When parishioners in far flung Catholic dioceses from Portland to Denver to Toledo to Newark and points in between pass around the collection plate on Sundays, I suppose they expect their charitable donations to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and care for the sick—or at the very least pay off the hundreds of millions of dollars of legal settlements stemming from decades of covering up child sexual abuse on the part of priests. But I’m guessing very few of the faithful expect their charitable donations to end up buying TV ads opposing a ballot initiative here in Washington state.
But that’s exactly what is happening as the Catholic Church has started pouring in hundreds of thousands of dollars from dioceses and archdioceses across the nation to fight I-1000, Washington’s Death with Dignity initiative modeled on the very successful measure in neighboring Oregon. In fact, over the last few weeks alone, I-1000’s opponents have hauled in over $70,000 from out-of-state dioceses, five of which are involved in a total of 28 criminal investigations, 86 civil lawsuits and 56 additional accusations of child abuse. And if history is any indication, the bulk of the no campaign’s money will ultimately come from the Catholic Church, as it has in nearly every other state where this issue has come before voters.
I fully appreciate that the Catholic Church is consistent on issues concerning life, opposing capital punishment as vocally as it opposes abortion and measures like I-1000, and they certainly have every right to spend their money on behalf of the causes that they support. But parishioners also have a right to know how their money is being spent, and I bet if they knew that some of it was being used to buy political ads in faraway Washington state, those collection plates might not fill up quite as readily.