Don’t expect Cardinal Timothy Dolan to deliver any benedictions for the DNC, at least in the near term. The prelate for New York blasted Democrats for imposing a loyalty pledge for Democratic candidates to support abortion, calling it “radical” and “disturbing” in a statement issued today through the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The former USCCB president called on Democrats to demand a retraction of this position:
“The recent pledge by the Democratic National Committee chair to support only candidates who embrace the radical unrestricted abortion license is very disturbing. The Democratic Party platform already endorses abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy, even forcing taxpayers to fund it; and now the DNC says that to be a Democrat—indeed to be an American—requires supporting that extreme agenda.
True solidarity with pregnant women and their children transcends all party lines. Abortion doesn’t empower women. Indeed, women deserve better than abortion.
In the name of diversity and inclusion, pro-life and pro-‘choice’ Democrats, alike, should challenge their leadership to recant this intolerant position.”
Dolan chairs the pro-life committee for the USCCB, so any reaction from the conference would either come from him or its current president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Galveston-Houston archdiocese. Dolan has a bigger media presence, both from his previous presidency and because of his assignment to the archdiocese of New York. That platform has allowed Dolan and his sunny, avuncular approach in media to become a household name even apart from the leading role that cardinals from New York play historically. (The new book Sons of St. Patrick provides a very good perspective on that history.)
Dolan’s visibility goes even further into politics, too. As the host of the annual Al Smith Dinner, Dolan reaches across the aisle to bring together both Democrats and Republicans. Both parties have asked Dolan to offer benedictions at their events in order to make connections to Catholic voters, and he has responded in a non-partisan, unifying fashion. As befitting Catholic leaders, Dolan has also offered criticism on a bipartisan basis too, opposing Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and the HHS contraception mandate, and then opposing Donald Trump’s immigration and refugee policies, too.
That track record has built up Dolan’s moral credibility, which makes this forceful response all the more effective. This will have a big impact on the debate, at least, if not on Catholic voters who feel more comfortable with Democrats on most issues other than abortion — and there are plenty of those. Dolan and the USCCB just let the DNC and other Democrats know that they will not sit on the sidelines of the abortion question, and that if they want to make it a litmus test, Catholic bishops will have no choice but to start looking at it as one, too.