Cardinal Dolan Slams Democratic Party's Treatment of Catholics: It 'Weakens the Democracy Millions of Americans Cherish'

Cardinal Timothy Dolan / Getty Images
March 23, 2018

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, has voiced his disappointment in the Democratic Party for slamming the door on Catholics' pro-life views and blocking education tax credit legislation that would give middle-class and low-income families choice between Catholic and public schools.

Dolan wrote an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal  Thursday, titled, "The Democrats Abandon Catholics," where he talks about two recent events that caused him to reflect on two people with "tremendous effect on the Archdiocese" and who he said are worth remembering in the current political moment.

The first event was last Saturday's feast of St. Patrick, the patron saint of his cathedral and archdiocese. He said St. Patrick reminded him of Archbishop John Hughes, an immigrant who defended the dignity of Irish immigrants during the 19th century and "initiated Catholic schools to provide children with a good education sensitive to their religion and to prepare them as responsible, patriotic citizens."

With many of the schools still open today, Dolan slammed Democrats in the New York Assembly for repeatedly blocking education tax credit legislation, which he argued would allow middle and low-income families to have the choice of Catholic or other nonpublic schools for their children. He went on to say their opposition to the bill hurts Catholic schools and reduces their ability to help serve the poor, many of which are immigrants.

The second event that Dolan highlighted was the recent funeral of Dolores Grier, an African-American woman who converted to Catholicism and was named vice chancellor of the archdiocese three decades ago by Cardinal John O’Connor. Dolan said she was passionate about civil rights, especially the life of babies in the womb. He wrote:

Grier attributed her pro-life sensitivity to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who preached that abortion was an act of genocide against minorities. No wonder, she often observed, abortuaries were clustered in poor black and brown neighborhoods. The statistics today confirm her observation: In 2013 there were more black babies aborted in New York City (29,007) than were born here (24,758), according to a report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The values Archbishop Hughes and Dolores Grier cherished—the dignity and sanctity of human life, the importance of Catholic schools, the defense of a baby’s civil rights—were, and still are, widely embraced by Catholics. This often led Catholics to become loyal Democrats. I remember my own grandmother whispering to me, "We Catholics don’t trust those Republicans."

Such is no longer the case, a cause of sadness to many Catholics, me included. The two causes so vigorously promoted by Hughes and Grier—the needs of poor and middle-class children in Catholic schools, and the right to life of the baby in the womb—largely have been rejected by the party of our youth. An esteemed pro-life Democrat in Illinois, Rep. Dan Lipinski, effectively was blacklisted by his own party. Last year, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez insisted that pro-life candidates have no place in the modern Democratic Party.

Later in the op-ed, Dolan questioned the validity of the Democratic Party being a "big tent" party by putting the frequently used descriptor in quotations and saying it has instead become a "pup tent." In pointing to the closed-mindedness in the party, Dolan referenced a recent WSJ op-ed by former Hillary Clinton staffer Annafi Wahed. In the piece, Wahed described her experience at the Conservative Political Action Conference. She complimented conservatives for embracing her and listening to her views, which she admitted would not have been a courtesy afforded to a conservative attending a liberal conference.

"I’m a pastor, not a politician, and I’ve certainly had spats and disappointments with politicians from both of America’s leading parties. But it saddens me, and weakens the democracy millions of Americans cherish, when the party that once embraced Catholics now slams the door on us," Dolan wrote.

This is not the first time that a Catholic leader has been critical of the Democratic Party this year. Thomas John Paprocki, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield, Ill., reaffirmed a ban preventing Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) from receiving holy communion within the diocese after the senator voted against a bill to ban late-term abortions.

"Because his voting record in support of abortion over many years constitutes ‘obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin,’ the determination continues that Sen. Durbin is not to be admitted to Holy Communion until he repents of this sin," Paprocki said. "This provision is intended not to punish, but to bring about a change of heart."