Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Political Excommunication

Saw an interesting article about Roman Catholic lawyer and professor Douglas Kmiec who endorsed Barack Obama for President.  He was denied communion by a priest who just before had excoriated him for his endorsement.

While I'm no Roman Catholic and don't believe for a minute that this one priest's actions were the work of the entire church, I do believe the congregation or ministry where that priest works ought to receive the attention of the IRS.  Why?

Well, during the last presidential election, a retired Episcopal priest was guest preacher at an Episcopal congregation and mentioned the names of Bush and Kerry.  He told the congregation that Christians should vote and should do so based on Christ's teachings and example.  Then he compared Bush's and Kerry's statements on various issues and asked the congregation to consider them in light of the Gospel.  

He did not tell people who to vote for.  However, a supporter of George Bush took this to be an attack on the president and filed a complaint with the IRS which then revoked the tax-exempt status of the congregation. It was only after much public outcry that the congregation retained its tax-exempt status.

Now, this was a case of a guest speaker -- not the pastor -- saying something that might be construed as supporting one candidate or another.  In this case, however, the priest denied another Roman Catholic communion for openly supporting a particular candidate.  In essence, what that priest said was, "You must support John McCain or else."  That's blatant political action.

I realize this isn't the whole church saying it, but it is the ministry of that priest, and if it's good enough for a supposedly liberal congregation to receive that treatment, it's certainly good enough for a ministry with a neocon priest as well.  

For the moment, though, I think a public reprimand of that priest would suffice -- after all, just in the case of the Episcopal congregation, it is the action of just one individual.