Priests in New Zealand are being reminded to use their social media accounts wisely, and not to use these accounts to express support for a political party.
Judicial Vicar and canon law lecturer Msgr Brendan Daly said canon law prohibits the clergy from promoting any political party, as this could cause dissension in the parish.
He cited Canon 287 which states “clerics care always to do their utmost to foster among people peace and harmony based on justice”.
Paragraph 2 of the same canon states “they are not to play an active role in political parties or in directing trade unions unless, in the judgement of the competent ecclesiastical authority, this is required for the defence of the rights of the Church or to promote the common good”.
“People in parishes belong to all sorts of different political parties, and a priest should not be involved in promoting one party or another,” Msgr Daly explained.
“A priest is to promote the spiritual welfare of the people. The rights and the interests of the Church are not identified with any one political party, and it is a mistake to actively promote one political party from the pulpit or on social media dressed as a cleric,” he added.
Msgr Daly explained, even if the message was on a priest’s personal social media account, “he still shouldn’t be doing it because his role is involved in pastoral care of people in the parish, not involved in local politics”.
At least one priest in New Zealand has aired support for a political party on his social media account, but had since taken the post down.
“They get told not to do it,” Msgr Daly said. “People can address particular issues such as employment or refugees or right-to-life, but addressing particular issues is quite different to promoting a particular political party.”
N The Catholic News Agency reported in late July that the US Priests for Life national director Fr Frank Pavone had resigned from advisory positions in the re-election campaign of President Donald Trump. The priest withdrew at the direction of Church authorities.
In 2008, the CNA article noted, Chicago priest Fr Michael Pfleger drew attention for appearing as part of a “People of Faith for Obama” coalition during then-Senator Barack Obama’s primary battle against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
Pfleger’s bishop, Cardinal Francis George, said at the time that, “while a priest must speak to political issues that are also moral, he may not endorse candidates nor engage in partisan campaigning”.