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Father Richard Perozich of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in San Diego, California has suffered backlash from two recent parish bulletins advising Catholics how to vote in good conscience. An October 16 insert in the parish bulletin — which had not been endorsed by Fr. Perozich — said it was "a mortal sin to vote Democrat." Father Perozich then authored an October 30 column in the parish bulletin denouncing abortion, the LGBT agenda, euthanasia and other intrinsic evils condemned by the Catholic Church.
The backlash was immediate, with multiple media sources criticizing Fr. Perozich, while his own archdiocese refused to support him. His bishop, Robert McElroy, went so far as to make a speech over the weekend claiming that clergy should refrain from telling Catholics how to vote, either directly or indirectly.
Father Perozich spoke with ChurchMilitant.com to offer a response.
CM: Were you surprised by the backlash to the Oct. 16 flier?
FRP: After backlash began and multiplied, I knew it would continue for several reasons. First of all, no one likes to be told they are less than anyone else, have done something evil, and are going to Hell. I did not endorse that comment for a flier in our bulletin, and it was not put there by our parishioners. The five non-negotiables [support for abortion, same-sex "marriage," euthanasia, human cloning, and embryonic stem cell research] are true.
The backlash began because of an article written by a local reporter for our paper who did not get in touch with me to ask any questions, but extrapolated what he wished and constructed his piece.
I found many people who are poorly formed as Catholics, many ex-Catholics and those who used the argument of no political comment by churches. I need a contortionist to teach me to twist my body to do the unseemly things they suggested I should do.
CM: What prompted you to include the Oct. 30 commentary on voting?
FRP: Still many, many positive responses were sent by email or voicemail regarding the October 30 bulletin piece, which I penned to my parishioners (because our bulletin is for our parishioners and visitors) to show them their identity as Christians to work to change the world from secular values to godly ones: life instead of abortion, euthanasia, cloning, embryonic destruction, true marriage and chastity, a country united around faith and reason and the Constitution, not around the values of evil or of other cultures.
I wanted to show Catholics how they have been undermined by desensitization, jamming and conversion to secular ideas and what the outcome that is hoped for by some who wish to govern us. I wanted to show them that they cannot always trust any leader even in the church, even me, but should know their faith from the Bible and Tradition, not relying on anyone speaking to them. I wanted to show how they are soldiers for Christ, working for Him as members of the Family of God to bring His values to the world.
CM: Do you agree with the idea proffered by some that clergy should refrain from guiding Catholics, directly or indirectly, on how to vote?
FRP: I do not agree that we should be silent. My salary is about $26,000 per year. I pay tax on that. I pay 15 percent Social Security tax. I pay tax on my housing, car insurance and food allowance. The fact that the institution doesn't pay tax on buildings, property, and the collection helps churches and 501(c)3 corporations to do their work and ministry. I do not tell people to vote for this candidate or that one, but point out what the Catholic values are and how some of us need conversion to these if we are voting or if we are asking for a vote.
CM: We at ChurchMilitant.com have decried the fewness of the number of bishops and priests who have spoken out during this election against the Clinton campaign's anti-Catholic bigotry, her stance on abortion, or Tim Kaine's false Catholicism. The October 30 column in your parish bulletin notes that some clergy "instead of building up the faith of the Christians, despise us, call us names, or to jam us, or create things that don’t exist such as islamophobia and islamophobes, homophobia and homophobes. We are called by some bishops Rosary counters, hiding behind Christian doctrine, pickled pepper-faced Christians, little monsters, fundamentalists, anesthetized Christians, among many other insults."
Have you been disappointed in some of the clergy's silence and passiveness during this critical election?
FRP: You don't rise to authority in an institution unless you follow the lead of those already there. More than disappointment, I confess that this is what I expect. Catholic clergy are institutionalized — paid salaries, paid retirement, paid housing, paid cable, paid cell phone, paid car or car insurance and sometimes gasoline, paid utilities, paid internet. It would be unusual for someone to want to have that taken away.
We don't live the lives of our parishioners unless we have been in struggling places with struggling people. Some of us are more in touch than are others. The farther away you move from the common and the poor in power, possessions and prestige, the farther away you move from reality. It is easy to insist that the common and the poor get everything that we have, as long as we don't have to pay for it.
I believe that every 501(c)3 that promotes a government program that costs the government money and its citizens taxes should be taxed for a portion of what they are demanding from the state.
CM: What final advice would you give Catholics on voting in the few days before Election Day?
FRP: Prioritize the issues — life from conception to natural death, God-given sexuality and marriage between man and woman, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, euthanasia — way above all other things. Then a citizen has a right to vote for more taxes for all sorts of programs if he or she wishes by putting into place those seeking election who meet these first five criteria.
Watch Fr. Perozich on a previous episode of "Mic'd Up" discuss the problem of homosexuality in the priesthood.