Montana’s two Catholic dioceses have reiterated their respective policies on political involvement, saying that support for or opposition to a particular candidate by any representative of the diocese is not permitted.
The dioceses posted statements on their Facebook pages after four Montana Catholic priests were strongly criticised locally and nationally for wearing clerical attire to President Donald Trump’s Montana rally on 5th July. They garnered national attention because they were seated in the front row behind Trump’s podium.
Two of the priests were from the Great Falls-Billings Diocese, headed by Bishop Michael W. Warfel, and two were from the Helena Diocese, which currently does not have a bishop, since Bishop George L. Thomas was named to head the Diocese of Las Vegas. Mgr Kevin O’Neill is diocesan administrator.
Mgr O’Neill reiterated his diocese’s policy: “Religious leaders should avoid taking positions on candidates or participating in political party matters even while acting in their individual capacity. Although not prohibited, it may be difficult to separate their personal activity from their public role as a Church leader.”
In his statement, Bishop Warfel urged a careful review of the Great Falls-Billings diocesan policy on political activity, which states “supporting or not supporting a particular candidate as a representative of the diocese is not permitted.” The policy also cautions against parishes taking a public stand on a candidate and distributing voter materials “prepared by other organisations.”
In the main part of his statement, Bishop Warfel reviewed the actions of the priests, saying he had talked to his two diocesan priests, who have acknowledged they shouldn’t have worn priestly garb and have apologised for any hurt their presence caused. He also reached out to the two Helena diocesan priests.
He also commented that accusations made against the four men that they applauded at “inappropriate remarks” made by Trump were not borne out by a close review of video of the event.
Picture: Supporters await the arrival of US President Donald Trump during a Make America Great Again rally on 5th July in Great Falls, Mont. Following criticism of four Catholic priests who attended the rally wearing clerical attire, Montana’s two Catholic dioceses have reiterated their respective policies on political involvement that say support for or opposition to a particular candidate by any representative of the diocese is not permitted. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters).