Catholic bishops gather with focus on Obama birth-control measure
The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops have long prided themselves on being political without being partisan, throwing themselves into the scrum of public affairs without aligning themselves with one party or the other.
Now, some Catholics are beginning to wonder out loud whether the bishops have abandoned their historic non-partisanship – or, at least, are at risk of being seen that way – as they press forward with a vigorous campaign against contraception provisions in President Barack Obama’s health care plan.
Led by the indomitable Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the bishops are arriving in Atlanta for their annual spring meeting this week determined to throw the spotlight on what they perceive as an assault by the Obama administration on religious liberty.
In that fight, the bishops have the support not just of many Catholics but of evangelical Christians and others on the conservative side of the religious and political spectrum – including Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger who has repeatedly portrayed Obama as an enemy of religious freedom.
Perhaps because of that, some liberal and moderate Catholics are uncomfortable with what they see as an inappropriate insertion of the church into a hot-button political issue at the outset of a presidential campaign.
“I think the real danger bishops need to confront is getting this dragged through the political mud just a few months before an election,” said John Gehring, the Catholic outreach coordinator for Faith in Public Life a liberal, faith-based advocacy group. “I think some of the alarmist rhetoric that some church leaders are using gives the impression that some bishops are quite happy making this part of a Republican campaign.”
Gehring said there was a risk that the bishops could come to be seen as “the Republican Party at Prayer” – which, he stressed, he does not believe is the case.
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore insisted to the National Catholic Reporter last week that there was nothing partisan about the church’s campaign. “We’re not trying to throw an election,” he said. “We’re simply trying to defend fundamental freedoms.” [More]