New York’s Timothy Cardinal Dolan was on Face the Nation yesterday in a taped interview, an opportunity to push back against the secularist posture that has been invading our civic life in the most pernicious ways, most concretely in the form of the coercive contraception/sterilization/abortion mandate that this administration has issued and continues to stand behind.
“Politics, just like business, just like education, just like art, just like culture, only benefits . . . when religion, when morals, when faith has a place there,” Dolan said.
“The public square in the United States is always enriched whenever people approach it, when they’re inspired by their . . . deepest held convictions,” he continued. The cardinal added that “the public square is impoverished when people might be coerced to put a piece of duct tape over their mouth, keeping them from bringing their deepest held convictions to . . . the conversation.”
After Bob Schieffer played a tape of Joe Biden (who we all know was an altar boy in Scranton) defending the administration’s mandate, claiming that Catholics should be fine with how things have turned out. As he has before, Dolan made clear, first of all, that he is not just defending the rights of those working for the Church, but, he said, “we are still worried not just about our institutions but also the individuals.” The White House has still not protected the conscience rights of Americans in the wake of the president’s health-care law. Dolan told Schieffer, “We still find ourselves in a very tough spot, and we’re still going to continue to express what we believe is just not a religious point of view but a constitutional point of view that America’s at her best when the government doesn’t force a citizen or a group of citizens in a religious creed to violate their deepest held moral convictions.”
Dolan expressed his continued frustration at the president, which he so well expressed in a recent interview with James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal:
I am a little confused, because the President told me . . . his position, his conviction is that the government would do nothing to impede religion. . . . He was very gracious, and especially complimenting the Catholic family in the United States in their work for health care, charity, and education. And he’d say ‘I don’t want this administration to do anything . . . to impede that.’ It’s tough for me to see how the strangling HHS regulations do anything but that.
He would later add, too:
We didn’t ask for this fight, I don’t enjoy it at all, I wish I was on here Face the Nation answering other questions and you probably do, too. We didn’t ask for the fight but we’re not going to back away from it. . . . I don’t think religion should be too involved in politics but I also don’t think the government and politics should be overly involved in the Church, and that’s our problem here. You’ve got a dramatic, radical intrusion of a government bureaucracy into the internal life of the church that bothers me. So hear me say, hey, I’d like to back away from this, I got other things to worry about and bigger fish to fry than this. Our problem is the government is intruding into . . . the life of faith and in . . . the Church that they shouldn’t be doing.
Schieffer asked Dolan about Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, too, on two issues close to my heart. First, the JFK question: Is Rick Santorum right that his speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September 1960 has been a problem in years since? (It’s been a theme Santorum has been talking about for a while now.) Dolan agreed that the speech has been used to obstruct the healthy interaction between faith and civic life.
Schieffer also asked the cardinal if Catholics “would have a problem with a Mormon president.” (You’ll recall Mitt Romney addressed this issue in a big and important way in late 2007.) Dolan responded by referring to remarks he made before an Anti-Defamation League audience recently, where he got a standing ovation for saying “there may be reasons not to vote for Mitt Romney as president of the United States. That he is a Mormon cannot be one of them.”
“I don’t think Catholics should have any problem voting for a Mormon at all,” Cardinal Dolan said. One of the ways we can be ecumenical in this campaign season, he said, is to “see that religious prejudice, religious bigotry doesn’t enter the campaign.” Especially those among us who have felt its sting in our history or our lives.
He didn’t leave the interview, by the way, without getting in an Easter message to the Sunday-show audience.