Our Lady of Guadalupe Does Not Back Political Candidates

In my hometown of Fresno, a political maelstrom broke out this week over a campaign poster backing Leticia Perez, a candidate for the California State Senate in the 16th district.

Here, in all its glory, is the poster:

Although I’ve been digging for details, I still have yet to discover a confirmed written news account of where this poster originated, although the footnote at the bottom of the poster clearly states, “Paid for by Perez for Senate 2013″. It was brought to my attention by a local Catholic friend, who rightly was incensed over the use of Our Lady of Guadalupe in this manner. The story was prevalent all week on our local talk radio station, KMJ.  I tuned in one day and heard a heated conversation, with many callers sharing how offended they were by the poster. The callers included both Catholics and non-Catholics.

I pondered as I listened whether or not this was a “bloggable” issue and what – if anything — I could write on the topic that could help us to learn something rather than simply to bash a political candidate. I prayed for a few days, wrote the Chancellor for my Diocese and decided in the end to share this as a “teachable moment“.

Today, I’m not going to pile more derision on Candidate Perez. She has not made any formal response to this that I can find on her website, Facebook page, or Twitter account. I don’t know Ms. Perez’s religious background and am not making any statement on her faith life.

I do want to employ this situation to clarify what our Bishops teach about Faithful Citizenship. The Diocese of Fresno and the Catholic Church is in no way affiliated with and/or endorsing Ms. Perez’s candidacy for 16th Senate District seat. The Diocese of Fresno strictly adheres to Political Activity Guidelines for Non-Profit Organizations which are readily available on the USCCB website.

On the USCCB’s Faithful Citizenship website, we read:

By our baptism, Catholics are committed to following Jesus Christ and to be “salt for the earth, light for the nations.” As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “It is necessary that all participate, according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This is inherent in the dignity of the human person … As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life” (nos. 1913-1915).

On the issue of Political Advertising, the policy guidelines are clear:

Paid Political Advertising.  A Catholic organization may not provide political advertising to a candidate, political party or PAC free, at a reduced rate, or on a selective basis. IRS has stated that acceptance of paid political ads in exempt organization newspapers, periodicals, and other publications generally will not violate the political campaign prohibition, provided: (a) the organization accepts political advertising on the same basis as other non-political advertising; (b) political advertising is identified as paid political advertising; (c) the organization expressly states that it does not endorse any candidate; and (d) advertising is available to all candidates on an equal basis. IRS places particular emphasis on the manner in which political advertising is solicited. One identified negative factor is solicitation of ads from certain candidates that support an organization’s viewpoint, but mere acceptance (without solicitation) of ads from other candidates. It is important to emphasize that once a Catholic organization accepts one paid political advertisement, it cannot selectively decline to accept others. [SeeElection Year Issues at 384.]

Factors to be considered in determining whether the provision of paid political advertising constitutes political campaign intervention include: (a) whether advertising is available to candidates in the same election on an equal basis; (b) whether advertising is available only to candidates and not to the general public; (c) whether the fees charged to candidates for advertising are the customary and usual fees; and whether the advertising activity is an ongoing activity or whether it is conducted only for a particular candidate. [See: Rev. Rul. 2007-41 at 1425.]

While it is extraordinarily clear that the Diocese of Fresno was in no way connected with this campaign or this advertisement, my great concern is that many of the faithful will see an image like this with Our Lady, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, La Virgen de Guadalupe, and make wrongful assumptions about the Church’s backing of Candidate Perez. I would like to see Ms. Perez publicly, in writing, explain her use of Our Lady’s image for political gain and clarify that she does not have the endorsement of the Diocese of Fresno.

Additionally, I would like all of us to take ten minutes today (and longer, if you have the time!) to educate ourselves on our duties and responsibilities as Faithful Citizens and to pray for our elected leaders and for those seeking elective office.

A Question for You: Have you ever seen campaign literature like this poster that infers religious “backing” of a political candidate? How cognisant are you of your duties as a Catholic to be engaged in “faithful citizenship”?

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  • http://inspiredangela.wordpress.com Angela Sealana

    Living in San Antonio, TX, which is saturated with Mexican culture, I am keenly aware that Our Lady of Guadalupe is often used as more of a symbol — not only a religious symbol, but a symbol of Mexico and the Mexican people — than she is revered as a real person. I’m speaking as someone whose paternal family is Mexican. Although there are, of course, Mexicans who love Our Mother, there are probably just as many who misuse her image as a symbol. I even see it in occult imagery now, unfortunately.

    • Lisa M. Hendey

      Angela thank you for chiming in with a great cultural perspective!

  • AnneG

    I’ve also seen images of La Virgen used appropriately and in appropriately, both in the US and in Mexico where I’ve lived. In Maryland, US Senator Barbara Mikulski still uses her First Holy Communion picture in her campaign literature, though she is pro-abortion, against traditional marriage and almost every other dogmatic teaching of the Church.

  • Jill Voss Mazzei

    I find this ad offensive. Would God, Jesus or a Saint prefer one candidate over another? Yes. However it is the ultimate in arrogance to presume that person is you and absolutely against the teaching that we be humble in our faith. Furthermore, it compromises the Church and religion to blend religion and politics in this fashion. I’m still trying to determine Perez’s religious origins. This ad has generated many comments on other walls that indicate she is not in fact Catholic. Finally, I’ve searched considerably to find support for the 61000 number. The only number I can find that might be related to this statement is that 5000+ voted for her in the Kern County race for Supervisor – a term that she feels she is not obligated to fulfill. This issue has been much discussed for several days and yet Ms. Perez has not offered any clarity. It’s not that hard to issue a press release.

    • Robert Kuckenbaker

      In one of her campaign ads it states her husband is a “Minister”. Even though I am not Catholic I do know they have Priests,(cannot marry), not Ministers. She and he may worship in different Churches or she may not be Catholic. I do not know that and she does not state that. Just her husband’s profession.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I have never seen any ad use a religious image like this, but I live in secular NYC. One would think this would hurt her more than help in politics, except that it seems she’s appealing more for a Mexican culture identification than religious appeal. If she in fact is not Catholic as Jill above thinks, then it can boomerang back against her. As a Catholic I find this distasteful.

    • Damned_Right

      Perhaps she was fondled by a Priest as a Catholic child, as Jill may also have fantasized..

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        Talk about distasteful. We have better manners than that here on Patheos Catholic.

        • lisahendey

          I concur Manny. I left his comment online because I feel it speaks for itself. Thanks for your opinion.

  • Tony Esolen

    The gorilla in the living room: Is this candidate someone who will continue the slouch to Gomorrah? Does she affirm the morality of snuffing out human life in the womb? Does she wave pom-poms for the sexual revolution, with its latest fad, same-sex pseudogamy? Does she favor the federal government’s aggressive constriction of religious liberty? In other words, does the advertisement add blasphemy to vulgarity?

    • Reno Sepulveda

      Um the answer is yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. But ask yourself why would a smart lady like Leticia Perez pay good money for this cynical and manipulative advertising? Because it will work. Why will it work? Because flocks are full of dull witted, cowardly sheep that can see no further than their next meal.

  • Damned_Right

    Our Priest told us not to vote for Obama in 2008, during his homily, in front of a few hundred parishioners. I don’t recall the mass outrage over that, and many, many other such examples of churches supporting candidates, campaigns of a political nature – usually anti-abortion folks gettin’ all fired up to remove a woman’s right to choose. At any rate, that activity is not permitted if an organization, such as most churches, is tax-exempt. Those churches never did have to reconcile this.

    False outrage. Get over it GOP (God’s Own Party?).