Supporters say ‘partisan’ charge misses point of bishops’ efforts
“The media has no quibble at all when the bishops issue a statement questioning some aspects of Paul Ryan’s budget, or when they express their support of recent decisions on the part of the Obama administration relating to immigration,” Church historian Dr. Matthew Bunson told CNA.
“It’s only when the bishops decide to exercise their authority in areas the media disagrees with” – such as marriage, sexuality, or theological orthodoxy – “that the bishops are suddenly ‘reactionary.’”
The charge of partisanship has surfaced during 2012 in the fight over the federal “preventive services” mandate. Created under the federal health care reform law, it is opposed by the bishops for requiring religious employers to provide contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs.
Bunson, editor of the Encyclopedia of the American Catholic Church, said the bishops’ critics seemed obsessed with judging their actions by secular standards of “left” and “right,” rather than viewing their words and deeds in light of the Church’s non-partisan social teaching.
There is an element of “selective memory,” he said, in portraying the bishops as servants of a right-wing agenda. In the service of this narrative, critics must ignore important aspects of the hierarchy’s public policy work and the Church’s teaching.
In their coverage of the U.S. bishops’ religious liberty initiative, the June 21-July 4 “Fortnight for Freedom,” outlets like USA Today and National Public Radio suggested that the Church’s religious liberty effort could be a veiled campaign against President Obama.
“Feeling Under Siege, Catholic Leadership Shifts Right” was the title of NPR’s July 4 story on the fortnight. While acknowledging the Church’s concern for religious freedom, the story highlighted the “many Catholics” who “view the controversial campaign as an anti-Obama move in an election year.”
On NPR’s website, the story was accompanied by a large photograph of protesters holding signs with slogans such as: “Bishops! You don’t speak for me!” and “I love the Church, I hate the politics.” [More]