Priestly endorsement

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I’m a little behind the news on this, but a few days ago Fr. Jim Lisante, who took a dig at Obama and endorsed McCain amidst an invocation at a GOP fundraiser in Manhattan, said he had made a mistake. The mistake was not in endorsing McCain, which he claimed the right to do as a citizen: “I do not as a priest forfeit my right as a citizen to a point of view, even when it comes to standing by a particular candidate.” He just shouldn’t have incorporated an endorsement message as part of a prayer: “In hindsight I would have separated out the invocation, the prayer, from my commentary.”
Newsday quotes one of Lisante’s fellow Long Island priests as saying that the Diocese of Rockville Center instructs its priests annually not to endorse candidates for political office. A 2004 diocesan press release declares: “Pastors should not endorse any candidates, nor honor or invite anyone to speak who holds views contrary to Catholic teachings.” On strict grammatical grounds, this would seem to prohibit a pastor’s endorsement of political candidates whether or not they hold such contrary views. I’ve not been able to locate the complete guidelines that the press release mentions. But it does seem that Lisante’s insistence on his undoubted civil right to endorse candidates for office is at odds with the regulations of his diocese.
Apart from that, the distinction he draws between endorsing and endorsing in public prayer is worth pondering. Is the latter not OK in his view because 1) it’s in bad taste; 2) it’s wrong to, in effect, ask God to intervene in an election campaign; 3) it represents the priest acting in his ecclesiastical capacity; or what?