Cardinal Thomas Collins has reminded Greater Toronto Area parishes they have a role to play in the upcoming Oct.27 local elections. Register file photo.

Catholic voice needs to be heard in municipal elections

By 
  • August 22, 2014

TORONTO - There’s no democracy like local democracy, and no reason for your parish to ignore it. As Toronto and the rest of Ontario gears up for local elections Oct. 27, Cardinal Thomas Collins has reminded Greater Toronto Area parishes they have a role to play.

“I wish to provide every opportunity for Catholics to learn about the candidates and I encourage parishioners to exercise their democratic right to vote,” Collins wrote to pastors and parish staff earlier this month.

There are legal limits that prevent any charity from picking sides among candidates, but that doesn’t mean the Church should ignore the democratic process. Churches should provide opportunities for parishioners to learn about issues and candidates, especially candidates for Catholic school trustee. While maintaining neutrality, parishes are “encouraged to host all-candidate meetings,” said Collins.

Quick off the mark is a new organization called Catholic Voice, which will stage all-candidates forums at St. Patrick’s Church in downtown Toronto.

The St. Patrick’s program begins without candidates. Two sessions were held, Aug. 17 and Aug. 19, to review Church teaching on politics, economics and social justice. Opportunities to meet candidates will follow Sept. 7 for Toronto City Council Ward 20 candidates, Sept. 21 for Toronto mayoralty candidates and Sept. 29 for Toronto Catholic District School Board candidates from across the city.

Instead of the usual debate format, Catholic Voice plans to submit written questions to candidates who will be permitted to answer without interruption or contradiction.

At all parishes, Catholic school board candidates may be given an opportunity to meet parishioners and hand out literature on church property on weekends from Sept. 27 to Oct. 26. They won’t be permitted to set up displays, make speeches or pass out pamphlets inside the church or put their advertising under windshield wipers in the parking lot. Candidates for all positions, from school board trustee to mayor, are not permitted to speak from the pulpit or anywhere else in the church during Mass. There can be no hint that the pastor, parish council or the diocese favours one candidate over another. No political signs are allowed on church property. The parish can’t distribute literature on behalf of a candidate or accept advertising from a candidate for the parish bulletin. Nor can there be any back-door endorsements by linking the Church’s view on a par-ticular issue to a certain candidate. 

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