Obama and the Bishops: What’s Next?

By Jacqueline L. Salmon An editorial on President Obama and the U.S. Catholic bishops in National Catholic Reporter makes for … Continued

By Jacqueline L. Salmon

An editorial on President Obama and the U.S. Catholic bishops in National Catholic Reporter makes for interesting reading. Its conclusion — that they should get along better — is predictable. But it spells out in dramatic detail how badly relations between Obama and the leadership of the Catholic church have deteriorated.

The editorial revives some of the low points on the Obama-bishops hit parade:

*A New Jersey bishop who compared candidate Obama to King Herod (who had John the Baptist beheaded).

*Masses in two diocese that were offered for the “conversion of Barack Obama.”

*The Rhode Island bishop who wrote a fictional interview with the president in which Obama says, “If you control the population and eliminate the children, you don’t have to worry about giving them food, clothing, shelter or medicine, now do you?”

Then there was the University of Notre Dame controversy, when more than 60 bishops publicly criticized the school for inviting Obama to speak and receive an honorary degree at its commencement.

National Catholic Reporter says that things got so out of hand that Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Vatican ambassador, reportedly “chastised” the bishops.

With health-care reform and, possibly, immigration reform, in the works, the bishops are said to be concerned that relations have frayed too deeply to give the Catholic church a major role in either initiative. (Church leaders have backed health care reform and comprehensive immigration reform for years.)

In the group interview that I participated in with Obama in early July, he shrugged off the controversies, saying basically, we’re all entitled to our own opinions. But it will be interesting to see if the more vocal bishops continue their censure as those issues continue to rise into public consciousness.

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