More than 1,500 American faith leaders, mainly Catholic clergy, religious sisters, academics, theologians and lay workers, have signed an open letter, organised by the 'Faith in Public Life' movement in protest at remarks made by Cardinal Timothy Dolan to President Trump.
In a conference call on 25 April, to discuss the plight of Catholic schools badly affected by Covid-19, Trump described Cardinal Dolan as a "great gentleman" and "a great friend of mine." The Cardinal responded saying he held "mutual" feelings toward the president and that he calls Trump more often than he calls his 90-year-old mother. Two days later on the show 'Fox and Friends' Cardinal Dolan said of Trump: "I really salute his leadership." He added that he also admired the leadership of New York Gov Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, but said "the president has seemed particularly sensitive to the, what shall I say, to the feelings of the religious community."
John Gehring, Catholic program director for Faith in Pubic Life told CNS on 4 May: "Cardinal Dolan has every right to engage with the White House. But there is a difference between dialogue and a kind of deferential coziness with a president who, frankly, has used cruelty as a political weapon and who abuses power. That's what the concern was here. It was not that there was an engagement with this president."
"Catholics want our bishops to be prophetic leaders who speak truth to power," he added. "This call felt like the essence of transactional politics."
The open letter follows:
Dear Cardinal Dolan,
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. There is nothing "pro-life" about Trump's agenda.
Please speak truth to power and refrain from giving even the appearance that bishops have their hands on the scales in this election.
Neither political party fully reflects all aspects of Catholic social teaching. I'm guided by my faith, not partisanship. But this president's extreme cruelty and basic lack of respect for human dignity must be challenged.
When religious leaders put access to power before principles, they risk losing the moral clarity needed to ensure politics is about the pursuit of the common good. I pray that you and other bishops will show the leadership our country needs at this difficult time.
John Gehring, Catholic Program Director, Faith in Public Life Action Washington, DC; Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice Washington, DC , Sister Pat McDermott, RSM President, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Silver Spring, MD, Stephen Schneck, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network Washington, DC; and Prof J Matthew Ashley University of Notre Dame South Bend, IN
Faith in Public Life - www.faithinpubliclife.org/