Victor says: "Chuck it."
The Catholic Church's tax-exempt status, that is.
Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code prohibits Catholic organizations that are exempt under its provisions from participating or intervening in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.
-- From the USCCB Office of General Counsel guidelines page
Really now: what good is tax exempt status really doing us as a Church but gagging us? I'm been thinking about this a little lately (mostly while cleaning the bathroom, so make the necessary connection back to the cleanser fumes if you must). What good is a Church that cannot intervene in politcal campaigns when the political process, the political candidates, our elected officials are what sets the moral tone in this country? Sure, if you read the document up there you see that the Church does have some wiggle room in terms of how it can lobby on issues, but beyond that? The feeling is that if you say one little thing either way for or against this candidate or another quicker than Emeril Lagasse can say "BAM!" you'll find your Church without its precious tax-exempt status: and such things have certainly happened before
And so, increasingly, you find wimpy bishops and priests (and even a few non-wimpy ones) hiding behind this much-touted 501(c)(3) status. It's pathetic and it's wrong. We're all gauranteed the freedom, even priests and bishops, to speak our minds in this country and we shouldn't feel bound by economic concerns from doing so. But I'm not here today to discuss the injustice of the law El B.J. rushed through 48 years ago
. Politicians, by and large, are crooks. To expect a politician to not be a crook and to not use their power to coerce you out of whatever it is that you have that they want is foolish and naive. But that doesn't mean that the Church or we as Catholics need to voluntarily (and even cheerfully as is so often the case) sit on the broomstick.
We'll let the dead and corrupt politicians have their laws. And we'll follow them. We’ll pay whatever taxes are required. But what we don't do (in my own little vision, here) is gag ourselves. We'll speak the truth about this and that politician. We'll throw ourselves headfirst into every political race and debate in this country in every way that we can. And we'll do it with a smile. We will render undo Caesar, but not pander unto him. "But," you say, "Lams, won't the IRS come after the Church and all of the Church-run charities at that point? If the IRS makes the Church-run charities start paying taxes (and by implication their members' contributions will no longer be tax-deductible), won’t a lot of them have to shut down?”
By the dozens, Catholic hospitals, homeless shelters, safe-houses, et al
will shut their doors and empty onto the streets hundreds of thousands of sick, mentally-disabled, drug-addicted, and homeless people. And guess whose job it will be to take care of them then?
The Federal and state-level governments’, that’s whose. And God help them because they won’t be able to handle it, that’s for certain. What will more likely happen is the government will either a) be forced to revoke that silly gag-order (which is doubtful) or b) honestly and fully adopt the socialist model towards which we’ve been heading over the past 60 years: income-tax rates in the high 70%s, personal freedoms taken away by the truckload. Few Americans would stand for this, of course, and the ensuing revolution would
Of course, as Kenneth Mars’ character in Young Frankenstein
says, “a riot is an ugly thing,” and I’m not entirely in favor of one. So we, the Church, will do the decent thing and give the government some time to prepare for our intended un-gagging. We’ll pick a day, say September 17th, 2004, and make it known that on that day the Church will engage in active politics. She will condemn the heresies of the heretics and excommunicate the excommunicable. She will use Her resources to foil the campaigns of those whose platforms include planks counter to Her God-given mission of building the Kingdom of God here on Earth and support those who are true to Her teachings.
In essence the choice, then, will not be the Church’s, for She will merely be doing what She should have been doing (but has not
been doing) for the past 48 years. The choice will lie squarely with the IRS and the Federal Government. Do they let the Church be the Church without any unconstitutional gagging, or do they try to keep Her from Her mission and bring chaos and wide-spread misery down upon us all?
The choice is theirs.