Monday, October 18, 2010

NY Times Editorial on Elections and Stealth Money: Further Questions about Political Activities of Minnesota Catholic Bishops

The New York Times editorial today about the stealth money now stealing American democracy--some of it apparently from hidden corporate donors overseas--once again raises disquieting questions for me about the choice of the Catholic bishops of Minnesota to accept what is thought to be at least a million dollars from a donor whose name they will not disclose, to mount a political campaign against same-sex marriage that benefits the Republican gubernatorial candidate in their state.

The Times writes:

Republicans, so far, have the advertising whip hand as partisan operatives solicit and spend large under the cover of blandly named “good citizen” committees. There is good reason to fear that foreign corporations are also taking advantage of the new no-tell rules.

When churches, and bishops of churches, accept stealth money from unnamed donors in an attempt to determine the outcome of elections, aren't those churches and those bishops helping to erode democracy by acting as fronts for donors whose identities are concealed from the public?  And is this what bishops should be about, when our democracy is holding together right now by tenuous strings, indeed?

The erosion of the ties holding a democratic society together by religious groups acting as money-laundering machines for hidden donors is serious moral business.  When the institutions of a democratic society cease to function, those at the bottom of that society--those bishops are committed by their vocation to serve above all--suffer disproportionately.

What the Minnesota bishops have chosen to do this election cycle by accepting funds from hidden donors for an overtly political campaign that benefits a single gubernatorial candidate deserves serious critical scrutiny on the part of those interested in strengthening our democratic society.  And it deserves serious critical scrutiny from a moral standpoint, as well.  Undermining democracy is not merely political activity: it is morally reprehensible activity, too.  This is activity in which Catholic bishops ought not to be involved.
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