At the same time the Catholic Church is battling the U.S. government mandate to cover abortion-causing contraceptives in its health insurance policies, it is dealing with perceived threats against traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Joliet Bishop R. Daniel Conlon has taken President Obama to take task for his personal support of same-sex marriage in a statement that has been included in church bulletins and on the diocese website.
All of it leaves me to wonder if Bishop Conlon thinks that President Obama isnâ€™t â€œCatholicâ€ enough.
Itâ€™s a fair question in my mind. After all, the church legitimately has questioned the mandateâ€™s implicit belief that some faith-based organizations, i.e., hospitals and charitable organizations, may not be â€œreligiousâ€ enough to be protected by the First Amendment from government regulation. That issue is moving to a dozen federal district courts with lawsuits filed by Catholic dioceses and affiliated organizations, the Joliet Diocese among them.
They want the Health and Human Services mandate overturned, claiming it to be an â€œunprecedented attack against religious freedom.â€
Fine, itâ€™s a good point, and perhaps it should be settled in the courts. But to take a posture against Obama on same-sex marriage â€” or any other political issue â€” could be unwise for the Church or any religious organization.
Donâ€™t take me to be a supporter of same-sex marriage, for I am not. But I do not believe, as Bishop Conlon has stated, that Obamaâ€™s stated personal belief â€œis another significant step by government leaders in our country to weaken marriage.â€ Iâ€™m not buying that Kool-Aid, Bishop Conlon.
I certainly will agree with those who say the president is wrong on abortion, same-sex marriage and most certainly, the HHS mandate. But the president, or I should say his and his partyâ€™s policies, are in the right when it comes to other issues on which the Catholic Church could agree: universal health care, the environment, foreign policy, taxes, and economic opportunities for the poor and middle class.
There is nothing on the Republican agenda that I believe is consistent with goals expressed historically by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, except for abortion and the HHS mandate.
Or does the Catholic Church now wish to take sides in the presidential election campaign? Does it really, really wish to create that perception in the public mind? I hope not.
I think the Church is better served by doing what it has always done, in my view: Assert its beliefs and stand its ground, but never with its moral compass pointing only left and only right. Always up.