K. C. ran across this NY Times article in 2004. apparently another CDF father had written 'hypothetically' that they cannot, but then the erstwhile Father de Noia intervened.....
(Excerpt with K. C.'s bold emphasis)
Father Di Noia's remarks to the news service seem to reflect a reluctance by at least some Vatican officials to be perceived as trying to meddle in an American presidential election, experts on the Vatican said.
"I think they know that if they intervene in the election in that direct a manner, it's very problematic diplomatically," said Chester Gillis, chairman of the theology department at Georgetown University.
Efforts to reach Father Di Noia on Tuesday were unsuccessful, but Mr. Balestrieri's and Father Cole's version of events suggest that his office did have contact with Mr. Balestrieri.
On Aug. 30, Mr. Balestrieri said, he went to Rome and met with the Rev. Diaz Pedro Miguel Funes, a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Mr. Balestrieri said that he asked whether someone who publicly supported abortion rights was guilty of heresy, even if the person was personally opposed to abortion, as Mr. Kerry is.
Mr. Balestrieri said he did not disclose to the Vatican that he was seeking to have Mr. Kerry excommunicated, but it is not clear whether Vatican officials knew about his effort, which received some news media attention over the summer.
In any case, Father Cole, an associate professor at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, who described Father Di Noia as a friend, said he received an e-mail request from Father Di Noia several days after Mr. Balestrieri's visit.
"I was asked to write a letter as a friend to a friend," Father Cole said. "I had no idea the man was involved in the Kerry thing."
Mr. Balestrieri said that he called Father Di Noia last week to ask him if it was all right to publicize the letter. He said that Father Di Noia told him Father Cole's response was "excellent and solid" and that it could be published.
Father Cole said that last Friday, when Mr. Balestrieri released his letter to a Catholic television station, Father Di Noia sent Father Cole an e-mail message that said something like: "By the way, there was something on television. I'm sorry I got you into this mess. You're going to have people calling you ."
Father Cole said he thought Father Di Noia's comments on Tuesday indicated he was "distancing himself from it as an official." He explained: "There's a distinction in Rome when something's official and when something is off the record. This was off the record.">>>>>>