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Watchdog Group Asks IRS to
Probe Catholic Bishops
BY DAVID GIBSON ©2012 Religion News Service
public watchdog group is charging the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops with openly politicking on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and it wants the Internal Revenue Service to explore revoking the hierarchy's tax-exempt status.
"In completely unqualified terms, the IRS should immediately tell the Conference of Catholic Bishops that the conduct of its members is beyond the pale," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
"If the Catholic bishops would like to continue receiving the tremendous tax benefits on which they rely, they should follow U.S. law and stay out of American politics," Sloan added in a statement on November 2 announcing the complaint.
Sloan argued that last-minute appeals by numerous bishops had crossed the line into electioneering. She named several prelates, including Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Illinois, a fierce critic of President Barack Obama, who ordered his priests to read a letter at all Masses that sharply criticized Democratic policies and warned that Catholics who voted for those policies would endanger their eternal salvation.
Though the complaint targets the bishops' conference, the conference itself has no control over what individual bishops do or do not say. While the USCCB has been waging a fierce political battle with the Obama White House over a contraception mandate, it has been careful not to endorse either candidate.
The bishops under scrutiny deny they are being partisan, and say they are only stating Catholic teaching and pointing out that Democratic policies violate those teachings.