The Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, where at least three priests have been accused of sexual abuse, is headed by Bishop Michael Sheridan.
Sheridan, The Denver Post reports, has recently found a way for his diocese to make national headlines about something other than the buggering of adolescent boys:
The bishop of Colorado's second-largest Roman Catholic diocese has issued a pastoral letter saying Catholics cannot receive Communion if they vote for politicians who support abortion rights, stem-cell research, euthanasia or gay marriage.
Only after citizens reverse their positions and repent for their sins in the confessional would access to the central ritual of the church be restored, Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan instructed 125,000 Catholics in his charge.
(The full text of the letter can be found here, along with another creepy photo of Sheridan.) Some excerpts:
This coming November we Americans will participate in one of the most important national elections in recent history. … I consider it my duty as your bishop to write to you about these matters so that you might go to the polls this fall with a well-informed conscience. …
The right judgment of conscience is not a matter of personal preference nor has it anything to do with feelings. It has only to do with objective truth. … As Catholics we have the further obligation to give assent to the doctrinal and moral teachings of the Church. …
Any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for illicit stem cell research or for any form of euthanasia ipso facto place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so jeopardize their salvation. Any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences. It is for this reason that these Catholics, whether candidates for office or those who would vote for them, may not receive Holy Communion until they have recanted their positions and been reconciled with God and the Church in the Sacrament of Penance.
For the record, I do not know of a single Catholic politician in the history of the United States who has "advocated for abortion."
Abortion, divorce and adultery are three things the Catholic Church opposes which remain legal in the United States. Most Catholic politicians do not advocate changing the law — and dispensing with the Constitution — in order to make these things illegal. Their position cannot said to be "advocating for abortion" any more than they can be said to be "advocating for divorce" or "advocating for adultery." One can certainly agree with the Catholic Church's teaching that these three things are undesirable, even that they are sins, while also agreeing that attempting to criminalize them would succeed only in producing additional grievous problems.
Sheridan's real complaint is not with Catholic politicians or with Catholic voters, but with the wisdom of the American legal system and the Constitution. He's either not smart enough to realize this himself, or he is cynically shrewd enough to realize that a frontal assault on the Constitution might not play as well in the media as his clerical grandstanding. He's attacking the Constitution diagonally, as any bishop would.
Let's be very clear: This poor man's Richelieu has commanded Catholics in his diocese to vote as he instructs them to on threat of eternal damnation.
Diocesan spokesman Peter Howard says exactly this: "Some people will accuse us of using this as a political maneuver to vote a certain way. It's for their own spiritual salvation."
Howard does not deny that Sheridan's commands to the 125,000 Catholics in his diocese are "a political maneuver to vote a certain way." He only explains why the bishop is commanding how they vote: "It's for their own spiritual salvation."
This sort of thing has lots of historical precedent. It's why my French Huguenot ancestors came here in the first place.
You must vote according to conscience or be damned, the bishop says. Conscience is a matter of objective truth; objective truth is a matter of church teaching; church teaching is what I tell you it is. Therefore you must vote as I say or be damned.
The next step — always — is "Therefore you must vote for me."
Perhaps this ridiculous, impious little cross-dresser in Colorado Springs is not himself quite ambitious enough to take that next step. But someone will if we don't convincingly shout down these foolish little Napoleon wanna-bes as they arise.
That next step doesn't mean bishops ordering the faithful to elect a particular president. It means ordering the faithful to anoint a particular king.
That's not Catholic. It's just medieval.