(CNSNews.com) - Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said he would have liked to have "been there" on Tuesday as protestors outside the bishops' annual conference in Baltimore assailed the prelates as being "too right wing." Dolan commented that most of the mail he gets accuses him of being too liberal and too chummy with Democrats.
In speaking with a reporter for radio station WBAL, Card. Dolan said he would have liked to “have gotten their gripes," even accusations that the bishops were “too right-wing in their politics” during the last election cycle.
“I wish I could have been at that because I would have thanked them,” Dolan said, “because most of my mail is accusing me and the bishops of being too left-wing and too cozy with the Democrats, and too comfortable with the president. And too concerned about the social justice agenda, rather than the other things. So that would have been a nice balancing act if I could have gotten their gripes.”
Dolan’s comment came at a news conference Tuesday in response to a question from the WBAL reporter: “There was a demonstration outside the hotel about an hour or so ago and some folks delivered some petitions to the conference and they said, in part, the Church’s positions and emphasis, especially this election year, on life and marriage issues over poverty and helping the poor is causing a lot of young Catholics to stray away from the Church. I’m curious – you’re thoughts on that, and if that is in fact happening, how do you bring those people back into the fold?
Before answering, Dolan, in an open aside, asked Sister Mary Walsh, the USCCB director of communications, “Sister, is that the same demonstration you clued me in on, that was saying that the bishops have gotten so right-wing in their politics?”
Walsh acknowledged: “That is the one.”
Dolan then disputed the complaint.
“First of all, I don’t think that’s true," Dolan said. "Is there some disagreement? You bet there is. But the young people that I meet, who are particularly fervent in their beliefs, are very proud of the Church [and the fact] that [it] speaks in a prophetic way about the defense of marriage and the defense of innocent human life.”
Dolan, however, also said that even if the criticism were true, it would not have any effect on the bishops’ stance.
“We don’t dream up issues,” Dolan said. “We get them from Jesus and His Gospel, as faithfully interpreted by the Church for two millennia. So we would still have the sacred responsibility to preach with vigor.”
The USCCB conference was held in Baltiomore, Md., Nov. 12-15.
Cardinal Dolan was criticized by many Catholics for inviting President Barack Obama to speak at the annual Al Smith Dinner, a Catholic charities fundraiser, held in New York City on Oct. 18.
President Obama is a strong supporter of abortion and same-sex marriage, two positions contrary to fundamental Catholic moral teaching. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has also issued a mandate requiring nearly all health insurers to offer sterilization, contraceptives, and abortion-inducing drugs free of charge, a regulation that the USCCB has declared is "unjust" and a violation of religious liberty under the First Amendment.
This week in Baltimore, Card. Dolan said of the HHS mandate, “The only thing we’re certainly prepared to do is not give in -- not violate our consciences and not obey what we consider to be something immoral. That we’re committed on.”