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President Trump's rally results in priest controversy

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GREAT FALLS- The aftermath of President Trump's rally on July 5 created a stir on social media about four Catholic priests who attended the rally and sat near the front row.

The priests were observed clapping along when President Trump mocked the #MeToo movement. The Helena Independent Record reported that their appearance may have violated some ethical rules for clergy.

Francis Xavier Porter, a Ursuline Nun, knows two of the four priests: Father Garrett Nelson, and Father Ryan Erlenbush, who are from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Great Falls-Billings.  She says they should have been taught not to get involved in politics.

“Two priests that I knew or I know are young, and their training is much more recent than mine. and I'm much older. And as we've been educated out of religion, as all religions were taught not to be involved in anything political,” said Porter. 

Father Garrett, a priest at Corpus Cristi Parish, said he was not able to comment.

He says comments will be handled by the Bishop of Great Falls-Billings, Michael William Warfel who released the following statement to the Independent Record:

"While they are free to support a political candidate — and I believe they were there in support of Matt Rosendale, who is running for the Senate seat from Montana — they should not have been attired in clerical garb and seated in such a prominent location. I myself had been invited to attend the rally but declined. It has been my experience that people can be manipulated and used unwittingly. I judge that it was an imprudent decision on their parts to allow themselves to be used in such a way though I suspect they had not thought of this. In Christ, Bishop Warfel," said Warfel.

"Well, I'd like to think they made a mistake and didn't realize they were getting into something like they did," said Porter. 

We reached out to Father Ryan Erlenbush, and Bishop Warfel's office, but we have not heard back from them as of news time. 

According to the Independent Record, in April 2011, Montana Catholic Conference made a statement saying religious leaders should avoid taking positions on candidates or participating in political party matters while acting in their individual capacity.

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