Political sermon draws ire | AspenTimes.com

Political sermon draws ire

A local Roman Catholic pastor has angered several parishioners by using a sermon to comment on issues pertinent to the upcoming presidential election.The Rev. Michael O’Brien of St. Mary Church in Aspen has organized a meeting tonight with his parish to lay out the church’s position on what he calls “moral” issues. Abortion, the war in Iraq, the death penalty and embryonic stem cell research will be discussed. St. Mary Church, located on Main Street, has 470 families in its parish.”What I envision is a question-and-answer section on what the church teaches. But if people ask a question about what does Bush say and what does Kerry say, I’ll do my best to respond,” O’Brien said.The meeting comes after a Mass last weekend in which O’Brien’s sermon was interrupted several times by angry parishioners, some of whom walked out.O’Brien’s sermon discussed comments by Colorado Archbishop Charles Chaput. Chaput told The New York Times that voting for a candidate like Sen. John Kerry, who supports abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research, would be cooperating “with evil.”During Sunday’s Mass, O’Brien was interrupted by hecklers, including one parishioner who shouted the question, “If Osama bin Laden was against abortion, does that trump everything?””He was too specific in his comments and he should not have addressed these issues during Mass,” said a parishioner who wished to remain anonymous yesterday. “A lot of people were very upset.”O’Brien, who came to Aspen two years ago, defended his right to sermonize on political issues. He said the Catholic Church provides moral guidance to its parishioners, and voting requires a moral decision.”I’m not addressing political issues. I’m addressing issues of morality,” O’Brien said. “Every time we make a decision and use our free will that’s a moral decision. So when we vote we can’t leave our faith outside of the voting booth. Morality affects all areas of our life.”A parishioner who was in attendance said the sermon was “clearly biased” against Kerry because of the senator’s stances on abortion and stem-cell research. But O’Brien said he has never publicly endorsed either Kerry or President Bush. He also disputes The New York Times report that Chaput called Kerry’s beliefs “evil.”But he’s not afraid to comment on Kerry’s stance on abortion.”We have our teachings and they have been around for 2,000 years, such as abortion. When is it morally acceptable to knowingly and intentionally take an innocent human life? The answer is never.”Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com

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