Discussing religion & politics with a priest is probably not something I'd recommend doing, but then again I always have been something of a rock-head anyway. So here goes, comments by Father David Bechtel, in his own words, and my responses (in blue and red text).
Actually what you wrote is pretty reasonable, except the part about staying out of politics.
Why you would write that the next bishop should stay out of politics I don't know. Bishop Martino was never involved in politics in the first place.
(I would argue that telling people who they should vote for is, in fact, becoming involved in politics. Bishop Martino made it very clear that certain candidates, mentioned by name, should not be voted for by Catholics. How is that any different than Rush Limbaugh, for example, telling his listeners who they should vote for? Substitute "Martino" for "Limbaugh" and "Catholics" for "Ditto-heads" and it's all the same stuff.)
When he called out the allegid "Catholic" politicians, he was not writting to them as politicians but as Catholics. Whether you like it or not, Catholics are Catholic first, whatever second. That is the reality.
(Bishop Martino wrote the Senator Casey in his capacity as a sitting United States Senator; as proof, I offer the fact that all of the Bishop's letters referenced Senator Casey by his title. While you could argue that this reference was out of respect, I'd argue that it served a dual purpose: namely to put a sitting Senator on notice that his votes were subject first to the Bishop's approval. How is that not involvement by the Bishop in a political process? Also, the Bishop made the CHOICE to admonish Senator Casey in a public forum. Why? Could it have been to amplify the political pressure of his message? The Bishop could have advised Senator Casey in private, but that would not have had the same impact, would you not agree?
As to your point about politicians being Catholics first, you are basically stating that Senator Casey should apply a Catholic litmus test to all of his votes. Would you be as comfortable if a Muslim Senator had to apply an Islamic litmus test to his/her votes? Does not that lead you down the path of "well then I would never vote for a Muslim"? How is that not much different than "I would never vote for a black/Hispanic/Jew/etc."? What's next, we only vote for people who look and sound like us?
I believe that it was John Kennedy who, while running for President, fought long and hard against the perception that a Catholic politician would be "controlled" by the Vatican. I believe that you are advocating that Catholic politicians should, in fact, be controlled by religious authority. In my opinion this sounds an awful lot like Theocracy, not Democracy.)
If the allegid "Catholic" politicians can't deal with this becasue percieved church/state conflicts, then they are the ones who need to stay out of politics. It is not the bishop's fault that they want to claim Catholocism as their following, but then not live up to what they say.
They can't claim to be Catholic, THEN NOT LIVE CATHOLOCISM. Catholocism is not something that is spoken about verbally, it is something LIVED. I don't want to HEAR how Catholic Biden is, I want to SEE how Catholic he is. I don't want to HEAR how Catholic Guliani is, I want to SEE how Catholic he is. They can't have it BOTH WAYS. It is that simple. They are either going to be politicians or they will be Catholic- but they can't serve two masters, they can only serve one. If there is a conflict, then they need to make a choice and live with it.
(No politicians should use their faith as a lever to get votes, period.)
Secondly Steve, I respect you, you are reasonable. But one thing you and all the readers of your blog need to understand is that the Catholic Church WILL NOT BE SILENCED on the issue of Abortion. We will NOT be bullied and brow beaten into silent submission as millions of babies are murdered each year, by the IRS, the ACLU, or ANYONE.
(A simple question for you Father: Do you believe that the Catholic Church should be entitled to a tax exempt status? If the Church wants to engage in political activities, then it should play by the same rules as any other organization that engages in these activities. It's really as simple as that. You can read section 501c3 of the Internal Revenue Code for yourself. It's not that I want to silence the Church, it's that I don't want the Church engaging in political activities. Why? Because the Church as an organization answers to no one, period. That's a great concept in the God business, but it makes for horrible governance.
As for silencing the Church, I have stated time and time again that everyone should have a voice. Period. End of story. David Bechtel gets a voice. Joseph Martino gets a voice. Steve Albert gets a voice. My cousin Pat gets a voice. We all get a voice. It's just that Joseph Martino's voice shouldn't be louder than mine because he claims authority from God. Also, with all due respect, it's time to end the rampant paranoia around this bogus issue of wanting to "silence" the Church. I know of no credible organization that has argued that the Catholic Church should be "silenced" when it comes to the issue of abortion. If you know of one, please provide a reference and I'll rag on them here for you, me, and the two other people that read this blog.)
We will continue to speak to the ISSUE but not the PARTY. As I have said before and I will say it again: If Obama was pro-life and McCain pro-abortion, the Church would have taught that Catholics can never justify voting for a pro-abortion candidate.
(It all comes down to this: I absolutely agree that the Church as the right to speak out about ISSUES; it does not have the right to dictate votes. It's also darn near impossible to dictate votes anyway; our American system provides for a secret ballot that, for example, yielded a majority of Catholics voting for Barack Obama in the last presidential election.)
Father Dave Bechtel