St. Paul-Minneapolis issues guidelines for speakers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Only individuals in good standing with the Catholic church can be invited to speak at churches or other Catholic venues or be considered for an award from the church, according to a new policy issued by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

"The speaker's writings and previous public presentations must also be in harmony with the teaching and discipline of the church," it said.

"A priest who left the ministerial priesthood without dispensation would not be eligible for consideration. Those in irregular marriages or those living a lifestyle at variance with church teaching would also not be eligible," it said.

"Politicians and candidates for public office -- regardless of their relationship with the Catholic Church -- should never be invited to speak during or after the holy Eucharist," the policy said, adding that an invitation to any politician or government official to speak on church property must be in keeping with guidelines from the U.S. bishops.

Published in the Nov. 19 issue of The Catholic Spirit, the archdiocesan newspaper, the policy was recommended to Archbishop John C. Nienstedt by the archdiocesan priests' council Nov. 11. The archbishop approved it the same day.

The policy is aimed at giving guidance to pastors and administrators of any Catholic institution or organization in the archdiocese "as they consider inviting speakers and/or granting awards," it said.

"Pastors/administrators should make a prudential judgment after appropriate research about the suitability of a speaker in light of" the criteria outlined in the new policy, it said, adding that any questions about the criteria should be directed to the archdiocesan Office of Communications.

For archdiocesan-sponsored programs, the moderator of the curia evaluates proposed speakers, said the policy. If the speaker also would be addressing seminarians at St. John Vianney Seminary or St. Paul Seminary at the University of St. Thomas, "the seminary administration would need to grant concurrence," it said.

"An appearance of a political candidate or incumbent government official on church property is at the discretion of the local pastor/administrator and only if consistent with the political activity guidelines issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops," it said.

In 2004, the U.S. bishops issued the statement "Catholics in Political Life," which says it's inappropriate for Catholic institutions to honor or provide a platform to someone who holds positions contrary to the teachings of the church.

"Similarly, if a parish intends to host a candidate or other political forum," the archdiocesan policy said, "that must be done in keeping with" guidelines from the USCCB and the Minnesota Catholic Conference, which is the public policy arm of the state's bishops.

"It should be clear that none of the candidates enjoy endorsement by the church," the archdiocesan policy said.

With regard to the "granting of honorary awards, degrees, special recognition or commendation," the policy said the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis also follows the bishops' 2004 statement "that we should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms that might suggest support for their actions."

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