I would very much like to debate with this lively community about priests running for or even holding a political office.
Should a priest get involved into politics? If so, only in local politics or even in national politics? Should he run for an office independant or join a political party? What political party? A Christian democratic one, a socialist one? Do you know members of the clergy holding a political office?
There are many questions we can pose, which will have even more answers since there isn't one clear answer.
I can recall that a few years ago a priest got elected in the Swedish parliament, or perhaps that of another Scandinavian country. And in the early 20th century a Belgian priest, Adolf Daens, got elected in the Belgian parliament, but later got his priestly ordination declared null.
So, what are your thoughts on the matter?
Here is some background information about what the Canon law says (source: WikiAnswers):
According to the Code of Canon Law (#285), clerics are to refrain from "all those things which are unbecoming to their state, according to the prescripts of particular law." This includes, in section 3, "Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power." I suppose that a cleric could run and win an election for public office, but his duties as a member of the clergy would prevent him from taking up that office, unless "particular law" (usually the law of the diocese of incardination) granted a particular exception. Even if allowed by local Church authorities, there are a number of modern examples where Pope John Paul II has called upon priests who hold public office to step down or resign from the clerical state.
There are several ignominious modern examples of clerics who have been elected to public office and who have assumed civil authority. Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti comes to mind. Also... US senator Robert F. Drinan, a Jesuit priest (recently deceased) comes to mind.
It seems that there have been a number of priests in Eastern bloc countries and in Central/South America who have held public office in times of persecution as an exception to the rule of universal law, in the interest of the public good.
I would consider it most unlikely that an active Catholic priest in good standing would ever be allowed to run for or hold a major elected office in the United States. Maybe there are highly exceptional cases where the public good would be served by priests holding office on a local level... on a road or drainage commission, or a school board, perhaps... but I would consider even this very doubtful considering the desperate need of priests in most places to be focused on their formal ministries and to be approachable as ministers instead of being co-opted as political partisans.
Canon 285 does not normally apply to 'permanent' deacons (who are also counted as members of the clergy) unless particular law specifies otherwise.