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. Tim

    Sorry... I do not know what a Catholic is. Wouldn't even know how to recoginize one on the street or in a church.

    November 18, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • K

      Don't know much about Catholicism? Go have a look at Robert Barron's multi-part series "Catholicism". It's well organized, clear, interesting, and truly reflective of Catholic beliefs. I'm not trying to convert you ... simply giving you a reasonable venue to learn something. Good luck.

      November 18, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Most parishes have a season of inquiry for those interested in whether becoming a Catholic might be for them. The Rite of Christina Initiation for Adults usually commences around the first week of September with the inquiry stage, progressing to baptism, confirmation and first communion at Easter. There is no obligation and attendance is free. You only become Catholic once you've made the voluntary sacrament of baptism.

      November 19, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  2. JTDLakeview

    Last I checked Jesus said follow me and you will be saved. I never read where he gave options and gave in to the masses and their opinions. We can try to have it our way but in the end we will all be judged and having it easy on earth will only mean we have made our choice to have it like hell for eternity. Eternity is a long time........the easy and less controversial way may seem like we are being nice but it offends Jesus and ultimately we must please the Savior.

    November 18, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • sam stone

      I find it interesting that people seek eternity from a being in which they feel they have to be saved

      November 19, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • JWT

      There is absolutely no need whatsoever for me to please YOUR savior.

      November 19, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  3. Kim

    Can someone please explain what the article is trying to say, i wanna know but i don't understand it?

    November 18, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Jed

      Kim, I think you failed to get in your spamsite link.

      November 18, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Kim

      Really dude? I was just asking.

      November 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  4. himhst3

    The point that gets missed in these comments is that Catholicism is not analogous to Protestantism. Essentially Catholicism is a profoundly private form of Christian spirituality. Catholics do not worship together. Catholics worship individually. When Catholics come together to worship publicly, usually the Mass, each is worshiping individually in the company of others. Faithful Catholics are in love with the theology of their Church. One of the primary tenants thereof is that each is individually responsible to his/her own conscience, using his/her own Free Will with the Grace of God, for the health of his/her own soul. That is why the Church encompasses one sixth of humanity and has survived, despite everything, for 2000 years. Priests and bishops are necessary, even essential, for the performance of their sacramental functions, but it is completely unnecessary to even speak to them otherwise. American Catholics voted their consciences on multiple issues, not just one issue, as their own faith teaches them they must. Those bishops, and it certainly wasn’t anywhere near all of them, who got a bit more politically polarized in one direction, discovered, very publicly, that they weren’t leading the fifty percent of the laity on all of the issues identified within that polarity. The Catholic block vote has been a myth for a very long while. It probably began to die with the election of Kennedy. That information is just now very public.

    Catholics only make up 20% of the population of the US. Not likely that the Catholic vote, no matter what it is, is going to radically transform the nation. What is truly remarkable is how much importance a predominantly Protestant nation places on what the Catholic Church says. Ever wondered why?

    November 18, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  5. MashaSobaka

    First of all, I would like to ask the IRS to grow a spine and start taxing not only the Catholic Church but ALL religious organizations that violated the law and got involved in politics during this election. Time for them to pay for their crime. Tax them. Now.

    Second, I would like to call on the many liberal Catholics (I know there are plenty of you) to break away from the conservative bigots who currently run your Church. It's time for another split. I know it's scary, but it'll be the best thing for everyone. Stop giving these people the money they need to campaign against progress and humanitarianism. Make your own Church...one that will be respected for years to come while the Catholic conservatives are slowly demoted to the history books.

    November 18, 2012 at 3:28 pm |

    May GOD bless each and every one of you.

    November 18, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  7. Brendan Flynn

    Wasn't it Cardinal Dolan who authorized the payoff of priests in the Minn. St Paul diocese , so that they would leave quietly after being found guilty of child abuse ? Himquoting Chesterton is sheer chutzpah.

    November 18, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  8. GonzoG

    I am SO SORRY, but CHURCHES do NOT get to tell their parishioners HOW TO VOTE–not if they want to maintain their TAX EXEMPT STATUS.

    Preacher–you take care of the Spiritual–and let the Government take care of the Secular.

    November 18, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      Yet they do. Religion corrupts and poisons everything. It impedes science. Calling it the "god" particle is a perfect example.
      Here's what Higgs himself said,
      Peter Higgs, the physicist who first deduced and proposed the existence of the theoretical field now known as the Higgs boson, does not believe in God. After Leon Lederman, another nonbelieving physicist, had jokingly referred to the mysterious boson as the “God particle,” Higgs was not happy: “I wish he hadn’t done it. I have to explain to people it was a joke. I’m an atheist.”

      November 18, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  9. john

    Yes, the Catholic Church, in joining with conservatives in their out-of-touch, out-of-step sweaty-palmed preoccupations, is further alienating itself from the people.

    November 18, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Tadeja

      Hey- did you get the memo? Just informing people about religious liberty- cannot tell church how to define faith and what we support or pay for? And by the why might does not make right? The truth is not always popular, however, 2+2=4 not 5, evan if our present day' secularized Catholics" want to think so.

      November 18, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • sam stone

      tajeda: but, they can refuse to pay for it

      November 19, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  10. Dave Harris

    It may be the one saving grace of Roman Catholicism that most Catholics pay no attention to their holy man. Their commands about not using birth control are ignored, their orders to vote for Republicans are disobeyed, their demands for tax money to proselytize their authoritarian religion are refused, their demonization and persecution of gays is rejected, their peculiar obsession with fetuses is ridiculed, and their attempts to protect child molesters in their ranks are prosecuted. They just want the holy guys to play the role by wearing their fancy robes, spouting the prescribed text, and otherwise keeping their ignorant mouths shut.

    November 18, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  11. gary

    god is pretend. RCC is ancient corrupt men's club of power. Religion is just myths and folklore

    November 18, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  12. Marion

    Having "faith" does not mean having "faith in the church", it means having faith in God. Too bad some Catholics don't understand the difference. The Catholic religion (not the church) taught me to have faith in God and I continue that faith in my old age. A nun handed me rosary beads and it made me cry.....because I still believe but just cannot "follow blindly" how they tell me to "practice" my religion.

    November 18, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  13. John Kay

    It's looking like the Third Prophecy of Fatima will come true soon, no matter that this pope and his predecessor rewrote it for publication to suit themselves.

    It doesn't matter anymore.

    November 18, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  14. qbtb

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

    I found the above statement ironic.....maybe it's just me...

    November 18, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • John Kay

      It's not you.

      He's still sitting on his mother's lap to drive.

      Maybe she really got the DUI........

      November 18, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • sqeptiq

      The purblind are always convinced that those who disagree are blind.

      November 18, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • samsview

      Yeah if I don't know after 20 years of marriage what it is – how can a man who has never been married have any idea?

      November 18, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  15. John T

    Another sad attempt by leftist media to claim a "Landslide" win in the latest election, and that conservatives are so out of touch. Hello half of Americans did not even vote! And of those who did, the majority of Blacks voted for Obama because of his color, not his "religious beliefs". And if Churches must allow Gay marriages, they must also allow murders, thieves, ped0files, and other sins equal acceptance....

    November 17, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Leif

      Fiscal conservatives are not out of touch. But the GOP is. The GOP panders to a scientifically illiterate base that still thinks the Earth is a few thousand years old. I pray to God that the GOP will continue to lose so long as it fails to understand reality. I pray to God that the GOP will wake up and crack open a book or two, not counting the Bible.

      November 18, 2012 at 4:48 am |
    • Harry

      You are clearly an ignorant fool if you think that gay marriage is equal to murder etc. They are not comparable on ANY level at all. Do you know nothing of the difference between the Justices and the Jobs? Apparently not. If you did you wouldnt be making such a moronic statement.

      November 18, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • John Kay

      If you hadn't noticed, the church of Rome already permits pedophiles and ephebophiles to flourish under their guidance.

      And drunk drivers, too.

      November 18, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • shirley

      "the majority of Blacks voted for Obama because of his color" – and you know this how, John?

      "And if Churches must allow Gay marriages, they must also allow murders, thieves, ped0files, and other sins equal acceptance...." ?? Do you kmow do offer solace to murderers, and need I remind you, harbor pedophiles?

      November 18, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • sqeptiq

      Voting for anyone because of color is at least as intelligent as voting for them because of their "religious beliefs."

      November 18, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • .

      Did women and Latinos vote overwhelmingly for Obama because he is black?.Did old white men vote for Romney because he is white?Thanks for reinforcing the stupid christian stereotype.MAN!

      November 18, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • sam stone

      "And if Churches must allow Gay marriages, they must also allow murders, thieves, ped0files, and other sins equal acceptance...."

      Do you seriously equate gays being married with murders, theivery, pedoph!lia?

      Heres is a hint....being gay is not a crime, all the other things you mentioned are.

      November 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  16. John the Historian

    As a Gay Catholic I call on all Catholics to push the church into Vatican III. Reform the church. Approve of birth control. Sanction gay marriage and allow priests and nuns to marry as the Orthodox Church allows. Catholics will never follow the current outdated church teachings on birth control. We now have cafeteria style Catholics everywhere. As Sir Thomas More said we have good popes and bad popes but the church is eternal. Get into the modern day world.

    November 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • contructiveconservative

      Reform the church?? or reform the people? It's pretty obvious that you come from the left side of the aisle as you contradict yourself in your post.

      The Church is eternal...as are certain universal truths...peoples and nations attempt to deny them at their own peril.

      November 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Lewis


      November 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • John T

      But if they accept gay marriage they will need to accept ped0fillies too....

      November 17, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Leif

      I normally avoid this kind of critique, but...seriously...it is spelled "constructive". But that's ok, because you are not.

      November 18, 2012 at 4:51 am |
    • Leif

      @John T Really? Why? Elaborate.

      November 18, 2012 at 4:53 am |
    • John Kay

      The church of Rome has an expiration date, hardly making it "eternal".

      The Third Prophecy of Fatima ring a bell?

      Or must we fly to Notre Dame?

      November 18, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Peter

      If that happens, it would not be the Church. Morality does not and cannot change. Morality is based on God. People often try to conform God to their minds, but God is outside their minds. We need to conform our minds to God. Truth cannot change. Some things are evil and can never be changed.

      November 18, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Tadeja

      The Roman right have as a discipline that the priesthood, in an attempt to life for the kingdom and devote time, energy, and witness to Christ that they remain unwed. This is done with free will. The orthodox church , the ones still standing on their own, along with the ones that returned in fullness to church have in their discipline allowance for marriage,along with Anglican church that has come back to fullness of Catholic faith. If you do not want to take on this vocation of priest and nun and be a witness of t\Christ and his church, you do not have to. There are many other ministries in the church to fill i.e., deacon etc.To love Christ is to live His bride, the Church.

      November 18, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • sam stone

      "Morality does not and cannot change"

      Morality does change. Do you think that what you see as moral is the same as what your grandparents did? That is two generations. Now, imagine the change in morality over 100 generations

      November 19, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • sam stone

      "People often try to conform God to their minds, but God is outside their minds"

      Yet we have a bunch of folks who claim to know what god likes or dislikes

      November 19, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • contructiveconservative

      Leaf....If it comes from a tree it's spelled 'leaf", but perhaps that was something of which you were already aware? On the other hand, thank you so so much for your interest and for taking the time out of you busy schedule to help me out in a way you go out of your way to make clear is highly unusual. Do you also correct the spelling of other names you come across such as the infamous John1? In other words, "Constructive" was taken at the time, as were other names such as Ignorelief, but I soldiered on and picked another one which, by the way, I may be changing to Aaron Investigates. Thanks again for your interest.

      November 20, 2012 at 1:34 am |
  17. Gordon Burnet

    The church nees to stay out of politics.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  18. K white former Catholic

    Too late. This election cycle convinced this former Catholic school board president to leave the church for good. Pulled my financial support as well! The church should be ashamed of themselves!

    November 17, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • John Kay

      An honest life is priceless.

      November 18, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • Tadeja

      We do not need people like you to stay in the Church – it needs only the faithful . God Bless.

      November 18, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  19. have faith

    lefty catholics wussup? Whats going on are you ok? just think on this please. if every one is gay and all women take birth control our human population will be wiped out. Now if everyone gets married and have children our world will be more fruitful. More life, more love, I dont understand why gays choose to stop end the gift of making babies naturally with the person you love. I dont understand why gays promote to not be fruitful. Now i understand gays wanting to adopt, but you couldve made a child tht couldve one day married and have kids with an orphan. Also if you really go and practice your religion with full faith you wont sink. Perhaps you may even be able to walk on water. Prayers for those who lack in faith.

    November 17, 2012 at 4:01 am |
    • midwest rail

      Could you possibly be any more misinformed than you already are ?

      November 17, 2012 at 4:04 am |
    • Sane Person

      You do realize, legal gay marriage doesnt actually turn a straight person gay right? Also, people who want kids, can decide to have them, while people who are not ready or do not want them can use contraception. Or would you prefer they use abortion? How about just dumping unwanted lil ones on doorsteps? One day, you need to come to terms with reality, and stop wishing you could walk on water, and acknowledge that frantically mumbling your wishes at the clouds is not an effective problem solving technique.

      November 17, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • Joefrombflo

      This is precisely the kind of "logic" that drives the Bishops' increasingly irrelevant policy statements. There is a population explosion on this planet, in case you didn't notice.

      November 17, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • have faith

      Ya just dont get it. Good luck, ill still pray for you.

      November 17, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • shirley

      ????? Sorry, I seem to have missed your point. Perhaps you can rephrase?

      November 18, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • sqeptiq

      Please find someone who is literate to edit your incoherent ramblings before you hit "post."

      November 18, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  20. louis

    To Bill Deacon
    Really. I was raised Catholic and I recognized and rejected its hypocrisy before I was ten years old. When John Adams traveled through Spain in the late 18th century, he was dismayed by the poverty he witnessed. He said, 'Here, only the clergy are fat and happy". Who do you think the clergy were in 18th century Spain? They sure weren't Mormons!

    November 17, 2012 at 3:34 am |
    • Mirosal

      Louis, I too was raised in Catholicism. I am from an Irish Catholic family, and "sentenced" to the full 12 yr regimen of Catholic school. I lost all of what little faith I had before I was 10 yrs old, and just paid lip service when I went (forced to go) to Mass. I am fully aware of the history of the early church, and it's downright disgusting. They held back humanity and reserach for over 100 years, and locked up those who dared to speak out. Ex-communication is the ONLY way they have now to instill fear into their followers now, because outside of the Vatican, the Catholic church has NO legal standing anywhere in the world anymore. No courts, no jails, no arrest authority.. anywhere.. I bet they miss those days!!

      November 17, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • Mirosal

      over 1000 (thousand) years .. sorry for the typo.

      November 17, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • K

      The Catholic Church has a beautiful, rich, and analytically strong foundation and history. That's not to say that many, many people in the Church didn't screw up (we're all fallible, after all). But it's a shame that you (and Mirosal) have opted to leave rather than to relish the gift Christ gave us in His Church.

      November 18, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
About this blog

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.