Timothy Dolan, Cardinal Archbishop of New York and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, returned in glory to his former see of Milwaukee yesterday. A priest of the archdiocese was unimpressed:
Cardinal Falstaff came back for a victory lap in Wisconsin. He chose the Carmelite-run shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians, aka Holy Hill as the backdrop for his new scarlet apparel. Among his few accomplishments in this part of the world, he had the place designated a basilica.
I watched the thing on live-stream and it had many of the schmaltzy Dolan touches which endeared him to many. But the political sub-text was clear--this was a pr boost for Scott Walker (who got tremendous applause from the thousand plus crowd there--and a reference to his mother's cookies by the food-crazy Dolan). Walker used to visit Dolan secretly during their respective terms in Milwaukee. Walker has a penchant for secret doors and he always skulked in through a back entrance, down darkened hall-ways for his tete-a-tetes with Dolan.
But the low point was Dolan's public embrace of Paul Ryan--"my friend"--whose Ayn Rand inspired budget has set off an internal debate about Catholic social teaching. Dolan is a Republican and it is clearer than ever that his faction of the episcopal conference intends to deliver as many votes to the Republicans as they can in the fall. If people pay attention to all this, here is about as clear a proof as any that this "religious liberty" stuff is really partisan politics. It is a velvet hammer on the head of Catholic social teaching.
Listecki warmed up the crowd with a cheer-inducing reference to "religious liberty" and they also used the prayer of the faithful to also invoke the Almighty's blessing on their politics.
It was in the end a Republican Catholic rally in a swing-state--pouring holy water on some of the worst partisans in today's GOP. Walker would never have attended if he wasn't assured that it would not turn into a PR disaster. Ryan's smarmy appropriation of the Catholic "brand" must derive from his contact with the hard-right in the Catholic church. I wonder who the "some bishops" are who quietly encourage him? I wonder who feeds him lines about "subsidiarity" which he uses in the same way as the bishops use "religious liberty"--a brand name, devoid of true content or genuine understanding of its meaning. Ryan is not educable and debating words like "subsidiarity" with him is a waste of time. This is only a Trojan horse to further silence Catholic social teaching.