Bishop William Murphy, head of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, said in a letter read at Masses on Sunday that support for abortion “should disqualify any and every such candidate from receiving our vote.”
The spiritual leader of Long Island’s 1.5 million Catholics said in the letter “support of abortion by a candidate for public office, some of whom are Catholics, even if they use the fallacious and deeply offensive ‘personally opposed but…..’ line is reason sufficient unto itself to disqualify any and every such candidate from receiving our vote.”
Murphy also wrote: “Do you think our country is going in the right direction or the wrong direction? I believe it is heading in the wrong direction. If I am right, then...
“Of the two candidates running for President, and of all of the candidates running for elective office, whether federal, state or local, which ones will continue to lead us in the current direction or which are more likely to restore justice in those areas that cry out for such a restoration?”
Sean Dolan, a spokesman for the diocese, said the bishop was “absolutely not” endorsing Republican Donald Trump. “An endorsement means someone comes out and says I am going to vote for this particular person and the bishops and the church don’t do that,” Dolan said.
Murphy’s letter “explicitly addresses issues, not individual candidates, and is completely non-partisan,” the spokesman said. “With Election Day less than two weeks away, Catholics are seeking counsel and guidance as they exercise their civic responsibility of voting,” Dolan said.
“As he has done in previous years, Bishop Murphy has written to the People of God on having informed consciences and how to make moral choices, as has the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.”
However, some of the faithful said they believe the letter was a direct endorsement of Trump, and criticized the bishop for stepping into electoral politics days before the Nov. 8 vote.
James Morgo, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Snow parish in Blue Point and a former Suffolk County chief deputy executive, said Murphy’s letter was “without question” an endorsement of Trump. “He [Murphy] couldn’t be more clear. I thought it was stunning . . .”
Richard Koubek, a parishioner at Our Lady of Miraculous Medal parish in Wyandanch and a former public policy administrator at Catholic Charities, said the letter is “not moral instruction; it is partisan proselytizing.”
The Rev. Thomas Reese, senior analyst at The National Catholic Reporter and author of “Inside the Vatican,” called Murphy’s letter “a non-endorsement endorsement” that was within legal bounds because he did not mention a specific candidate or political party.
He said more than a dozen other bishops across the country have written similar letters this year. “This was carefully done to protect them legally. . .,’’ Reese said.
While “most bishops do not want to get involved in writing letters that are partisan, that de facto endorse a political party or a particular candidate by saying this is the only issue that you can consider,” Murphy is unlikely to be disciplined by the Vatican, he said.
The diocese said Sunday it regularly issues a communication reminding priests of the prohibition against publicly backing candidates or parties.