The resurgent political power of the Roman Catholic bishops

The US Conference of Catholic bishops are exercising an increasing amount of political clout here due in part to the election of a President and the rise to power of a political party they opposed. Their strong reactions to programs suggested by the President and Democratic Party controlled Congress have changed the nature of the Health Care reform bill. They are using strategic donations of money from around the country to defeat state based initiatives to recognize same-sex marriages.

“When the hierarchy convenes in Baltimore on Monday for its four-day confab, the bishops can bask in the glow of rediscovered political clout that has come about largely because of their lobbying successes in the critical health care debate. That sway was clearly demonstrated last weekend during last-minute negotiations on abortion funding in the House health care bill. Representatives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) were deeply involved in the talks, and able to bring their influence to bear on both sides.

As Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, leader of an unexpectedly large and assertive cohort of about 40 pro-life Democrats (many Catholics), was negotiating with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on an amendment to bar any funding of abortion under health care reform legislation, his last check-in was with the bishops to see if the language would pass ethical muster. They gave the okay, the amendment passed, and so did the bill.

At the same time, Arizona Republican John Shadegg was leading an effort to have anti-abortion Republicans withhold support from the Stupak amendment — something they would normally back — knowing that without the Stupak funding ban the entire bill would go down to defeat, perhaps dooming all Democratic hopes for health care reform this year and delivering Republicans a major victory.”

Read the full article here.

And as mentioned above, the Roman Catholic bishops are becoming increasingly involved in defeating same-sex marriage initiatives. The Diocese of Phoenix in Arizona, for instance, donated $50,000 toward defeating the recent effort in Maine. In fact much of the money spent in opposition to legal recognition of same-sex marriages in Maine came from Catholic dioceses all across the country. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia gave a similar amount. St. Louis only gave $5,000 but that came directly from the bishop’s discretionary fund.

According to an article from St. Louis;

All total [sic] 45 bishops contributed to the effort to defeat gay marriage in Maine, donating more than 180-thousand dollars to the effort. Of that amount, nearly half of it came from clerics either originally from St. Louis or with ties to here.

You can find all the donations from other Catholic dioceses that were funneled through the Diocese of Portland in its fight to defeat Proposition 1 in Maine here.

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