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August 23, 1996     The Message
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August 23, 1996

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4 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana August 23, 1996 ---. Taking the time to make a difference--- Some questions of ownership It was a fascinating story, about a man who had made the decision to enter a monastery. I heard the story on a tape from a public radio statiqn in New York state. In that radio report, I heard the stories of several monks, and how they had made their deci- sions. Two stories in particular stood out above the others. One monk said he had been attracted to the simple life of the monastery, but what held him back, in part, was his concern about his possessions. For a period of several months, the man was indecisive -- pulled one way by the call to contem- plative life, pulled the other way by the things he had accumulated in his worldly life. Then, he said, God sent him a message -- at least, that was how the monk perceived it to be. The message came in the form of a house fire. Ninety percent of the man's possessions were destroyed in that fire. In a few moments, the stuff of many years was gone, and the decision was clear. The story was told with a smile. I laughed out loud. The second story was told by a monk who was given the task of collecting the possessions of an- other monk who had died of a heart attack. What By PAUL R. LEINGANG EDITOR he found was all there was to be found -- the total accumulation of things the man had kept in his room for his personal use: a prayer- book and a broken pencil. * * * I know that I like my "stuff." My possessions at times possess me, I fear. I keep things that have little or no use, because I believe that some day they may come in handy. Hearing the story about the man and the house fire reminds me of the advice to "be careful about what you pray for -- because your prayer may be answered." The story also reminded me of a time when my family and I moved from our established home in northwestern Illinois to our new home in south- western Indiana. A lot of the things I had collected did not make the trip -- but it was very hard for me to rid myself of the attachment I felt for them. Now, nine years in our new home, I have built up another collection of things that may be useful some day. Some of the hardest lines to read in the Scrip- tures for me are the verses dealing with posses- sions. I do not want to leave my nets and my boat. I do not want to sell all that I have, to follow Jesus. Think about what you own. If you had to give up 90 percent of what you have, which items would you keep? Talk with others in your household about the things they own..What is the one thing in ten they would save from a fire? If you have young children, talk with them about their favorite toys or possessions. If they could choose one or two items to take on a week- long trip, what would they pick? Think about the place where you work, and the people at your workplace. Do co-workers share items, or protect their own turf?. * :{: * Take the time today to evaluate your connec- tions with your possessions. Find out what your church community does to help needy families. Call up social service agencies in your commu- nity, to find out what is needed most -- money, household items, food, clothing, or something else. Perhaps the greatest need may be for your time as a volunteer. Holiday time is often the occasion for an out- pouring of charitable goods and services. Take the time to pick an ordinary day to give what you can to someone who needs it. Comments about this column are welcome at or the Christian Family Movement, P.O. Box 272, Ames, Iowa 50010. -- Washington Letter Christian Coalition lawsuit turns wary eyes to voter guides By PATRICIA ZAPOR Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS) -- What's another piece of paper listing candidates' virtues and faults when election-related mailings, signs and bumper stickers are already as pervasive in the fall as piles of colored leaves? If the piece of paper in ques- tion is a partisan-appearing voter guide and the query is coming from a church, that brochurecb'uld jeopardize reli- gioustax exemptions or result in a costly tangle in court, as a law- suit against the Christian Coali- tion may illustrate. TheFederal Election Com- mission sued the Christian Coalition July 30. The FEC al- leges voter guides and other ef- forts constituted campaigning for specific COP candidates in 1992 by the Christian Coalition, which describes itself as non- partisan. It was founded by tele- vision evangelist and 1988 Re- publican presidential candidate, The MESSAGE 4200 N, Kentucky Ave. Evansville, IN 47711 Weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Evansville Published weekly except last week in December by the Catholic Press of Evansville Publisher ............. Bishop Gerald A. Getlelfinger Editor ...................................... Paul R. Leingang Production Technician .............. Joseph Dietrich Advesing ................................... Paul Newtand Staff Writer ............................ Mary Ann Hughes Address all communications to P.O. Box 4169, Evansville, IN 47724-0169 Subscription rate: $17.50 per year Single Copy Price: $.50 Entered as periodical matter at the post office in Evansville, IN 47701, Publica- tion number 843800. Postmaster: Return POD forms 3579 to Office of Publication Copyng 1996 C.,a Press o Evar the Rev. Pat Robertson. Accord- ing to the bipartisan FEC, the Christian Coalition's voter guides, mailings and telephone campaigning amounted to ille- gal, unreported contributions to Republican candidates. A statement from the coalition called the FEC lawsuit "totally baseless" and "frivolous." %Ve are absolutely and totally confident that we will be fully vindicated and the courts will af- firm that people of faith have every right to be involved as cit- izens and voters," said a state- ment from Ralph Reed, execu- tive director of the Christian Coalition. When coalition affiliates around the country sought to distribute voter guides through Catholic parishes in 1992, phones rang offthe hook at the offices of the general counsel for the U.S. Catholic Conference. Dierdre Halloran, associate general counsel, and other staff attorneys fielded question after question from bishops, pastors and parishioners seeking guid- ance about whether it was ap- propriate to hand out guides from the Christian Coalition and other groups at their churches. This election year, the general counsel's office paid particular attention to voter guides in a memorandum on tax code impli- cations of political campaigning by church entities. The USCC and some state bishops' confer- ences produce candidate ques- tionnaires on issues of concern to the church, noted the memo. But other organizations fre- quently ask to distribute their election material through parishes. "Outside voter guides should be approached with extreme caution," the memo said, with the sentence italicized for effect. Not only might such guides fail to cover the range of issues im- portant to the church, it contin- ued, they may not fit the re- quirements of the Internal Revenue Service code which al- lows churches to be exempt from taxes. The February memo recom- mended dioceses allow only voter guides approved or produced by the diocese or state Catholic con- ference to be distributed by parishes or other church entities. The lawsuit against the Chris- Urges vote for life To the editor=. Young Jonathan Weinzapfel, Roman Catholic, in his long let- ter rationalizing abortion, care- fully avoided the "c" word, choice. The slick, liberal handlers of young Jonathan mask the horror of failed Democratic policies since Roe vs. Wade -- 23 years and 34 million abortions later. In previous statements, Wein- zapfel used phrases from the Clinton handbook of pieties, like "safe, legal, rare." A befuddled Jonathan Wein- zapfel might note Scripture's handling of the "c" word: "... this day... I have set be- fore you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore, choose life. John Hostettler is unblink- ingly, unreservedly pro-life. On Nov. 5 will be set before us Hostettler and Weinzapfel; there- fore, choose life. Edward Becker Evansville tian Coalition addresses issues of federal election law, not tax exemption, Halloran explained. The coalition is not classified as a tax-exempt, nonprofit group like the Catholic Church is. But the tax code is even more re- strictive about what activity ex- empt organizations may engage in than the elections law is about whatis considered partisan and subject to financial limits, she said. "Whether or not the Christian Coalition is ultimately success- ful in defending themselves, this certainly tells Catholic dioceses about the need to be careful in distributing other people's voter guides," she said. "Ldwyers don't frequently get the chance to say, 'I told you so' like this." More dioceses are preparing their own voter guides this elec- tion year, Halloran said. That seems to be partly because of ex- periences with guides from out- side groups in previous elections. It also may be a response to the USCC's largest-ever effort at dis- tributing its quadrennial politi- cal responsibility statement and voter education projects being encouraged by the U.S. bishops. "I think the bishops may not figree with the (tax code) rules," Halloran said. In fact some of them seem to chafe under them. But there's an increased level of sensitivity to (the rules)." The Catholic Campaign for America, which seeks to bring Catholic teachings into consid" eration in public policy, took a hard look at its own election-re" lated efforts in light of the Chris" tian Coalition case. "Half our work involves get- ting Catholics to be connected to their faith," said Mike Ferguso..n: executive director of the Cath 11 Campaign for America. ',We are not strictly a political organi:'a" tion like the Christian Coaliti, n. We're spiritual and political." "Fortunately, we have very ,,x- plicit teachings of the pope, he rrl tu Gospels, the magisterlu "" . . co- back up our pomtmns when P _ . he pie try to tar us as ,pohtlcal: ,. said. Although the Catllm. * Campaign staff reviewed the;; work with attorneys in the, ww. of the Christian Coalition s. , =e suit, "anyone familiar with f- IRS code knew we weren't eve close to violating the law." Nor are the efforts of the n" terfaith Alliance expected to be affected by the FEC's attent: said Baltimore Auxiliary llS _ P. Francis Murphy,_a bo:; member of the Lroup of rellg, leaders formed in 1994  O counter the Christian" s t;ou. 's tion's oal of being the natWn i g . el" main faith-based vmce m l, tics.The Interfaith AllianCe'S ob See WASIINGTON page Bishop's schedule The following activities and events are listed on the ached" ule of Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger: