Rev. Richard T. Lawrence of Baltimore's St. Vincent de Paul Church.

One of these is not like the other, a reminder that American Catholics don’t hold the views of much of the hierarchy. First, news from Maryland about Rev. Richard T. Lawrence bucking the Vatican by reading his archbishop’s statement during mass that urged the flock to vote against the upcoming marriage bill referendum. The memorandum stated that the Church would only recognize “the total, exclusive and permanent union of gay and lesbian couples as part of the sacrament of matrimony.”

And then he told the faithful why the archbishop was wrong. (Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed):

The Rev. Richard T. Lawrence drew a quick response from the local Catholic hierarchy. Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori asked that a copy of Rev. Richard T. Lawrence’s homily that had been posted online at the church’s website be removed because it ran counter to Catholic Church teaching on the subject. Lawrence complied, Lawrence’s pastoral associate, Chris McCullough, told BuzzFeed on Thursday.

Lawrence acknowledged in his sermon that the sea change he predicted won’t happen in the near future, but in the meantime he told parishoners at Baltimore’s St. Vincent de Paul Church on Sunday that “even if we do not believe that gay marriage ever could or should be allowed in the church, we could live with a provision that allows civil marriage of gay and lesbian couples.”

Lori told all parishioners in the letter, read by Lawrence, that they faced “the momentous choice of whether to maintain marriage as the union of one man and one woman in Maryland, or to irrevocably dismantle our state’s legal recognition of the most basic unit of our society — the family unit of mother, father and child.”

Lawrence, after finishing the archbishop’s letter, then told the congregation of his views and asked them, “[C]ould not civil law be allowed to progress where church law cannot go, at least not yet? Personally, I believe that it can and that it should.”

And Lawrence then received a standing ovation.

Now the flip side in Illinois– “Catholic Bishop Who Compared Obama To Hitler Orders Anti-Obama Letter Read From Pulpit.” Here we see Pope Benedict’s point of view funneled down through the extremism of Bishop Daniel Jenky. As Ian Millhiser at Think Progress notes, “On Wednesday, he came within a hair of ordering every priest under his supervision to campaign for Mitt Romney.” Look at what he has ordered to be read to the flock on Nov. 4 – from the letter: [cont’d.]

“Neither the president of the United States nor the current majority of the Federal Senate have been willing to even consider the Catholic community’s grave objections to those HHS mandates that would require all Catholic institutions, exempting only our church buildings, to fund abortion, sterilization, and artificial contraception. . . . Nearly two thousand years ago, after our Savior had been bound, beaten, scourged, mocked, and crowned with thorns, a pagan Roman Procurator displayed Jesus to a hostile crowd by sarcastically declaring: Behold your King. The mob roared back: We have no king but Caesar. Today, Catholic politicians, bureaucrats, and their electoral supporters who callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb also thereby reject Jesus as their Lord. They are objectively guilty of grave sin.

For those who hope for salvation, no political loyalty can ever take precedence over loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ and to his Gospel of Life. God is not mocked, and as the Bible clearly teaches, after this passing instant of life on earth, God’s great mercy in time will give way to God’s perfect judgment in eternity.

I therefore call upon every practicing Catholic in this Diocese to vote. Be faithful to Christ and to your Catholic Faith.”

Time to be taxed, no? And it good to remind folks that the vast majority of Catholics here don’t stand with this opinion:

Jenky’s opposition to birth control all puts him wildly out of step with his flock. 82 percent of Catholics say birth control is “morally acceptable,” and 54 percent of Catholics believe religiously affiliated organizations should be required to offer health plans to their employees that include contraception coverage.

The sad truth is that right now, the IRS has stopped tax audits of churches over matters like this. Christianity Today:

“We are holding any potential church audits in abeyance,” Russell Renwicks of the IRS’s Tax-Exempt and Government Entities division told this week. While this is the first public announcement of the moratorium, the IRS hasn’t been auditing churches since 2009, said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly the Alliance Defense Fund).

That’s when a federal court found that the IRS wasn’t following its own regulations.

An IRS official at the level of regional commissioner or above is required to approve any church audits before they are initiated, according to a law passed in 1984. But in 1996, Congress reorganized the IRS from geographical regions to national practice groups—a move that eliminated the office of regional commissioner. The IRS designated an official within [its] exempt organizations section to be the one to approve the church audits,” Stanley said. But that position did not rank high enough to be adequate, the court decided after a Minnesota church challenged the legitimacy of their audit in 2009.

And that’s where things stand now. New regulations were proposed by the IRS back in 2009, but the matter never made it past review.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding