Dances With Hacks: Bishops as Politicians

by Michael D’Antonio Huffington Post, 8/27/12

Long a bouquet of shy wallflowers compared with evangelicals, Catholic bishops are at last joining the dance at the Republican party. The big step forward will be made as New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan says the closing benediction at the GOP convention this week. His appearance marks the first time in 40 years that an American cardinal has traveled cross-country for this purpose, and it comes as the churchmen reveal themselves to be more like politicians — in style and substance — than ever before.

The Republicans have danced to this song many times before. Since 1980, the party has used evangelicals to win elections but denied them most of what they want in policy from restoration of school prayer to a nationwide ban on abortion. With Mitt Romney’s selection of the fiercely anti-abortion Paul Ryan, he signaled the party is now taking conservative Catholics for a whirl. However, everything in Romney’s flip-flopping character suggests that once again, religiously motivated voters will give up their votes and get little in return.

For their part, the Catholic hierarchs are abandoning the restraint that once made them credible as moral leaders above the partisan fray. The danger in this choice is evident when you consider that a majority of Catholics disagree with their leaders. They use contraception and oppose the GOP’s “no exceptions” abortion stand. Polls also show Catholics support gay rights and marriage at about the same rate as the general population. These Catholics are not pleased to see their bishops lining up with party hacks or with an evangelical movement that includes a significant number of anti-Catholic bigots.

The fact that Timothy Dolan is leading the bishops in a partisan direction is not a surprise…

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