PEORIA, Ill. (CBS) – The Catholic bishop in Peoria has ordered priests in his diocese to read a letter at all masses this weekend about the upcoming election, and some see it as a blatant pitch for Catholics to vote for Mitt Romney.
Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky’s letter criticizes the president and U.S. Senate Democrats, and threatens eternal damnation for any Catholic who votes for candidates who support abortion rights.
“Catholic politicians, bureaucrats, and their electoral supporters who callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb also thereby reject Jesus as their Lord. They are objectively guilty of grave sin,” the letter reads.
It urges all Catholics to vote, but to vote guided by their Catholic faith.
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Donna Doucette, of the group Voice of the Faithful — a Catholic lay group that seeks structural change in the Catholic Church — said Jenky and others like him threaten the Catholic Church’s tax exempt status by appearing to support a specific candidate.
Although the letter does not specifically urge Catholics to vote for Mitt Romney, and doesn’t mention President Barack Obama by name, it compares the president and Senate Democrats to those who killed Jesus.
“It’s like waving a flag in front of the bulls here, and I just think it’s very foolish,” Doucette said.
Nicole Sotelo, of the Catholic group Call To Action, said she’s disappointed in Jenky.
“Bishops are very much allowed by IRS guidelines to educate their flocks, but threatening a flock is no way to be a bishop,” she said. “Bishops are supposed to support all their people. Unfortunately, Bishop Jenky has taken sides in a political debate, and that does not allow him to support all of his flock.”
Doucette said she doesn’t think it would take much for someone to file a lawsuit challenging the Catholic Church’s tax exempt status, which she said would be financially devastating for the Church.
Doucette calls the level of political involvement by some Catholic bishops this election year “unprecedented.”