When is the Catholic Church being "political"? When is it being "too political"? During the recent election season, Minneapolis-St. Paul Archbishop John Nienstedt mailed a DVD to every Catholic household in Minnesota, urging the enactment of a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman.
The mailing, funded by an anonymous donor, arrived weeks before a gubernatorial election in which two of the three candidates supported same-sex marriage. Some of the ensuing criticism targeted the substance of the church's teaching on marriage or the decision to prioritize the marriage issue over other concerns. But another line of criticism took on the "political" nature of the DVD campaign. ABC News, for example, reported that advocacy by religious groups on the question of marriage had never "appeared so political."
The premise of such criticism is that the term "political," as applied to church teaching, is a pejorative--that if the church is, in fact, making political statements, it has overstepped its bounds. Consider the following exchange between a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio and Archbishop Nienstedt regarding the DVDs:
MPR: You also make a political statement at the end [of the video segment] that you feel that this issue should come before the voters of Minnesota. Nienstedt: Well, that's not so much a political statement as it is saying that, as other states have done, we need to bring this to the people, rather than have it decided by the judiciary or by the legislature. ... We need to let the people say what the reality of marriage is going to be. I don't see that as that big of a political statement. MPR: Let's hear that, if we could. Audio excerpt from DVD: "The archdiocese believes that the time has come for voters to be presented directly with an amendment to our state constitution to preserve our …