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Letter from Bishop James T. McHugh to his Pastors

Office of the Bishop
Diocese of Rockville Centre
50 North Park Avenue
Rockville Centre, New York 11570
516.678.5800 x. 400

21 September, 2000

Dear Monsignor/Father,

As the election campaigns intensify, I wish to call your attention to some important points for us as priests. We are not just private citizens but representatives of the Catholic Church. We have a concern for human dignity and human rights, for the sanctity of life of every person from conception till natural death and for maintaining and protecting the common good. As the National Conference of Catholic Bishops has continually reminded us, we should make every effort to educate our people about the truly critical issues at stake in the coming election, encourage them to vote and inspire them to persuade others to consider the moral dimension of the critical issues. In Living the Gospel of Life, the bishops write that "the arena for moral responsibility includes not only the halls of government but the voting booth as well. ... Thus we urge our fellow citizens to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest."

Our participation in the electoral process is an opportunity to build "the culture of life." Accordingly, as we approach Election Day, the following directives are to be carefully followed:

1. There is to be no mention, for or against, any candidates for public office from the pulpit. The Liturgy of The Word is part of our public worship and homilies and commentaries are to be directed to proclaiming the Word, not expressing opinions about candidates. Certainly, in our homilies we can and should call attention to the various evidences of the culture of death: abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, violence, discrimination, and to the evident contradiction of claiming to be a faithful Catholic while rejecting the teaching of the Church.

2. Those who are pro-abortion or claim to be personally opposed to abortion but unwilling to integrate their moral principles with civic responsibilities are not to be given leadership positions in the diocese, parish or other church agencies or organizations, nor to exercise any liturgical ministry.

3. Parishes and other diocesan agencies or organizations should not bestow public honors or privileges of any type on such persons.

4. Such persons should not be invited to be speakers at graduation ceremonies, celebrated lectures or other public events where the invited speaker is given positive recognition or approval.

5. Such persons should not be invited as honorary chairpersons of major celebrations or other events, including fund-raising programs.

The policy, as stated, means that no pro-abortion public official or candidate is to be invited to address Catholic agencies or organizations, school or parish groups, even if he/she does not intend to express their pro-abortion views. The reason for this is that it would be foolish and counterproductive to provide a platform to those who favor or support a public policy of abortion on demand or of euthanasia or assisted suicide. It would also be extremely misleading to provide such persons a platform to promote their views, even on other issues, lest they claim that the Church somehow implicitly tolerates their rejection of Church teaching on pro-life issues.

These directives take effect immediately. Their implementation is to be carried out prudently and with discretion by pastors and administrators of diocesan agencies. In cases of doubt, recourse is to be made to the Bishop.

I enclose a copy of a recent article from Columbia, the Knights of Columbus’ monthly magazine for your information.

With prayerful best wishes, I am

Fraternally in Christ

Most Reverend James T. McHugh, S.T.D.
Bishop of Rockville Centre

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