Here’s a followup on the controversy about Father Richard Heilman, whose public political posturing has raised eyebrows (and blood pressures) around the Diocese of Madison.
The bishop on Friday issued the statement below, which is also available on the diocesan website:
The Bishop of Madison has taken current disciplinary action regarding a Diocese of Madison priest, Fr. Richard Heilman, who has engaged in online social media and other activity involving statements bearing inordinately on controversies stemming from the electoral political realm. The details of priest personnel matters, including any specific disciplinary actions taken in this case, generally remain confidential and involve the duty to protect the good reputation of the involved parties.
As Bishop Donald Hying stated publicly in January of 2021, “All Catholics have to be careful to engage in political life in a manner that reflects the Gospel, but clergy need to exercise special caution so that their political activity is consistent with their vocation in the Church. Bishops, priests and deacons, as individuals and citizens, obviously, can vote and hold political opinions. As pastoral leaders and members of the hierarchy, however, our task is to preach and teach the Catholic faith to the laity and to lay out the revealed priority of moral issues (and indeed for pastors to fail to preach the truths of our faith is to fail in loving our people). The task of the laity is to form their consciences and apply the teachings of the Church to the spheres of politics, economy, society, and culture. Clerics should not be publicly voicing overt and purely political opinions regarding individuals, parties, election results, the current news cycle, nor engaging in ad hominem attacks. Such actions threaten to politicize the Church and divide our people even more. Furthermore, canon law places legitimate limits on clerical engagement in political activities. This is not a matter of being timid or politically correct, remaining neutral on moral issues, or protecting the Church’s tax exempt status, but of acknowledging and honoring the respective roles of the clergy and the lay faithful.” For further information, please see the Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests, 2013, Dicastery for the Clergy, Rome.