Open Letter to Archbishop Timothy Dolan: Stop the Partisan Politics

There is a double standard where the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is concerned: you'll start a nuclear political war with a pro-choice Democrat but allow a pro-life Republican to get away with anything.
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February 11, 2012

Archbishop Timothy Dolan
Archdiocese of New York
1011 First Ave
New York, N.Y. 10022

Dear Archbishop Dolan:

I write you as a fellow Christian ordained to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It has been with great disappoint that I have watched the battle the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched against the Obama Administration -- and the President personally -- over the recently released rules concerning contraception coverage and religious organizations. As always, I take concerns made by the conference seriously and consider them to be made in good faith even as many Christians, and often the majority of Roman Catholics polled, disagree with your positions. People of good faith can come to different conclusions on different moral and theological issues. In that spirit, I have always defended the right of Roman Catholics to freely argue their point even when I personally disagree with it.

However, President Obama has worked to reach a genuine accommodation and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has rejected that effort. Other Roman Catholics, including Catholic Charities and the Catholic Health Association, have voiced support for the president's efforts. Those organizations have been joined by leaders of my own United Church of Christ and a wide variety of Christian leaders. It is now clear that Roman Catholic leaders are divided, while the vast majority of Roman Catholic lay people support the president's efforts to expand health care opportunities for all women.

Several bishops have directly attacked the president during this period and encouraged the divisive and completely untrue notion that the President is attacking religious liberty or waging a war against religion. Frankly, the rhetoric used by some bishops resembles GOP presidential candidates.

At the same time you have launched this unprecedented attack against President Obama -- essentially calling him an opponent of the Christian faith, a false and malicious charge -- it is sad to note that you have remained silent as Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum (along with many Congressional leaders) have advanced political platforms directly at odds with Roman Catholic social teaching without a word of descent from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. On issues ranging from cutting aid to the poor, to eliminating foreign aid, to war and peace, these candidates promote an agenda that most Christian bodies oppose, but from your office there has been silence.

It seems obvious there is a double standard where the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is concerned: you'll start a nuclear political war with a pro-choice Democrat but allow a pro-life Republican to get away with anything -- from starting real wars to supporting the death penalty to having an open marriage and repeatedly divorcing.

More and more the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sounds like the Catholic League, a right-wing political group. This is a terrible tragedy.

I have always enjoyed a strong relationship with local Roman Catholic leaders in my community and worked side-by-side on issues that promote the common good, such as fighting homelessness and poverty, even as my church has differed with the conference on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. But I fear that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a great and noble moral voice which Americans have looked to for wisdom for generations, is forgetting the essential tenants of our shared Christian faith and is allowing partisan politics to interfere with ministry.

Clearly, you have different rules for how you deal with Republicans and Democrats in your official roles as church leaders.

I urge you to listen to the wisdom of your laity and to enter into new dialogue not just with the Obama Administration but with fellow Christian communions so that we might learn from one another and together again advance the common good of this great nation.

Your brother in Christ,

The Rev. Chuck Currie
P.O. Box 18023
Portland, Oregon 97218

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