Should Priests Endorse Candidates?

With all the frenzy about the unfortunately-named Anthony Weiner, it can be easy to forget that there are other people running for the mayor of New York.  One of them is John Catsimatidis, a Greek American businessman. He’s not that well-known to many New Yorkers, so he’s trying to get his name and image out there with a lot of TV ads, including the one below.

It features something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before: a priest speaking on behalf of the candidate. I’m not sure this qualifies as a full-fledged endorsement, but it’s certainly pro-Catsimatidis and gives the unmistakable impression that the priest is in his corner.

Now, there’s nothing in canon law that says a priest can’t do this. And, in context, this is very mild. But it seems perilously close to violating the political activity guidelines of the IRS (particularly since he’s doing it in his capacity as director of a nonprofit Catholic food pantry.) 

UPDATE: A deacon who clearly knows canon law better than I do points out:

Canon 285 directs that “clerics are to refrain completely from all those things which are unbecoming to their state, according to the prescripts of particular law.” The canon continues in §3: “Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power,” and §4 forbids clerics from “secular offices which entail an obligation of rendering accounts. . . .” Canon 287, §1 reminds all clerics that “most especially, [they] are always to foster the peace and harmony based on justice which are to be observed among people,” and §2 directs that “they are not to have an active part in political parties and in governing labor unions unless, in the judgment of competent ecclesiastical authority, the protection of the rights of the Church or the promotion of the common good requires it.”

Check out the ad below and see what you think.

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