A Montana bishop has criticized four priests for attending a Donald Trump campaign rally in Great Falls last week who were dressed in their clerical attire and seated front row as VIPs.

Fathers Garrett Nelson and Ryan Erlenbush are from the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings which serves central and eastern Montana; Fathers Kevin Christofferson and Christopher Lebsock are from the Diocese of Helena, which covers western Montana. The four of them  were seen together front row in the audience last Thursday wearing VIP badges.

In a letter posted on the Facebook page for the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, Bishop Michael Warfel stated he didn’t know the priests would be in attendance, let alone in attendance wearing their clerical garb.

“I was shocked as most to see they were seated in a very prominent location in clerical attire behind the podium where the President would speak.”

Bishop Warfel spoke with Fathers Nelson and Erlenbush of his diocese and said they should not have been wearing their clerical attire at a partisan event, and that they should have moved to different seats once they were told they would be seated directly behind President Trump. Nelson and Erlenbush apologized, says Bishop Warfel:

“I have received apologies from the two priests for any misunderstanding or any hurt their presence caused.”

As a result of the controversy, Bishop Warfel issued an update to the dioceses’ policy on political involvement: “Supporting or not supporting a particular candidate as a representative of the diocese is not permitted.”

He clarified though that the policy only pertained to partisan politics, not widespread political issues. He gave the example of Pope Saint John Paul II visiting the Gdansk shipyards in Poland, an act that is often credited with helping spark the end of communist rule in Eastern Europe, along with Pope Francis’ public statements on climate change and immigration.

Monsignor Kevin O’Neill, the administrator of the Diocese of Helena currently sede vacante, has sent a letter to all officials seeking their cooperation with the political involvement policy set by the Montana Catholic Conference in 2011.

Those guidelines say that religious leaders should avoid taking any positions on candidates or participating in political partys, even while acting as individuals.

“Although not prohibited, it may be difficult to separate their personal activity from their public role as a Church leader.”

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Comments

11 COMMENTS

  1. I understand the article in the sense that the priests have to keep in mind that they’re priests for all Catholics no matter their political affiliations.

  2. The Democrat platform is Abortion, gay rights etc. which are against Catholic faith and most Christian faith. The Republican platform is with the values of our faith. The Priests are to lead us in our faith, just as the Pope & Bishops are so “These Priests” have it right.

    • INDEED! I CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT’S HAPPENING TO THE MENTALITY OF SOME OF OUR PRELATES. THEY DON’T SEEM TO BE NOT EVEN CHRISTIANS, LET ALONE CATHOLIC! PRAY, PRAY, PRAY. THIS SEEMS TO BE THE ONLY HOPE!

  3. THANK YOU SHARON, I COULDN’T HAVE SAID IT BETTER MYSELF. THE DEMOCRATS GOT IT ALL WRONG! ABORTION IS KILLING. I DO PRAY FOR THEM BUT I CANNOT SUBSCRIBE TO THEIR PLATFORM!

  4. Our church displayed an add in our church bulletin of pretty much telling us which party we should vote for because of immigration. What happened to the desperation of church and state?

  5. The Bishop is out of line on two points. A) The priests should do as their consciences directs where politics are concerned and just because they are priests, does not mean the bishop should censure their free speech, freedom to assemble, etc. What next? Denying them the ability to pray at abortion clinics? The Bishop has overstepped his authority. B) A priest is permenantly marked by his ordination. He must always appear in his clerical attire as a witness to Jesus Christ in the world at all times and in all things. There should be no subterfuge, except in times of persecution.

  6. It is sadly ironic that many of the same Catholic bishops and cardinals criticizing priests for conservative values have attended rallies and events supporting Democrat politicians, including Obama, John Kerry and others – all while these politicians blatantly promote abortion, gay marriage and anti-Christian values and legislation. These same bishops and cardinals seem more concerned with promoting a distorted, uninformed view of immigration than actually saving souls.

    Given that 1.5 billion children have been murdered worldwide due to abortion since the mid-1980s, I sometimes wonder if only very few (if any) in this modern generation will be saved….perhaps God will hold the Church and all of Christianity responsible for its’ indifference to the worst genocide in human history. I fear for the clergy who look the other way, and hypocritically criticize anyone who stands up for these lives.

    One commenter asked about separation of Church and state – actually that is a Freemason concept, as is “freedom of religion”. God did not give anyone the “right” to worship other gods. We simply choose to disobey Him because he allows us to through free will – not by “right”. Only an atheistic nation believes it has the authority to grant the right to worship God.

    The problem we face within the Church now is that the ideology of individualism – worship of man instead of God – has taken hold of the minds and hearts of many of our clergy – clearly this is evil at work. When the Church should be proclaiming Christ, faith, repentance and grace, she is pushing liberal politics…. while claiming clergy should have no political opinion. This is a sad era in the history of the Church. May God have mercy on us, and the Church…far too many of her leaders have lost their way.

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