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Liberal Catholics use election results to battle bishops
Archbishop Timothy Dolan sounded a nuanced tone on politics at a recent bishops meeting.
November 13th, 2012
03:02 PM ET

Liberal Catholics use election results to battle bishops

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Emboldened by the re-election of President Barack Obama, a cadre of liberal Catholic activists and groups is waging a campaign alleging that America's Catholic bishops are out of touch with Catholic laypeople.

The Catholic bishops, who are in Baltimore this week for a quarterly meeting, spoke out against the Obama administration during the election cycle over what they said were White House violations of religious freedom.

Some bishops also spoke out against legalized gay marriage and abortion rights, positions embraced by many Republicans.

A Sunday opinion piece in the National Catholic Reporter by Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest at Georgetown University, hammered the bishops for their public proclamations during the campaign, saying the church leaders' “political strategy … is not working.”

“A majority of Catholics voted for Obama, and gay activists won every referendum,” Reese wrote, referring to initiatives legalizing gay marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington.

Exit polls showed that Catholics narrowly voted for Obama, by 50% to 48%.

Reese also noted that Republican Senate candidates in Missouri and Indiana who voiced very conservative lines on abortion were defeated.

Catholics United and Catholics for Choice, two liberal Catholic groups, released statements around the meeting decrying the bishops' “failures” during the 2012 campaign.

“The bishops had a miserable return on investment of Catholic people's money and we demand an accounting of how they spent it campaigning on measures that Catholics clearly did not support,” wrote Catholics for Choice President Jon O'Brien.

Catholics United is delivering a petition to the Catholic bishops that calls on them to "reconsider their alliance with the Republican Party and refocus their attention on caring for the poor and vulnerable.”

In remarks to the 250 bishops assembled in Baltimore, bishops conference President Timothy Dolan touched on politics, sounding a nuanced tone.

“The premier answer to the question ‘What's wrong with the world? What's wrong with the church?’ is not politics, the economy, secularism, sectarianism, globalization or global warming,” Dolan said.

"The answer to the question ‘What's wrong with the world?’ is just two words: ‘I am,' ” he continued, quoting author G.K. Chesterton.

Other archbishops at the meeting seemed to double down on the fight for religious liberty and same-sex marriage, according to the Catholic News Service.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, in a report to a committee on religious liberty, stated that “whatever setbacks or challenges in the efforts to defend religious liberty we may be experiencing, we're going to stay the course.”

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone addressed the spate of successful gay marriage initiatives, saying that “people don't understand what marriage is.”

“This is not a time to give up but rather a time to redouble our efforts,” he said.

The fight between liberal and conservative factions of the Catholic Church has been simmering for years, playing out in parishes, in college campuses and on the national political stage, with the vice presidential candidacy of two Catholics: Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.

In their sole debate together, Biden and Ryan gave different reads on how their faith shaped their politics. Biden focused on Catholic social teaching about helping the poor while Ryan talked about his belief that life begins at conception.

Steve Schneck, a Catholic University scholar who was supportive of Obama's candidacy, disagreed with liberals who are criticizing the bishops, saying most bishops did not weigh in on the election.

"Only a handful of bishops were involved, and it is about the same number that was involved in 2008,” he said.

“Most Catholics, whether they are politically liberal or politically conservative, are not interested in seeing their priests become politically involved,” said Schneck, the Obama campaign’s national co-chairman for Catholics. "They want their parishes and archdioceses to become politics-free zones.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Catholic Church • Politics

soundoff (569 Responses)
  1. Steve Smith

    Maybe the Pope is infallible, but the American Bishops are not. Their own flock rejected their political agenda! Hopefully they will go back to ministering to the faithful and leave politics alone. They were rather blatantly supporting Romney and got slapped down very publically. A little humility is good for everyone, especially Bishops. .

    November 24, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • gerald

      Steve, I just wish you knew what the h-e-l-l you were talking about. The bishops did not involve themselves in politics. From the pew I sat in they simply told people what Catholic teaching was and let them decide. Now their teaching emphasis was at a time when there was a vote on the issue they taught on but are you going to tell them they can't teach in concert with when a vote is taken? No bishop told anyone who to vote for.

      November 27, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  2. Tadeja

    Really sad how many people put themselves above God. The goal here on earth is to live in such a way as not to offend God.
    Try it sometime, start your day with prayer, humble yourselves and act in a way that reflects your love of God and neighbor.
    Our failed history is more due to not living these tenants. Not a failing of having faith.

    November 23, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  3. Joe

    Maybe Hispanic Catholics, just like other "Catholics", need to start listening to the Bishops and the teaching of the Church. Social Justice can be debated on which way is best to accomplish it's goal. Abortion is an intrinsic evil and is never up for debate. Any person that ignores abortion for "social justice" is just a liberal in disguise. No wonder Jesus said when the Son of Man returns will He find faith on earth?

    November 21, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  4. DG

    Hispanics are a major reason why Catholic votes are going to Democrats.

    In a poll, the #1 issue for Catholic Hispanics was – Taking care of the poor / Social Justice

    Abortion and Gay marriage was WAY down on the list.

    November 21, 2012 at 7:06 am |
  5. Joe

    "Liberal Catholics" is that like "Evil Unicorns" ? They don't exist.

    November 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • DG

      Liberal Catholics = Catholics for Social Justice

      Conservative Catholics = Justify greed

      November 21, 2012 at 6:58 am |
  6. Adam

    I condemn the liberal media, like the ones who employ the author of this article, who allow a person to write an article like this to try and sway a religious group. You are all atheists in my eyes. Just remember, GOD controls what happens to you when you leave this earth, and until you accept His WILL your soul is lost forever.

    November 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • DG

      Thankfully God controls that.....not you.

      November 21, 2012 at 7:00 am |
  7. Adam

    Catholics United should be renamed Catholics Divided.They do not represent true Catholics, ones who go to church every Sunday and pray with other faithful Catholics to God, rather they're a small group of people who have ulterior motives, for the Church to become Santa Clause to all and help the government out of their whole they have dug us into. Typical liberal astroturf (not grassroots) association that wants to blame others who are doing real good and never cast a stone at big government who have falsely painted a beautiful utopian society picture that one party wants people to believe it is (truly isn't). Guess what, it will never happen, if you don't agree with the Catholic Church's written doctrine then you can not call yourself a Catholic. The church is not the government. You can't pick and choose, rather search for God through what you do not understand, then you will find Christ, until then you are just a lax person who calls yourself something and is just looking for the wrong in something, when that thing is truly good. God wants us to wake up!!! This is a path to eternal damnation. Our time here is short, we need to strengthen our relationship with God and seek the greater good. We need to remember that Christ died on the cross for us, our time here should be spent to try and redeem our souls!

    November 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  8. Joe

    God's law and truth do not revolve around a popular vote. People have been trying to justify their sin from the beginning. No one who believes murdering a baby in the womb is either a true Catholic or Christian. Everyone has their opinion, but sorry to tell you your opinion can be wrong. Of course people are going to attack the Bishops when they speak out against sinful things, people don't want to hear that anythying is wrong anymore. But the Church will survive until Christ returns.

    November 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Dan

      He better hurry up then, because the Church is not long for this world.

      November 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Matt

      Amen, Joe.

      November 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • louis

      And just what the Christ is Christ waiting for? How much more turmoil must the world endure before your so-called savior steps in? Wake up! Christ isn't coming back. Why the hell would he after the nice little reception he got last time?

      November 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  9. jenkoosh

    Here's an idea. Why don't people just take off their Pope-colored glasses, and stay home on Sunday?

    I did. It's refreshing.

    November 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  10. Carroll

    See the website, http://www.thewarningsecondcoming.com and may God bless you and our nation.

    November 20, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Steve

      Nut!!!!

      November 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Keith in NJ

      You must have missed last week's gospel

      November 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  11. PMDU

    The Romans and other Europeans became Christians because the Roman Emperor or King Constantine intended to use the Christian Religion to unite the Roman Empire, 300 years after the death of Jesus Christ. Who are the earliest Christians? Not the Romans nor the other Europeans.

    November 20, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • WHY?

      You are absolutely correct! Christianity was remixed by the Romans and has been evolving ever since the Protestant Reformation.

      November 20, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Steve

      Not it wasn't. Christianity gained a foothold when Constantine "converted" as a mere political ploy to cause trouble with his rivals who had many Christians in their states, whereas Constantine had virtually none. He thought it was a safe ploy and didn't realize the long term ramifications.

      November 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  12. Rosslaw

    The dispositive quality of the so-called conservative wing of the Catholic hierarchy is the willingness to enable and conceal child molesting. End of discussion.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • todd in DC

      The church doesn't really conceal child molesting. They sort of revel in it!

      November 20, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  13. Hear The Truth

    http://www.Hear-The-Truth.com

    http://HearTheTruth.imgur.com for the complete photo album

    November 19, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  14. louis

    to K
    You'd better do your homework. The history of the Catholic church is one of untruths, greed, violence, secrecy, and corruption. Sure, it has done some good, but it has to. To be a really effective liar, occasionally one has to tell the truth.

    November 19, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • justme

      louis, such wisdom, but too bad not too many will see it here. even i came here from another page but trust that the catholic church will get what they have coming and very soon. it is just a shame so many have been misled and treated so terribly by that satanic organization.

      November 19, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • todd in DC

      Very well said, Mr. Stone. The church can thump the bible all it wants to deny gay weddings in the Catholic church. But nowhere in the bible does it say gay people cannot have access to hospital visitation rights, tax deductions, inheritence rights, Social Security rights, etc.

      But haters have to hate, so that is why I'm hoping SCOTUS ends DOMA once and for all.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • SaveSocietyAndCountry

      Replace DOMA with a cons-t-itu-toinal amendment

      If we allow one deviancy then all others will follow : polygamy, man+sheep, inc3st, man+underage childfren, everything

      November 20, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • justme

      save society is correct, who wants to allow the children the freedom to follow the depraved? where does it end? jw.org has the answers and shows what the bible really teaches.

      November 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  15. Matthew

    I am not Catholic but shouldn't the Pope and Rome be the final authority and since the Pope and Rome are against gay marriage, that would make any Catholic that supports it a traitor.

    November 19, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Matthew, it's probably more accurate to say that the Catholic church does not believe in the possibility of gay marriage as sacramental. The government can legislate any absurdity into the law it chooses but that does not mean the theological sacrament of holy matrimony will be changed. Knowing this, most Catholics choose to vote against same seex marriage amendments even those who know and love gay people.

      November 19, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Ztom

      The issue is that the Catholic Church is becoming too diverse as far as its followers go. At this point, yes, they are supposed to get their marching orders from the Vatican.

      But here in the US, as well as in other places, a more liberal form of Catholicism is taking form, and there are many many who are increasingly aligning with it. This happened before, and that is why we have Protestantism, which itself broke into many other subgroups. It even happened long before that with the Greek Orthodox Church and Russian Orthodox Church, both of which do not take their marching orders from the Vatican.

      It's not going to happen this year, but if I was a betting man, I'd say in my lifetime I will see another such break. I sincerely doubt the Vatican is going to give in, and with the changing times and culture especially in the US, we will eventually get to a point where 75% of Catholics will disagree with the Vatican on key issues such as birth control, gay rights, abortion, taxes, etc. At that point, my guess is they will break off into a different religion for US Catholics. Old School Catholicism will still be around, and will still have its adherents, but I think a split is inevitable soon.

      November 19, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • sam stone

      "Knowing this, most Catholics choose to vote against same seex marriage amendments even those who know and love gay people."

      After all, there is no better way to show people you love them than denying them equal rights

      November 19, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Sam, sometimes "no" means "I love you." Sorry.

      November 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Sam, sometimes "no" means "I love you." Sorry."

      You do not get to vote on others civil rights. Sorry.

      November 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • sam stone

      Bill: Maybe we should take away your freedom of religion. After all, I have it from a very questionable source that sometimes "no" means "we love you". How would that work for you?

      November 19, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I think that action is already in play sam. Good luck to you

      November 19, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Dionmithjesu

      Bill Deacon
      Burn your crucifix, tear up your catechisn and bury your bible, you can do it Bill and be born again as a free thinking man, try Bill, try.

      November 19, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • sam stone

      that action is already in play? got your persecution complex in full bore (emphasis on "bore")?

      November 19, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • sam stone

      You cannot vote away people's civil rights, Bill

      November 19, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • sam stone

      the government cannot deny people their civil rights. if the church (st. pedoph!lia) wants to exclude gays from their dubious blessings, it is their right

      November 19, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yes sam, I think we are on opposite sides of the debate. I would say that the government can confer whatever civil rights it wants to on anyone it wants to but that does not mean the sacrament of marriage is fulfilled

      November 19, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • sam stone

      you are welcome to your religious ceremonies. as far as the governent goes, they cannot discriminate.....the ban on gay marriages will go down to the 14th amendment the way the ban on blacks and whites did in 1967 (loving v. virginia)

      that being said, some churches will bless these unions, whether or not you approve

      November 19, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • sam stone

      "I would say that the government can confer whatever civil rights it wants to on anyone it wants to"

      balderdash.

      our civil rights are conveyed to us via our citizenship

      November 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  16. Bill C

    The Bishops cry out that Obama is against religious liberty, but nothing could be further from the truth. He is totally for every persons right to believe as they choose. The problem for the bishops is that they see everything as a threat to their power!! I for one feel Any church who uses the pulpit for political purposes should lose their tax exempt status. But the president does not even enforce the law in this respect, I wish he would.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Matthew

      The issue is Obama telling private universities that they have to subsidize birth which does violate a schools code and freedom of religion. They are also trying to monitor the speach of preachers if it is offensive to others. That is a clear violation of the 1st Amendment. What does it matter though, US is dead. I wouldn't be surprised in 10 years if the South secedes and forms another country.

      November 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • D. Lonesome

      If we believe in the separation of church and state their should be no tax except status for organizations that call themselves a church, catholic, baptism, etc.

      November 19, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • bill constantine

      I agree with you. In respect to gay marriage, the catholics have pedo-philes..I wonder how they would vote on that,,,,,,,?just kidding..

      November 19, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  17. Cindy

    I don't think the bishops should be advocating any election issues because it violates the laws against religions being active in politics. I would love to see all religions go back to preaching to their congregations about living good lives and teaching the Bible.

    November 19, 2012 at 1:59 am |
  18. Robert in Atl

    Apparently "Liberal Catholic" means "someone who actually seeks to live the spirit of the Gospels as opposed to the twisted creed of the modern-day Pharisees led by Pope Ratzinger."

    I think the so-called Catholic church is probably hopeless at this point, but at least some of its adherents are trying to reform its more egregious errors. Good for them. Go Liberals and pinkos! Don't forget – Jesus was one of you.

    November 18, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  19. OC

    Could someone just close this "discussion"?

    November 18, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Why ? If you don't like the tone or direction of the comments, don't read them. Simple.

      November 18, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  20. FlexSF

    Signorelli has absolutely zero credit to espouse any morals. "San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone addressed the spate of successful gay marriage initiatives, saying that “people don't understand what marriage is.”" This sick bigot was arrested in Los Angeles for drunk driving. This guy is a loser!

    November 18, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • John

      He was driving his mother when they encountered a DUI checkpoint on the road. He apologized profusely. Get a life bud.

      November 19, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • sam stone

      What greater insight does he have into the meaning of marriage? Is he married? Has he ever been married?

      November 19, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I used to think the same thing sam until I realized that marital love is a reflection of God's love for us. That's why it is sacramental in the Catholic Church. I then came to realize that priests actually do know a lot about God's love for us and can be very helpful in teaching that to married people who often fall into a selfish use of their spouse.

      November 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • sam stone

      Whatever helps you sleep through the night, Bill.

      Believe that priests know about marriage
      Believe that plumbers know about fixing aortas
      Believe that a spirit that knocked up a virgin

      November 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • sam stone

      "I used to think the same thing sam until I realized that marital love is a reflection of God's love for us"

      Care to be a bit more specific? 50% of marriages end in divorce. Is taht a "reflection of God's love for us", too?

      November 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      No, it's a reflection of people using their spouse for their own selfishness. Did you ever meet a divorced person that was not either a victim of or a perpetrator of selfishness?

      November 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Did you ever meet a divorced person that was not either a victim of or a perpetrator of selfishness?"

      Did you ever meet any person that was not either a victim of or a perpetrator of selfishness?

      November 19, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Only Jesus. That is why the church has insight into marriage. Jesus is the example of sacramental love that a husband and wife should have for one another and He is the example of forgiveness we should model when we fail.

      November 19, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • sam stone

      Sounds delusional, Bill.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • Steve Smith

      A DUI is a DUI. To drive at .08 or above means he was risking everyone’s live, including his mother. I agree–that guy needs help. It does not matter how profusely he apologized according to one comment. Child molesters apologize profusely as well when they are caught. He has a problem! It also shows a certain degree of arrogance and a lack of control to drive at .08 or above. I hope the he got some jail time and some humility.

      November 24, 2012 at 7:37 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.