Catholic leaders on the challenges of the next four years
Aleteia will be providing comments on the election results from leading Catholic figures on a constantly updated basis. As we look forward to another four years of an Obama administration, what does the president’s reelection mean for the Church, for Catholics, for the issues they care deeply about? What is likely to happen that will affect religious liberty, the life-issues, public/private morality?
Holy See Press Office (original Italian version)
The Pope has sent a message through the apostolic nunciature in Washington, D.C. to Barack Obama, today re-elected President of the United States. In the message, the Holy Father Benedict XVI expresses his best wishes to the President for his new term of office, and he assures him of his prayers that God may assist him in his great responsibilities to the country and to the international community, and that the ideals of freedom and justice, which guided the founders of the United States of America, may continue to shine forth on the nation’s path. Responding to reporters’ questions about the re-election of President Obama, the Director of the Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, said: As we all know, the task of the President of the United States is one of immense responsibility, not only for his great country but also for the whole world, given the role of the United States in the international arena. Therefore, we all hope that President Obama, who today has been reconfirmed in his office through the elections just held, will respond to the expectations expressed by his fellow citizens, in order that he may serve law and justice for the benefit and growth of every person, in sincere respect for fundamental human and spiritual values and through the promotion of the culture of life and religious liberty – which has always been precious in the tradition of the American people and their culture -; that he may he find the best ways for promoting the material and spiritual wellbeing of all; and that he may effectively promote integral human development, justice and peace in the world.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, President of the USCCB (full news release):
Dear President Obama, In my capacity as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write to express my congratulations on your re-election as President of the United States.The people of our country have again entrusted you with a great responsibility.The Catholic Bishops of the United States offer our prayers that God will give you strength and wisdom to meet the difficult challenges that face America. In particular, we pray that you will exercise your office to pursue the common good, especially in care of the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, the poor, and the immigrant.We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage, and our first, most cherished liberty, religious freedom.We pray, too, that you will help restore a sense of civility to the public order, so our public conversations may be imbued with respect and charity toward everyone. May God bless you and Vice President Biden as you prepare for your second term in service to our country and its citizens. Sincerely yours, Timothy Cardinal Dolan Archbishop of New York President United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Sean Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston
Tuesday’s vote demonstrates that the people of the Commonwealth recognize that the common good was best served in defeating Question 2 [which would have legalized euthanasia]. The Campaign Against Physician Assisted Suicide brought together a diverse coalition from medical, disability rights and interfaith communities, all dedicated to ensuring that our residents were well informed about this issue. Our society must continue to work with hospice organizations and other palliative care providers to improve the care provided to the terminally ill. Patients are best served when the medical professionals, families and loved ones provide support and care with dignity and respect. (full statement)
Derry Connolly, president of John Paul the Great Catholic University
Politics always trails culture. Yesterday’s vote was a significant national validation that our culture is broadly in deep moral trouble. Pope Benedict frequently reminds us of the reality of the “dictatorship of relativism” that surrounds us. Pope John Paul the Great called constantly to a new evangelization. The next four years will see increasing persecution of Catholics, which hopefully will strengthen all Catholics to respond to the Lord’s call to evangelize. The problems of the widespread moral morass are crystal clear, very large and growing – it demands a serious response. I believe the Holy Spirit will raise up an army of young Catholics on-fire to take take our country back and to lead souls to heaven. In particular, the family is in serious trouble. Large Catholic immigrant groups – particularly the Hispanics are a key target for the destruction of their families. This demands a huge effort by the Church and the laity to strengthen them before they are lost forever in the way the African American family is decimated. When times get tough (and they are) – the tough get going – it is time, in this Year of Faith to spread the good news of Jesus Christ with vigor.
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM)
Obviously we are very disappointed in losing four tough election battles by narrow margins. We knew long ago that we faced a difficult political landscape with the four marriage battles occurring in four of the deepest-blue states in America. As our opponents built a huge financial advantage, the odds became even steeper. We ran strong campaigns and nearly prevailed in a very difficult environment, significantly out-performing the GOP ticket in every state. […] Though we are disappointed over these losses, we remain faithful to our mission and committed to the cause of preserving marriage as God designed it. Marriage is a true and just cause, and we will never abandon the field of battle just because we experienced a setback. There is much work to do, and we begin that process now. (full statement)
Michael Sean Winters, commentator for National Catholic Reporter
Massachusetts voters rejected an effort to legalize physician assisted suicide yesterday, narrowly, but they did it. This is, to my mind, the most important election result of the night. […] This vote was close to my heart. This morning, I could not find the results, but when I finally did, I confess I cried. Here was a victory against a misguided libertarianism that thinks we own our bodies as if they were commodities. It is a huge victory for the Church… (full response)
Kristen Day, Executive Director, Democrats For Life of America
Cardinal Dolan sent a letter to the President this morning to congratulate President Obama and urged him to “pursue the common good” in [his] second term. As Catholics, we must continue our efforts to support policies to assist the poor and also protect the unborn. We should look for ways to decrease abortion in this country, by supporting families and lifting them out of poverty. Putting the negative campaign behind us and hunkering down to work together is the first step.
Fr Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life
The collision course of the Obama Administration with the Catholic Church could have been averted yesterday, but now it is assured instead. It is therefore time to recommit ourselves to the basics: a clear proclamation of the truth, an uncompromising fidelity to our principles, and an unwavering commitment to civil disobedience. Many in Church leadership failed to connect the dots between personnel and policy. […] The pro-life cause will prevail in America. In the elections of 2014, we will take back the Senate to further blunt the ability of President Obama to damage the cause of life. And in the meantime we will continue the cultural progress that is so clearly on the side of life, as more minds and hearts embrace the unborn, as more abortion mills close, and as more women and men speak up about how abortion harmed them. I invite all pro-life people to join me and other pro-life leaders tonight to discuss our next steps on a national pro-life webcast to take place from 9 to 10pm ET. Sign up at www.ElectionWebcast.org. (full statement)
I have woken up this morning with renewed resolve. Elections won’t stop abortion. Our commitment to this cause and our willingness to sacrifice is what saves lives. Our willingness to file away our own desires and to simply focus on the needs of women in crisis is what saves lives. Our ability to step out of our comfort zones and to witness to those walking into abortion clinics is what saves lives. With the help of God, we save lives…not our federal government. It is up to us. It always has been, no matter who has ever been in office. Now is the time to energize grassroots efforts. Now is the time to step out of our comfort zones. Now is the time to demonstrate love to those who celebrate the culture of death. Just four years ago, I was celebrating the victory of Barack Obama. My heart has been changed. All hearts can change. We must pray and fast. Now is not the time to throw in the towel. “This too shall pass.” Be committed. Be in prayer. Be active. Use your voice. I was not voted out of Planned Parenthood. I was prayed out of Planned Parenthood.
Our work to defend the lives of the most vulnerable and to promote human dignity is not dependent on an election. This is a fight for each person, one person at a time. We will only work harder, hope and trust more, and ask God to make our lives a reflection of His love which never disappoints.
Austin Ruse, President, C-FAM (Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute):
Mitt Romney gave pro-life and pro-family voters very little to go on. He did not give any reasoned arguments for his new positions; neither did he seem to feel very comfortable with them. He said he would defund Planned Parenthood but he never said why. The most we got out of him on the life issues was that he did not have any “legislative” proposals on the right to life. Further, he said he would accept a health exception, which is how we got to abortion on demand in the first place. This was an economic campaign that should have won given that we are going through an economic crisis. But, he lost resoundingly. Perhaps it is because he tried to stand on only one leg of the three legged Reagan stool. Party leaders are not comfortable with the moral issues. They better start getting comfortable otherwise such moral voters will stay home. Exactly the wrong way to look at this is how extreme libertarians are already looking at this, that women are uncomfortable with the pro-life position and the party should start trimming its sails. How about actually running a pro-life campaign and see what happens then? McCain didn’t and lost. Romney didn’t and lost. Time to run a smart and articulate campaign that includes the moral issues.
Russell Shaw, Catholic writer and commentator
Mr. Obama’s re-election means serious trouble for the Church. The president can be expected to press his pro-abortion, pro-contraception, pro-gay marriage policies even more aggressively in the next four years than in the last four. That includes pushing the implementation of the HHS mandate, and perhaps even its expansion to include abortion and in vitro fertilization. If he has the opportunity to nominate one or more new members of the Supreme Court–and he probably will–he’ll do his best to shift the balance of power there to the left, with deeply troubling implications for many issues the Church is concerned about. Moreover, as the 50% Catholic vote for Obama despite his conflict with the Church makes painfully clear, the bishops need to re-assess their approach. Statements from bishops’ in the overheated atmosphere of an election campaign probably do more harm than good. The real need instead is for a serious, long-term program of catechesis and public information to educate Catholics concernng the moral teaching of the Church and its application to politics and public policy.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
The reelection means that the Supreme Court will ultimately decide the question of the constitutionality of the Health and Human Services mandate. […] Now, of course, with all the lawsuits—there have been dozens of them—they will certainly accept one, if not a bundle of them, and decide this question. My guess is that if the Supreme Court were to remain unchanged, with the same nine that we have, my guess is that we would win. If, however, Obama gets a chance to replace one or two members, the answer is that I just don’t know because I just can’t talk about people I don’t know anything about who might wind up there. If I’m wrong on that, then Obama will do what he’s wanted to do for many years. It’s not a matter of speculation that his goal is to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. […] That has been his goal. So, indeed the HHS mandate didn’t [demand this]. People keep calling it the contraception mandate. It’s not really a contraception mandate. If that were the case it would end there. But he threw in sterilization but more importantly he threw in abortion inducing drugs—abortifacients. Now what was the purpose of doing that? To get the nose of the camel into the tent; in other words to create the wedge that that’s where he’s going to go next. He knew he couldn’t come in right away and say he was going to require abortion to be performed and to be subsidized and the like in Catholic hospitals. That’s his ultimate goal. So I think that the Catholic Church has its work cut out for itself over the next four years. […] There was some talk earlier in the year, by Cardinal Dolan and others, that perhaps it will come to civil disobedience. I would certainly be willing to urge Catholics to take to the streets in a nonviolent way to protest these kinds of encroachments on the First Amendment. But I don’t run the Catholic Church, and I’m here as a supporter, and I will do what I think the leadership wants me to do.
Elizabeth Scalia, Managing Editor of the Catholic Portal at Patheos
It is interesting that while exit polls cited the economy and jobs as the most pressing concerns of voters, they decided to stick with a president who has been at times hostile toward business and demonstrably remiss in attending to matters of job-creation, rather than go with the businessman. From what I can tell, many people bought into the false “war on women” tropes and easy demonizations and their willingness to do so signals a furtherance of secularism and “the politics of the personal.” It means the Church is going to have to gird its loins and prepare for challenges that will require genuine sacrifice, because the society is not terribly interested, at this moment, in our very real concerns about threats to religious liberty, and those who are even aware of that threat still see it as a strictly “Catholic” issue that will not touch them. Someone tweeted me last night that the Obama win was “too bad for you Catholics” and I thought, “and there is a big part of the problem, right there, the notion that only Catholics are being challenged.” People do not see a diminishment of liberties in one area as the beginning of diminishment in all areas. […] Relativism, with a dose of narcissistic self-actualization, has been redefined as a “tolerance” that will tolerate anything but intolerance, and those religious groups who insist on teaching the faith to an age rather than teaching a passing age to the faith are seen as too-intolerant-to-be-tolerated by the secular triune godhead of state, media and academia. The challenges are only going to get worse because the society is in a habit, now, of dissolution and this election feels to me – and I emphasize feels, because this is just instinct talking – like a willful choice toward the here and now rather than eternity. It’s a choice fueled by feelings being given primacy over reason, a general lack of imagination, and a poor understanding of supernatural realities that – I am sorry to say – is partly due to the deplorable job the Church has done, for far too long, of teaching its members how joyful, affirming and fulfilling is the life lived in Christ, and in obedience to his Bride. We have for too long allowed our Church to be interpreted and filtered through media outlets whose members are sometimes hostile, sometimes ignorant, sometimes both. We have permitted a sacred continuum to be perceived as out-of-touch rather than wise, and we’re paying for that – and the payments are about to increase. But there is an opportunity, here. Last night I monitored reactions from people on social media and I saw many “people of faith” – Catholics and Evangelicals – being completely roiled by the returns and I kept thinking of Peter’s first Letter: “There is cause for rejoicing here. You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ appears.” (1 Peter. 1:6-7) There is a great deal of genuine Christian feeling and desire out there, but it is immature – American Christians have for the most part lived comfortably the life of faith. I believe we’re being given a chance, now, to become mature in our faith – if we are willing to be open to the workings of the Holy Spirit. That is a big “if”. American Christians have not gone completely untouched by the influences of secularism and the selfishness and self-regard it foments. “Thy will be done” still spins our heads because our training insists, “but what about what I want?” We don’t realize that what God wants for us is always better than anything we can want for ourselves. The Church has a lot of work to do; much to teach; voices to find. But I believe the Holy Spirit is bringing them forward. Welcome to interesting times.
Father C. John McCloskey, priest of Opus Dei and author
There was enormous confusion preparatory to this election when we read all these analysts talking about the Catholic vote, when more than half of the Catholic vote are not Catholic; they’re CINOs. And something’s got to be done—it doesn’t have to be punitive, but it’s clarity: what is a Catholic? And I think that goes with Pope Benedict’s speaking both before and after his thing about [how] being a creative minority being better than [a larger church without direction]… You see, only in the United States could this happen. If you’re in Europe or Latin America, when people don’t hold Catholic beliefs they simply stop going to Mass. It’s only in this country that where you have the church full of people who are, in one area or another, not simply in the area of voting but in their own personal lives—contracepting, divorcing and remarrying, not going to confession for years at a time—that type of thing. That to me, once you have that clarity, you’re going to help some of those people to come back, and on the other hand people will be energized who truly are Catholic and will live their faith more fervently. […] Rick Santorum ran an incredible race and got virtually no support institutionally from anything Catholic. In fact, the five former ambassadors to the Vatican all came out for Romney. Well, what in the world is going on? I mean, if we don’t help our own…. Here’s a person who goes out there with nothing and almost pulls it off, and they lined up with the typical establishment, a Mormon, no less. If they had gone the other way, they might have brought a lot of Catholics with them and we’d end up with a President Santorum right now, rather than Obama for another four years. That’s all conjectural, but you’ve got to help your own, it seems to me. I think eventually [how to respond to the HHS mandate] is going to have to be answered by the bishops or the bishop in each diocese. You can’t cooperate in evil. […] The main thing is we have to follow the example of the early Christians. I think it’s a great moment for Christians in the United States in some ways. I think the worse things get for Christians in the United States, the better it is for us because we’ve never had persecution before. And that’s what makes a country, when it has martyrs…
Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University
For those of us who are in the business of defending and protecting religious freedom I think the demand is going to continue to go up under this president. I think the president and most of the leaders of the Democratic party no longer believe that religious freedom is the first freedom of the human soul and American democracy, that they no longer believe it’s necessary for the flourishing of individuals and societies–this is not new; this has been clear for some time–and that the challenges to religious liberty are going to become even more stark over the next four years than they are now. The fact that this issue did not become a source of national discussion during the campaign is a big disappointment to me. I had thought back during the summer when the bishops were meeting—I had the opportunity to speak to them during their confab in Atlanta in June and then the Fortnight for Freedom—I had hoped that this would become an issue, of discussion, of national debate. But it didn’t…. […] We’ve had important Catholic institutions shut their doors already. In Massachusetts, Catholic Charities stopped placing foster care children with families, forced out. I understand there was an outcry there for a while, but it died down and sort of been forgotten except among those of us who try to talk about this. It does seem there is a very very high tolerance for allowing the religious voices and religious expressions of America moved to the sidelines, without anyone being terribly concerned about it. […] So, what’s it going to take to generate interest in this? I suspect that down the road may lay criminal prosecutions, the closing of doors of certain Catholic institutions. […] So to circle back around, religious liberty is a way of limiting the power of government that’s important to all of us. So if you take away these Catholic churches and charities and hospitals and so forth you’re not only losing the service they may have provided, and even if they continue to give this service and they change their name from Catholic, you’re still losing something. […] It’s hazardous to predict things these days… but it does seem to me if the First Amendment still says what it used to say, the first 16 words–add to that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, it seems to me the courts will find on the side of religious liberty and overturn the HHS mandate. I think there is a good chance this will happen. The Becket Fund is taking the lawsuits to court against the federal government on behalf of religious liberty. I think they will prevail. That’s my hope and prediction, based on what the Constitution says and on what the law says.
Stephen Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, Catholic University of America
As the notes of congratulation on President Obama’s re-election from His Holiness and from Cardinal Dolan made clear this week, the Church is looking for opportunities to work with the President in his second term. Pragmatic efforts to pursue the Church’s goals in public life depend on taking advantage of those opportunities. One major area for such cooperative efforts will be in regard to immigration issues. We’ll see another effort, maybe as early as February, for passing the DREAM Act—which the Church in the United States has very strongly supported when the administration last tried for passage. I expect better prospects for the DREAM Act this go around. But the bigger policy goal must be that of comprehensive immigration reform, for which the administration will really need strong Church support is for development and passage. From the Church’s perspective what’s needed is legislation that will offer a path to citizenship for the vast majority of undocumented immigrants. A second (and perhaps more immediate) area for Church engagement with the administration is in regard to protecting programs for the poor amidst the upcoming, critical work by Congress and the administration to avert sequestration and to address the short-term budget and the long-term debt crises. Both the Republicans and the administration are proposing plans that favor cuts over revenues. For Church concerns, care needs to be exercised to avoid cuts in public housing, nutrition, education, and health care that would come excessively target the poor. Likewise, changes to the tax code should reflect the Church’s traditional preference for progressive taxation. Finally, let me note that there remains an opportunity for the Church once again to work with the administration to secure better protection and even exemptions for religious institutions like hospitals, universities, and charities from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception insurance mandate. The U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops should signal now its interest in reopening consideration of the rules and accommodations for religious institutions in this regard. Likewise, the Church should double-down on its efforts to work with the administration in its efforts to protect and promote religious liberty abroad. The administration seems keen to enhance its liaison and communication with the USCCB and Catholic institutions around the world. This is an opportunity for the Church not to be missed and which might facilitate better sensitivity to Church concerns in the development and roll-out of a number of policies—from the Affordable Care Act to foreign aid. This is not to downplay fundamental differences with the administration on issues like the availability of abortion, contraception coverage, and the like. But improving communications and relations between the administration and the Church can only help the Church’s work.
Sheila Liaugminas, Host – ‘A Closer Look’, Network News Director, Relevant Radio
The HHS mandate issued in January 2011 wasn’t the beginning of the assault on religious liberty and the Catholic Church in particular, but it was a bombshell calculated to draw the response it got from the bishops and other religious leaders so they could then be accused of starting a ‘War on Women.’ That obvious Orwellian charge should never have worked. But it did. The socialization of the liberal sexual agenda under the spread of big government should have been obvious and offensive to most Americans. But it wasn’t. Even in churches where bishops’ statements and pastoral letters were read or discussed about the threats to religious freedom and practicing the Church’s social ministries, some Catholics walked out, or got into heated exchanges with each other about politics over the real issue at hand of constitutional rights and the ability of Catholic to carry out the Gospel mandate of working for social justice and serving the common good. This has gone on for too long, at least the past 50 years, this division within the Church – almost in half – among Catholics on the political left and right, this drift away from practicing or even knowing and understanding the faith. So, what to do? Especially since a majority of Catholics – albeit a smaller one than last election – voted for the most pro-abortion president in American history? The president whose HHS mandate reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship and forces religious employers to violate their consciences or pay punitive fines. The president who oversaw his party platform committee to eliminate Democrats for Life from having a say, to remove God from the platform (only to insert Him again by a raucous and dubious floor vote), to write gay marriage rights into the platform and to change the wording on abortion from saying it should be ‘safe, legal and rare’ to just ‘safe and legal’, since making it ‘rare’ implies a moral judgment. The president who wouldn’t even vote to protect babies who survive abortion attempts while he was senator, though most of his fellow liberal Democrats hurried to sign the ‘Born Alive Infants Protection Act.’ The president whose economic policies are so burdening present and future taxpayers that some economists call it ‘inter-generational theft.’ After an unprecedented, unified stand by the US bishops in defense of religious freedom, after creative and exciting new initiatives launched by lay groups to speak out for women’s concerns, true freedom and human rights, the humanity and life of unborn children, the dignity and sanctity of marriage and family, and the existence of transcendent truth and rights that don’t come from government but pre-exist the State, the election results delivered four more years to the president who promised to fundamentally transform America. It is providential that this is all happening in the Year of Faith, the anniversary of the Second Vatican Council which called the laity to take their place in the modern world to transform it, the just completed Synod for the New Evangelization and the recent canonization of new North American martyrs. It’s the confluence of events meteorologists call ‘the perfect storm.’
Additional reporting by Brantly Millegan