/should-a-priest-comment-on-politics.html), in saying that “Maybe we shouldn’t get involved in politics, but we can certainly comment on morality. Indeed, it is our duty to comment on the morality or immorality of certain issues”. If I may quote lengthily this priest-blogger:
“If a party or candidate supports abortion, genocide or euthanasia we must speak out about it. If a candidate or party supports indiscriminate deportation or incarceration we should speak out about it. If a party or candidate supports torture, killing of innocent civilians and indiscriminate bombing we should speak out about it. If a candidate or party supports the widespread and indiscriminate use of capital punishment we should speak out about it. If a candidate or party supports the oppression of the poor, an unfair wage and destruction of the family we should speak out about it. If a candidate or party supports the breakdown of marriage, sexual immorality and moral corruption of the young we should speak out about it.”
In other words, while Catholic clergy are advised not to actively interfere with political affairs, they are, not only allowed, but even expected to shed light on moral issues involving these affairs. So when priests and bishops comment on politics, it should not be about political concerns like who to vote for or not. Instead, they should comment on moral issues affecting the Catholic faithful’s exercise of their political rights.
As Fr. Longenecker rightly points out, “Commenting on the morality of issues is something a priest is called to. When there is evil in the world, he is called to exercise a prophetic ministry. This is not being ‘political’; it is being human. It is being Catholic.”
Cogito, May 1, 2016