Republican Catholic BishopsAugust 30, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
It sounds as if Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the big, jolly face of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has for the moment dodged accusations of sheer Republican favoritism by agreeing to give the closing prayer at the Democratic National Convention next week as well as at the Republican gathering this week. He is even taking criticism from some to his right about having invited the “pro-abortion” Obama to the New York archdiocesan fundraiser to take place on October 19.
I am not massively relieved by all of this. Paul Ryan, that distinguished Ayn Rand Catholic nominated by the Republicans last night for the vice-presidency, is still personal friends with Dolan from his days in Wisconsin. And don’t let Dolan’s scheduled appearance at the DNC obscure the unvarnished attack by the USCCB he leads on the signature achievement of Obama’s presidency, the Affordable Care Act, which provides health coverage for 40 million uninsured Americans.
I must confess that I continue to find this attack by the US bishops, in an election year, on the Democratic candidate for president, genuinely stunning. Now as I detailed in an earlier blog-post, I am an Irish-American Catholic of a certain sort. My father told my brother and me that if we ever voted Republican, we would go to hell. I was in college before I realized that there was such a thing as a Republican Catholic. Franklin Roosevelt modeled the New Deal on the services the New York (Irish) Democratic machine had provided its constituents for decades. How could our bishops now be supporting candidates who want to abolish the social safety net and go back to the laissez-faire economics that caused a million of my ancestors to starve to death?
I asked one of my very smart Irish-American reform Catholic friends in Philadelphia why she thought the bishops were doing this. “They’re Republicans,” she responded. I still couldn’t believe it.
I couldn’t believe it, that is, until I had a conversation with a priest-friend from another part of the country. His bishop, my friend reported, had told him that he had a moral obligation to vote for the Republican candidate for president because of Obama’s support for abortion. My friend, who is nearing retirement and doesn’t have a lot to lose, told the bishop that since this is America, he has the right to follow his conscience and vote for whomever he chooses. So now it has come to me: the US Catholic bishops, whose predecessors were the shepherds of huge numbers of poor, suffering white-ethnic immigrants, and who are presently the shepherds of millions of struggling Hispanic, Haitian, African and Asian Catholic immigrants, have transferred to the every-tub-on-its own bottom party. Why? Because they oppose the government mandate of free contraception for American women, as a result of which a significant number of said women may well avoid having abortions.
As I argued back in 2010, for the bishops, only sex matters, and in this election year, even more so.