In Catholic Circles
An International News Roundup
In this Issue:
Operation Rescue West Loses Tax-Exempt Status
On september 11, 2006, the IRS announced that it had revoked the nonprofit 501(c)(3) status of Youth Ministries, Inc., which did business as Operation Rescue West (ORW). While the IRS does not provide information on the circumstances that lead to revocations of any group’s tax-exempt status, a CFFC complaint filed in 2004 provided information on ORW ’s electoral activities during the Boston Democratic Party convention that we considered to be violations of IRS regulations.
The complaint referred to a full-page ad placed by the antichoice group on July 15, 2004, in the Wanderer, an ultraconservative national Catholic weekly. In the ad, ORW called on readers to make what it said was a “taxdeductible donation to help pay the bills and affect the outcome of the election” and called for readers to give a tax-deductible donation to help “defeat [John Kerry] in November and enable President Bush to appoint a prolife Supreme Court Justice to finally overturn Roe v. Wade.” In making its case, Operation Rescue West cited the statements of several cardinals
and bishops who had attacked Catholic politicians for their support of a woman’s right to choose and invited the support of readers as they are “going into the middle of a war in Boston.” [Emphasis in original.] ORW said that the money raised would be spent in Boston during the Democratic Party
convention, where it planned to distribute antiabortion, anti-Kerry materials and display highly visible ads on trucks at key sites.
This egregious violation of U.S. tax laws was perhaps the most visible and vicious by various tax-exempt organizations opposed to abortion rights and, by extension, candidates who support these
rights during the 2004 election season.
The lawyer CFFC worked with on the complaint, John Pomeranz of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg, LLP, noted that “the Political Activity Compliance Initiative that the IRS ran in 2004 led to the revocation of 501(c)(3) status for only a handful of the organizations audited. It is a mark of how
flagrantly and egregiously ORW violated the law that its tax-exempt status has been revoked.”
CFFC president Frances Kissling said, “ We applaud the IRS for its vigilance in monitoring election activities by 501(c)(3) organizations and hope the revocation of Operation Rescue West’s tax-exempt status will send a clear message to tax-exempt groups that think they are above the law that such
activities will be monitored, reported to the irs and acted upon. As we enter the 2006 campaign season, we are already seeing substantial violations of the regulations from groups such as Priests
for Life which seems to believe it need not comply with our election laws.”
Antichoice religious groups violating tax laws are well aware of the scrutiny they are under and some are attempting to get around the restrictions. Only this year, Catholic Answers, another vehemently antichoice organization, announced that it was being investigated and had set up Catholic Answers Action—a 501(c)(4) organization—as a direct result of a complaint filed in 2004 by CFFC. (See below.)
Clearly reporting these violations works and so far this year cffc has filed two complaints against Priests for Life for similar violations. In an electioneering communication to Priests for Life supporters, Fr. Frank Pavone national director of the Catholic-right antichoice organization, stated, “We will repeat and intensify this year all we did in the previous election cycles. The proabortion
groups, the liberals in the Church, the overcautious attorneys, and the people who don’t want to see the Church ‘influencing elections’ can yell and scream all they want. In fact, I invite them to. It won’t
make a shred of difference. We will move forward with more boldness than ever before.” To read the latest report on Priest for Life, please visit our Web site at www.catholicsforchoice.org.
Kissling concluded, “We all know and understand that charitable status is a privilege, not a right. Nonprofit organizations are free to educate members and the public, but must do so within the limits of charitable laws. Organizations even have the right to participate in the election process if they choose to renounce their charitable status. What they are not free to do is flout the federal statutes and IRS regulations that govern all charities by endorsing or targeting candidates during an election year. CFFC will continue to monitor any and all election-related activities by Catholic nonprofits and report violations to the IRS.”
CFFC Complaint, IRS Probe Force Catholic Answers’ Hand
The conservative U.S. apologetics group Catholic Answers has announced that in April it was forced to create a new branch, Catholic Answers Action, so that it could continue to publish a voter guide that was the subject of a Catholics for a Free Choice complaint and resulting Internal Revenue Service investigation. According to the 2004 CFFC complaint, the guide constituted electioneering of the sort that is banned for tax-exempt charities, such as Catholic Answers, that are incorporated under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. Catholic Answers president Karl Keating said the “hassle” and “expense” of the federal probe left him no choice but to incorporate the new group under a separate part of the tax code, section 501(c)(4).
In September 2004, cffc filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against Catholic Answers, claiming that the organization blatantly violated the U.S. tax code for tax-exempt charitable organizations.
The complaint stemmed from an August 31, 2004, newspaper advertisement containing the text of its
Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics that ran in regional editions of USA Today. In the ad, Catholic Answers called on readers to “eliminate from consideration candidates who are wrong on any of the five ‘non-negotiable’ issues” and called for readers to give a tax-deductible donation to help distribute the voter guide. Catholic Answers derives the “five ‘non-negotiable’ issues” from a selective interpretation of Catholic doctrine and instructs Catholic voters “how to vote.”
Although the IRS does not report back to organizationsthat protest illegal activity upon the resolution of their complaints, Catholic Answers chose to publicize the filing of the complaint and its subsequent formation of Catholic Answers Action. From the Catholic Answers Action Web site:
We were forced to start it [Catholic Answers Action] because of a complaint filed against Catholic
Answers by Frances Kissling, president of the misnamed Catholics for a Free Choice, a proabortion
In 2004 she filed a complaint with the IRS when she saw how influential our Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics had become. She claimed the guide violated IRS regulations that prohibit charitable organizations from engaging in political activity, and she asked the IRS to revoke Catholic Answers’ tax exemption.
For more than a year her complaint has been winding its way through the IRS, which has been sending us loads of interrogatories to answer. We were forced to hire a top-flight pro-life law firm to represent Catholic Answers and to protect our interests.
For 2006, the organization has posted a revised version of the voter guide, as well as a new version for Protestants titled Voter’s Guide for Serious Christians. According to the press release, the Protestant guide discusses “the same five non-negotiables but with a modified argument (dropping
papal citations, for example, and adding more biblical citations).”
The impact of the move to create Catholic Answers Action remains unclear, since 501(c)(4) groups may not as their primary activity engage in electoral work.
No doubt in the run-up to the mid-term elections in 2006 CFFC will continue to be active on this front. In fact, CFFC has already filed two similar complaints against Priests for Life for tax violations. In an electioneering communication to Priests for Life supporters, Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of the conservative Catholic antichoice organization, stated, “We will repeat and intensify this year all we did in the previous election cycles. The proabortion groups, the liberals in the Church, the over-cautious attorneys, and the people who don’t want to see the Church ‘influencing elections’ can yell and scream all they want. In fact, I invite them to. It won’t make a shred of difference. We will move forward with more boldness than ever before.”
Ex-IRS Official Challenges Missouri Bishops’ Election Pressure The former head of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s Tax Exempt Organizations Division asked the tax agency to investigate whether the Missouri Catholic Conference was violating its tax-exempt status by pressuring candidates for state offices to return contributions from a nonprofit group that backs stem cell research. Marcus Owens, who is now with the law firm Caplin and Drysdale in Washington, filed the IRS complaint on behalf of an
Owens said the conference, which is the policy arm of the Missouri bishops, engaged in “illegal political interference” by contacting more than 50 candidates who had received donations from Supporters of Health Research and Treatments. The pro-research group had handed out more than $400,000 by the end of June and had another $1 million to distribute, according to the Associated Press. A St. Louis archdiocesan Web site reported in July that eight candidates had returned donations to groups supporting the research.
Missourians are to vote Nov. 7 on a ballot measure that could ban human cloning while protecting federally permitted stem cell research.
Polish Bishops, Cardinal Trujillo Come under Fire for Overblown Criticism of Stem-Cell Research Poland’s bishops in June voiced opposition to a European Parliament vote to fund research on human embryonic stem cells. The bishops called on the E.U. Council and Commission to block the measure, calling instead for research on adult cells. Citing a Polish Constitutional Court decision indicating “life” must enjoy “constitutional protection in each stage of its development,” they argued that the parliamentary move violated the E.U. principle of subsidiarity, since member countries in which the research is banned would be required to fund it via the E.U. budget.
Meanwhile, scientists who work with human embryonic stem cells face excommunication, because embryos of 100 to 200 cells are destroyed in such research, Pontifical Council for the Family president Alfonso Lopez Trujillo said in late June. The research is “equivalent to abortion,” the cardinal told Famiglia Cristiana in an interview ahead of the World Meeting of Families in Valencia, Spain.
The remarks sparked criticism and defiance. “If we’re defending the principle that human life should
not be touched, it should not be done in a punitive, castigatory or burn-in-hell way,” said Italian senator and Opus Dei member Paola Binetti. Top cloning scientist Cesare Galli said he held “Catholic values” but did “not need to be told by the church what to do or to think,” adding, “I can bear excommunication.” (In fact, there is nothing in church teachings to suggest that excommunication is a likely result of scientific research of this type.) The U.K.-based news magazine the Tablet questioned whether the pope agreed with the cardinal: “Pope Benedict…has shown himself much more moderate in tone…. Will Cardinal Lopez Trujillo remain untouchable in yet another pontificate, or will Valencia be his swan song?”
Lopez Trujillo also told the Catholic magazine that “speaking in defense of life and the rights of families is becoming in some societies sort of a crime against the state” and expressed concern that the church could be “brought before some international court” for opposing abortion or gay marriage,
which he called “absolute emptiness.” Georgetown University Law Center professor Chai Feldblum called it unlikely that the church could run into legal trouble for its stances: “What is illuminating is not the reality of the legal penalties they face, but an acknowledgment that public morality is shifting under their feet.”
Five Convicted in Portugal An appeals court in July convicted five people of violating Portugal’s abortion law, which allows the practice only in cases of rape and health problems and never after the 12th week of pregnancy. The five people convicted—a doctor, a nurse and three women who had abortions at the doctor’s clinic in Aveiro—had been acquitted on the same charges in 2004. The Coimbra court sentenced the doctor to three years and eight months in prison and suspended the others’ shorter sentences. Prime Minister Jose Socrates has since announced that another referendum on the abortion law will be held in January 2007, less than 18 months after the constitutional court blocked another one on a technicality.
E.U. Court to Hear Polish Abortion Appeal
A Pole who suffered retinal hemorrhage after bringing a pregnancy to term against her will is challenging Poland’s strict abortion law in the European Court of Human Rights. Warsaw resident Alicja Tysiac, a 35-year-old single mother, was unable to obtain an abortion in 2000—having sought one after doctors said childbirth would exacerbate her existing vision problems—and can now see no farther than five feet after delivering her second child.
Before joining the European Union in 2004, overwhelmingly Catholic Poland entered into a pact with the Vatican not to soften its abortion laws. The country allows abortion only in severely limited circumstances; the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning estimates as few as 150 legal abortions are performed each year in Poland. The European court heard Tysiac’s case in February 2006 and as of July had set no judgment date. (For more on this story, see Barbara Hewson’s story on p37.) The Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning is collecting signatures for an open letter to the Polish prime minister at www.federa.org.pl/signatures.
Mentally Impaired Argentine Granted Abortion after Rape
The top court of Argentina’s most populous province ruled July 31 that a mentally impaired woman
who had been raped could have an abortion. The ruling overturned two lower courts’ decisions in a case that sparked rallies by both sides in the abortion debate. Argentine health minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia and Buenos Aires province governor Felipe Sola agreed with the court that the abortion was permissible under Argentina’s law, which allows abortion for women whose lives are endangered by pregnancy and for mentally impaired women who have been raped. Argentine Health
Ministry data indicate as many as 700,000 abortions take place illegally in the country each year.
German Bishops Cut Ties with Lay Counselors
The german bishops in July banned people “acting in the Church’s service” from working with Donum Vitae, a pregnancy counseling operation that is affiliated with the Central Committee of German Lay Catholics and participates in Germany’s government pregnancy counseling network.
The lay committee founded Donum Vitae in 1999 as the church hierarchy withdrew its counseling centers from the government system, in which women seeking abortions are required to obtain certificates from approved centers. The hierarchy in 2000 ordered the lay counseling group, which
runs about 250 centers, to stop issuing the certificates.
Lay committee president Rita Waschbusch said her group is “of one view with the bishops on the inviolability of human life” and tries to “protect life in a way that unites basic ethical positions and actions.” She accused “a minority of slandering Donum Vitae for years in order to mobilize the Bishops’ Conference against the association.” The French Catholic newspaper La Croix reported that the Forum of German Catholics, a rival group more conservative than the Central Committee, had been lobbying since 2004 against the latter.
British Cardinal’s Spokesman Quits amid Abortion Reports
The spokesman for the head of the English and Welsh church hierarchy stepped down in July amid
reports he pressured one girlfriend into having an abortion and broke up with another while she was pregnant.
As a close adviser of Westminster archbishop Cormac Murphy O’Connor, Austen Ivereigh was “credited with being the architect of the cardinal’s drive to demand tougher laws to curb abortion,” according to the Sunday Times. “When I represent the church’s teaching on abortion,” Ivereigh said as he resigned, “I do so not just with sincerity but from experience.”
The ex-spokesman, a former deputy editor of the Tablet Catholic magazine, said he planned legal action over the reports on his past. The scandal led bishops to protest to Murphy O’Connor and Catholic Herald reporters to boycott a cocktail party held by the archdiocese.
One ex-girlfriend said she miscarried twin fetuses in 2005 after Ivereigh got her pregnant and abandoned her; the other said Ivereigh “maneuvered” her into having an abortion in 1989—a date he stresses was before he became a practicing Catholic—and paid half the cost of the procedure.
“He made it clear that he would not support me and would play no part in the child’s upbringing,” she told the Daily Mail. “I was devastated. He maneuvered me into a position where I felt I had no choice but to have a termination…. He certainly seemed very relieved that I’d had the abortion. He dumped
me a week later and started going out with a girl who lived above me.”
U.S. Politicians’ Communion Still Up to Their Bishops
The u.s. conference of Catholic Bishops decided in June not to promulgate a new policy on communion and prochoice politicians, instead reiterating an earlier decision that left individual bishops to decide when to accord and deny the sacrament. Bishops’ conference chairman Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said Catholic prochoice politicians are a “frustrating reality” and bishops’ “dialogues” on the question “are not about winning votes, but saving souls.” The issue received scrutiny during the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign amid calls for denial of communion to candidate John Kerry.
English Principal Suspended After Antichoice Presentation
St. Luke’s College in London suspended principal Maria Williams in July after an antichoice presentation by U.S. evangelist Barbara McGuigan that, according to a student quoted by the Times Educational Supplement, “was just disturbing and went too far.” The principal handed down one-day suspensions to students who missed mass, and she made students attend lectures by McGuigan on abortion, extramarital sex and homosexuality. Students revolted, and the local council launched an investigation.
Collective worship is mandatory in Britain’s state schools and sixth-form colleges, a policy education secretary Alan Johnson said will not change. be improved if he were to “consult [his] conscience
rather than lawyers or public relations advisers.” The district attorney in September 2005 released
the results of the probe, naming 63 priests as “well-documented” abusers and criticizing the archdiocese’s leaders, who it found “excused and enabled the abuse.”
• The English and Welsh bishops announced in July that abuse allegations in their jurisdiction were
down to 60 in 2005 from 100 in 2004. Church employees and volunteers underwent 18,000 criminal
record checks in 2005, up from 14,000 in 2004, the bishops’ Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults added in its annual report. Forty clergy members were accused in the 60 alleged abuse cases. Four were dismissed, with two of those later reinstated; 14 were removed from active ministry; four were in risk assessment; four were under supervision; and one received a warning. The protection office said most of the other 13 had died. The office’s chairman, Birmingham
archbishop Vincent Nichols, said investigations into abuse allegations can be “very frustrating” because “sometimes there is no way of finding out what really happened.”
• Two Philadelphia exprosecutors wrote archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali a public letter in July to criticize efforts to prevent new child sex abuse cases. Maureen McCartney and Mariana Sorensen, who participated in a district attorney’s investigation of the abuse scandal, said Rigali’s approach might be improved if he were to “consult [his] conscience rather than lawyers or public relations advisers.” The district attorney in September 2005 released the results of the probe, naming 63 priests as “well-documented” abusers and criticizing the archdiocese’s leaders, who it found “excused
and enabled the abuse.”
Call for China to Release Barefoot Lawyer
More than 100 leaders in the fields of human rights, bioethics, reproductive health and religion from
more than 30 countries and six continents have protested the treatment and trial of Chen Guangcheng. In a letter, coordinated by Catholics for a Free Choice and signed by individuals who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of social justice, human rights, ethics and morality, they
asked the authorities “to immediately begin investigative procedures into and launch legal supervision of the severe violations of the human rights of Chen Guangcheng.”
Chen, a lawyer and human rights defender, became subject to harassment, arbitrary detention and other human rights violations last year after exposing a large-scale population planning campaign
that both violated the Population and Family Planning Law of the People’s Republic of China and
included coercive and forceful actions such as imprisonment, assault and non-voluntary sterilization and abortion in Linyi city, Shandong province. In August, he was sentenced to four years, three months imprisonment in a trial that excluded his own lawyers from participation.
“This action against Chen is surprising in light of China’s recent improvements in law and practice, which call for non-coercive reproductive health services,” said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice and the leader of an interfaith delegation that traveled to China in 2003 to investigate its family planning practices. “It demonstrates governmental ambivalence in implementing these policies. International pressure—especially from those supportive of reproductive health—is essential to building Chinese resolve to respect the human rights of women regarding
Antigay Maryland Official Fired
Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich in June fired a Catholic transit official who had said on television that homosexuality was “sexual deviancy.” Architect Robert Smith made the antigay remarks as a panelist on a local political program. A week later, at a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board meeting, District of Columbia councilman Jim Graham said Smith should retract the
comments or resign from the board. Smith refused, telling reporters, “I’m a Roman Catholic.” Ehrlich
dismissed him the same day from the suburban commission he represented on the metropolitan board.
“Robert Smith’s comments… are in direct conflict to my administration’s commitment to inclusiveness, tolerance and opportunity,” Ehrlich said.
U.S. Catholics Still Back Birth Control
U.S. Catholics remain indistinguishable from the general public in strongly supporting contraception.
Wall Street Journal-Harris pollsters found in June that 88 percent of Catholics supported more access to birth control information, 81 percent endorsed contraception to prevent abortions, 71 percent said contraception access should not be limited by ability to pay, and 53 percent supported easy emergency contraception availability in all pharmacies. Only 27 percent of Catholics supported allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense contraception on moral grounds, and only 13 percent wanted tighter restrictions on birth control
In a related July poll by the Pew Research Center, 47 percent of Catholics said prescriptions should not be necessary to obtain emergency contraception, and 80 percent favored keeping abortion legal in at least some circumstances. Among white Catholics in the Pew poll, 58 percent deemed stem cell research more important than avoiding the destruction of embryos.
“The presence of such personalities as Franco, Salazar or DeValera in European politics guaranteed Europe’s preservance of traditional values. We lack such men of action these days.”
—Maciej Marian Giertych, a Polish mep from the League of Polish Families, lauds Spanish fascist leader General Francisco Franco.
“You know you are a liberal if you think that the poor need money more than they need moral discipline.”
—Stephen M. Barr, a Catholic blogger on the conservative First Things Web site.
“Today we are facing the biggest confrontation humanity has ever experienced.”
—Fr. Tadeusz Rydzyk, director of the radically antichoice Catholic Radio Maryja in Poland, on what he perceives to be media persecution of his radio station.
“Homosexual behavior, in my view, is deviant. I’m a Roman Catholic.”
—Robert J. Smith, a (former) member of the Washington, D.C.-area Metro transit board.
“New Society of Priests Has One Goal and One Member.”
—A Religion News Service headline about the launch of a Priests for Life apostolate in the Texas panhandle.
- Lucia Kubosova, “Polish mep praising General Franco sparks parliament clash,” EU Observer, July 5, 2006.
- Stephen M. Barr, “On the Square,” August 8, 2006.
- “Heard in Passing,” The Warsaw Voice (Poland), May 24, 2006.
- Lena H. Sun and Matthew Mosk, “Metro board member fired for comment on gays,” Washington Post, June 16, 2006.
- Daniel Burke, Religion News Service, August 22, 2006.