Yet in his address to the bishops right after Dolan spoke, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., stressed the need for both priests and bishops to be holy men, and like Dolan he reminded the prelates of their “solemn obligation to be faithful to our call.”
“We must continually undergo conversion ourselves, so that our people ... will have a renewed trust and confidence in us who are the messengers of the gospel,” Vigano said. “We must continually beg God to forgive those who out of human weakness have caused great pain to others,” he said, referring to the scandal of clergy abuse of children that has rocked the church for more than a decade.
Finn was never mentioned by name, and whether this change of tone will mean any concrete change in the bishops’ political activism was unclear.
After the election, many Catholic leaders and liberal activists chided the bishops for appearing to bet everything on defeating Obama, and losing.
“The bishops ... need to put aside tactics that are counterproductive. Using excessive rhetoric, like comparing the president to Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin or accusing the administration of waging war on religion, makes it difficult to form coalitions to reach achievable goals,” the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit and political scientist, wrote in a National Catholic Reporter column.
An editorial in Commonweal, a liberal lay-run Catholic magazine, suggested that “it is time for the bishops, like the Republican Party, to rethink their increasingly confrontational approach to divisive social and political questions. In light of Obama’s re-election, a change in tone and style would be both gracious and shrewd.”
Yet many conservatives said the bishops needed to speak out more forcefully than they did — to double down rather than dial down.
“Lay Catholics need to have a showdown with their bishops over exactly what they (the bishops) can say in an election cycle because they are not saying enough,” Deal Hudson, a longtime Republican activist who led efforts to rally Catholics for Romney in Pennsylvania, said the morning after the election. “This kind of nonsense has to stop.”
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