Even with a pandemic, it’s election time in Oregon. Every two years we explain why the Sentinel, indeed the whole Catholic Church, refrains from endorsing or lending aid to this candidate or that. Catholic leaders also refuse to plug for any particular political party.

What you will notice is staunch support for the principles of Catholic teaching. While we don’t speak up for candidates, we certainly do on issues. Year-round, the Sentinel editorializes and issues reports to promote protection of unborn life, justice for those who are poor, fair treatment for migrants, care for God’s creation, and nonviolence. In sum, the dignity of life is paramount.

No political party owns these principles, which originate in the word of God, from the Lord Jesus himself. Of course, certain sectors carry the sacred mandates out better than others — but in a mix that is utterly confounding for Catholics. Someone who abides by the full slate of church teaching has no fully comfortable home in the leading two U.S. parties.

Some readers feel frustrated at our policy. Surely, they say, when a candidate or party fulfills one of these holy principles, the Sentinel and the church should come forward and lend electoral aid to further God’s work. We hear this from all sides, and while it is a decent argument, it’s shortsighted.

For the common good, the Catholic Church in Oregon must be able to work with many politicians on many issues. Should the church, via the Sentinel or any channel, even seem to be affiliated with one party or another, those vital public policy efforts would tilt to the point of crashing. How could the church advocate for God’s lofty ways if it wrestled in the mud with everyone else? One reason the church is still respected is that it has remained above partisanship.

On the practical side, federal law has since 1954 prohibited non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. The idea was to prevent groups that don’t pay taxes from using that benefit for politics. It’s true that in 2017 President Donald Trump signed an executive order to lighten the restrictions. But like many groups, the U.S. Catholic bishops and their lawyers are skeptical. The bishops’ general counsel was very clear in a 2018 response: “A Catholic organization may not directly or indirectly make any statement, in any medium, to endorse, support, or oppose any candidate for public office, political party or political action committee.”

And so, we will not endorse anyone. Nor will we publish stories, columns or letters to the editor that are essentially free campaign ads for a candidate or party. The issues we believe in are too important for us to take a risk of short-term gratification.