NEW YORK — More than 1,000 Catholics have signed an open letter in protest of Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s phone call with President Donald Trump and a follow-up interview on Fox News, labeling the president as “not pro-life.”
“Your recent phone call with President Trump and appearance on Fox News sends a message that Catholic leaders have aligned themselves with a president who tears apart immigrant families, denies climate change, stokes racial division and supports economic policies that hurt the poor,” they wrote in the letter which was published on Friday with the names of the signatories.
“Please speak truth to power and refrain from giving even the appearance that bishops have their hands on the scales in this election,” it continued.
Crux was the first to report on the content of the phone call between Catholics leaders and the president, which took place last Saturday.
While the call was organized as an effort for Catholic educators to raise concerns about the state of Catholic schools suffering from decreased enrollment and budget deficits in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the president used the occasion to repeatedly make a case for his reelection. He warned that a Democratic adminstration would not support Catholics on issues related to abortion, religious freedom, and school choice.
Dolan was the first Catholic leader to speak on the call, where he thanked the president and joked that his mother says he calls the president more than her.
For his part, Trump described himself as the “best [president] in the history of the Catholic Church,” adding that he had gotten rid of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibited religious leaders from endorsing candidates, so that “you can express your views very strongly.”
In his interview on Fox News earlier this week, Dolan said that he saluted the leadership of Trump, adding that “Everybody has really come through, but the president has seemed particularly sensitive to the, what shall I say, to the feelings of the religious community.”
“Neither political party fully reflects all aspects of Catholic social teaching. I’m guided by my faith, not partisanship,” wrote the signatories in protest of the cardinal’s recent remarks. “But this president’s extreme cruelty and basic lack of respect for human dignity must be challenged.”
Among the signees are John Gehring, the Catholic Program at Faith in Public Life Action; Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice; Stephen Schneck, executive director, Franciscan Action Network; and Father Bryan Massingale of Fordham University.
On Friday, Dolan weighed in on the criticism he’s received in an online interview with Jesuit Father Matt Malone, editor-in-chief of America Media.
“I’m getting much more criticism from those on what you might call the right,” Dolan said of his collaboration with New York’s Democratic leaders on coronavirus relief efforts.
“Are we in the sacred enterprise of accompaniment and engagement and dialogue or are we not?” he asked.
He went on to cite Pope Francis’ call for bridge building, saying that “we can bring up the critical things” if there are established relationships to do so.
The New York cardinal did not weigh in on whether he viewed the president’s bid for reelection support as inappropriate, only citing an Italian expression that “you gotta make gnocchi with the dough you’ve got.”
Follow Christopher White on Twitter: @cwwhite212