Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Candidates Not Welcome in Maine Catholic Churches

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Candidates Not Welcome in Maine Catholic Churches

Article excerpt

A state lawmaker, scheduled to address a women's guild meeting Oct. 5 at St. Mary of the Assumption Church, Augusta, Maine, was uninvited by direction of the Portland diocese.

Even though State Rep. Arthur L. Lerman, a one-term Democrat, was scheduled to talk about prescription drug programs for the elderly, diocesan officials said he could not speak at a parish function because he is in a reelection campaign.

Diocesan officials were tipped off to Lerman's appearance by his Republican challenger, Michael Hein, who wanted them to know that Lerman supports abortion rights.

However, diocesan officials told NCR that Lerman's electioneering and not his platform disqualified him from speaking to St. Mary's Guild.

"There is a policy in the diocese that people running for office are not to be invited to speak at functions during the political season," the diocese's co-chancellor, Sr. Rita-Mae Bissonnette, told NCR.

"The policy is that no one--whether they are pro-life or pro-choice or whatever their position--no one is allowed to speak [at church-sponsored events] during the political season," said the sister of the Congregation of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

The day before Lerman was to speak, Hein called Bissonnette and told her of the engagement and Lerman's support of abortion. The Kennebec Journal of Augusta reported that a diocesan spokeswoman quoted Hein as asking Bissonnette, "This is a problem, isn't it, for the bishop?"

Hein is running as a pro-life candidate, according the local newspaper.

Bissonnette consulted with Bishop Richard Malone's staff--the bishop himself was unavailable at that time--and then she called the pastor of St. Mary's church to advise him to cancel the talk. The pastor called the guild leader who called Lerman.

Lerman told NCR, "Neither Mrs. [Claire] Poulin, who innocently invited me, nor I, who was just responding to a request for constituent information, were aware of any church policies that might come into play at all. …

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