Right Wing Catholic Non-Profit Treads the Line of Legality and Ethics

A few weeks ago, I received a tip to check out the video on CatholicVote.com. CatholicVote.com is a project of the Fidelis Center for Law and Policy, which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity that focuses on the issues of abortion and marriage. Intrigued, I clicked the link and this is what I saw.

I was outraged by many parts of this false representation of my faith, though as a recently married lesbian woman, one clip felt particularly devastating. The folks at CatholicVote.com obviously forgot the Catechism’s call to “…[accept homosexuals] with respect, compassion, and sensitivity…” They leaped right over respect and went straight for dehumanization. They depicted two men at a wedding ceremony but cropped the photo to cut off their heads from the eyes up.

But why crop the photo? Perhaps, CatholicVote.com thought that if they showed the eyes of these men, people would be able to see them as humans—as humans capable of loving each other. Nonetheless, that was a low point of the video for me.

Equally dismayed and interested, I signed up for the CatholicVote.com e-updates just to see what else they might have to say. So, two days ago—with the election so close we can feel it—I received an “Urgent Memo” to American Catholics from CatholicVote.com with the subject “Barack Obama on the Issues of Importance to Catholics.”

The memo begins:

“Dear CatholicVote.com member,

The following is a summary of the record and policy statements of Senator Barack Obama on the issues of life and marriage. Because we are sponsored by a 501c3 nonprofit organization, we are not permitted to endorse or advocate for or against a candidate.

We can however provide you with a candidate’s record on the issues. Therefore, we present you with the following facts for your use to educate voters on the candidates and the teaching of the Church in these critical days prior to November 4.

The election is likely to be a subject of the homily for your parish priest this weekend. We encourage you to share this information with your priest soon so he can consider mentioning this information from the pulpit.

Make sure to pass along this information to your friends and family, too. Let’s have an informed electorate on Tuesday…”

The memo then goes through Obama’s voting record and statements on the so-called “issues of importance to Catholics”—abortion, same-sex marriage, and stem cell research.

Not only does it appears as though this memo—in laying out only Obama’s views on these issues—is an abuse of nonprofit status, but it also think strongly misrepresents what are actually the issues of importance to Catholics. While some Catholics may indeed be concerned with these issues (myself included, being a pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage Catholic), I believe—and surveys would back me up—that the wider Catholic community is concerned with what all Americans are concerned about, i.e. the war, the economy, jobs, healthcare, and other issues of justice.

For more on this topic see Mary E. Hunt’s feature Catholic Voters No Longer Beholden to Bishops and Abortion.

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