News - John F. Donoghue

For using his pulpit for politicking

Normally, we wouldn't bash a guy simply for doing his job, even though we might not agree with his politics. Catholic Archbishop John F. Donoghue, however, isn't supposed to get involved in politics. But that's essentially what the Atlanta church leader has done by trumpeting a hard-line stance of denying communion to pro-choice politicians.

We realize, of course, that the Catholic Church considers abortion a big-time sin. But there's a huge difference between condemning the practice of abortion and condemning certain unnamed liberal politicians — hint, hint — because they support abortion rights. After all, it's not as if many pro-choice pols have actually received an abortion, much less performed one.

What should be a matter of personal conscience has been transformed — intentionally, no doubt — into an election-year weapon to use against progressive politicians in general and Democratic nominee John Kerry in particular.

Think that's a stretch? Quick, name another high-profile Catholic candidate running for local, state or national office. That's our point: Donoghue and other conservative bishops clearly have taken this strident stand in an effort to sway voters away from Kerry. Last we heard, the Catholic Church still espouses the dictum "Thou shalt not kill," but you won't catch Donoghue refusing communion to politicians who supported the war in Iraq or, perish the thought, denying it to soldiers. Basically, this is as close as a church can come to endorsing a candidate without losing its tax-exempt status.

It's also another sad example of how some Catholic leaders are helping to strip the church of its relevance in this modern age. Donoghue has set a particularly poor example. In the past, he's barred a support group for still-faithful victims of sexual abuse by priests from meeting on church property or advertising in the church newsletter, telling them instead to join a church-based support program. Two years ago, he banned local churches from including women in the Holy Thursday foot-washing rite; his logic was that the disciples were named John and Simon, not Jane and Simone. Last year, he lauded the anti-gay-marriage sentiments of Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who compared consensual gay sex to incest and adultery. In a public statement, Donoghue said legalizing gay marriage "could destroy society as we know it."

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