Appearing on the television show “Face the Nation” on Easter Sunday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan decried the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate.
“We didn't ask for the fight but we're not going to back away from it,” Cardinal Dolan said. He added:
What I'd say is this: Yeah, I don't think religion should be too involved in politics but I also don't think the government and politics should be overly involved in the Church, and that's our problem here. You've got a dramatic, radical intrusion of a government bureaucracy into the internal life of the Church that bothers me. So hear me say, hey, I'd like to back away from this, I got other things to worry about and bigger fish to fry than this. Our problem is the government is intruding into the--into the life of faith and in--in the Church that they shouldn't be doing. That's--that's our--our read on this.
The prelate also defended what he saw as the main thrust of John F. Kennedy’s famed 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Alliance, in which the presidential candidate said, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President, should he be Catholic, how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote.”
At the same time, Cardinal Dolan explained why he sympathized with Senator Rick Santorum’s criticism of the Kennedy speech. (Santorum, referring to the speech, said, “I almost threw up … In my opinion it was the beginning of the secular movement of politicians to separate their faith from the public square. And he threw faith under the bus in that speech.”)
Cardinal Dolan said:
I would cheer what John Kennedy said, he was right, and I would--I would find myself among those applauding that speech. That having been said, I would also say that Senator Santorum had a good point because, unfortunately, what John Kennedy said in September of 1960 to the Baptist Ministerial Alliance in Texas has been misinterpreted to mean that a separation of church and state also means a cleavage a wall between one's faith and one's political decisions, between one's--one's moral focus and between one-- the way one might act in the political sphere. I don't think John Kennedy meant that and as you know recent scholarship has shown that John Kennedy was very inspired by vision, by character, by virtue, let's call that faith, let's call that morals. So I don't think John Kennedy meant a cleavage between faith and politics. He did mean a wall between state and church, and I would applaud that one, but I would agree with Senator Santorum that unfortunately that has been misrepresented to mean that faith has no place in the public square. That, I would, with Senator Santorum say is a misinterpretation not only what Senator Kennedy meant but with what the American genius is all about.
Asked, “What is your greatest challenge now as a Catholic leader?” Cardinal Dolan replied:
Well, the greatest challenge is to--is to--in a way, it is the same as it was that first Easter Sunday morning, to try to show that God, religion, the Church is on the side of life and light and freedom and hope. That is what--that is the biggest challenge, that life-giving, liberating, ennobling, uplifting message of--of the Bible, of morality, of the Church, of Jesus, that's--that's our challenge, Bob, and in a world--I mean you are on the frontlines, you got to report bad news all the time, most of the time we want to cry when we see the news, because there is so much darkness and tragedy and sadness, so the greatest challenge I got is try to preach the good news and try to show that the light and life and promise of the Gospel always trumps the bad news that we hear all the time. There is a great religious challenge.