Is the Democratic Party hostile to Catholics?

Everybody here in Milwaukee still remembers Archbishop Timothy Dolan fondly. A jovial Irishman with a round, red beaming face, he exuberantly represented Milwaukee’s Catholics upon his installation in 2002. Catholics and non-Catholics alike loved his stories, big smile, sense of humor, and obvious love for people. It was his sad duty to lead the archdiocese through painful bankruptcy proceedings because of the $21 million legal settlement due to the many sexual abuse cases that had come to light. Recognizing that talent, the pope himself tapped Archbishop Dolan in 2009 as the new archbishop of New York and elevated him to the rank of cardinal.

In a strongly worded opinion piece in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal, Cardinal Dolan expressed his shock and wonderment that the political party that his family had always supported now seemed to have grown hostile to Catholics. In the world of his Irish parents and grandparents, the Democratic Party strongly identified with Catholic working people. His grandmother told him once, “We Catholics don’t trust those Republicans.” It had become a cause of sadness to him because “the needs of poor and middle-class children in Catholic schools, and the right to life of the baby in the womb have largely been rejected by the party of our youth.”

Cardinal Dolan, like many staunch pro-life Catholics, had been shocked and saddened that national Democratic Party chair Tom Perez insists that “pro-life candidates have no place in the modern Democratic Party.” He noted with dismay that Illinois pro-life Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski was essentially blacklisted by his own party. “The party that once embraced Catholics now slams the door on us.”

Cardinal Dolan also found it bitterly ironic that the party that once defended the little guy, the poor and marginalized in society, should have become so hostile to the concept of school vouchers that would enable poor families to send their children to religious schools. “Democrats in the New York State Assembly repeatedly blocked education tax credit legislation, which would have helped middle-class and low-income families make the choice to select Catholic or other nonpublic schools for their children. . . . Opposing the bill reduces the ability of fine Catholic schools across the state to continue their mission of serving the poor, many of them immigrants,” Cardinal Dolan said.

In his time in Milwaukee, Archbishop Dolan was able to witness quite a few Catholic elementary and high schools using state vouchers in the Milwaukee Parental School Choice program. The Wisconsin legislature’s decision in 1996 to open up the program to religious schools (not just Catholic) was immediately halted by a lawsuit brought by the ACLU (no surprise) and the NAACP (big surprise since the vast majority of families that wished to take advantage of the law were African-American).

What’s your view? Do your Catholic relatives and friends view the Democratic Party of today as friend or foe?

Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of several books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.

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