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Bishops’ Meeting Needs to Reflect on Cost of Failed Campaign

November 12, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD—As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gathers today, Catholics for Choice called on the bishops to engage in a serious examination of conscience as they reflect on their divisive political activities this year and the millions of dollars they spent trying to influence elections.

“The bishops had a miserable return on investment of Catholic people’s money and we demand an accounting of how they spent it campaigning on measures that Catholics clearly did not support,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “As the bishops meet today, they are going to have to face the reality of these failures and acknowledge that they cannot pour in enough money, even spending outside of their dioceses, to buy measures at the state level that allow for discrimination and blur the line between church and state. Each bishop at this meeting should carefully question if this failed attempt at politicking truly serves the social justice mission of the Catholic Church.”

“This meeting is an opportunity for the bishops to realize the error of their ways and promise to go and politicize no more,” said O’Brien. “We hope this reflection will lead to members of the USCCB ending their divisive campaigning and returning to their role as pastors.”

Catholics don’t share the bishops’ political views, but unfortunately, the Catholic people paid the bills for the bishops’ ill-fated political campaigns, with some bishops sending money to other dioceses to bankroll their fellow bishops’ activities. Catholics across the country deserve an accounting of what the bishops have spent this year on politicking—in the election, on ballot measures, and in their efforts to avoid providing women with access to healthcare under the banner of so-called religious liberty.

Voters in five states rejected attempts to legislate restrictions on reproductive rights, same-sex marriage and religious liberty—measures for which the Catholic bishops had campaigned heavily and spent mightily. Early reports on campaign spending on these ballot measures show that in Florida, the bishops spent nearly a million dollars, in Minnesota and Maine, more than $1.7 million in each state. Clearly, Catholics didn’t support these measures, and this cannot be what Catholics in the pews intended when they put their envelopes in the collection plates.

What spending reports won’t show is how much the bishops are spending on other political activities masquerading as religious undertakings. O’Brien said, “The Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, created at the bishops’ 2011 fall meeting, has failed to make the threat to ‘religious liberty’ believable, but its activities have wasted a small fortune that could have gone to help the poor, improve Catholic schools, or myriad other activities appropriate to the church. Instead, it attempted to rally Catholics with a cry of ‘freedom’ to justify discrimination and trample on the rights of an individual’s conscience, whether in deciding about healthcare, or in the voting booth.”

Catholics for Choice, dedicated to upholding the right to individual conscience in reproductive health and sexuality, expressed the following hopes for the bishops’ meeting:

  • As the bishops hear from Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, they should note that Catholics in Maine, Maryland and Washington state contributed to the passage of ballot measures affirming same-sex marriage rights, and that Catholics in Minnesota protected the rights of gay and lesbian couples by voting down a measure that would have banned same-sex marriages.
  • As they hear from Bishop Jaime Soto, chairman of the Cultural Diversity Committee, the bishops should remember the enormous influence of Latino Catholics and how they voted with their consciences to support candidates who defend access to reproductive healthcare.
  • And as they meet in the archdiocese of Archbishop Lori, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, the bishops should examine why American Catholics did not rally to the cause of allowing institutions to use religion to discriminate.