Cardinal Timothy Dolan asks candidates to sign civility pledge

NEW YORK — Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who sparked controversy by agreeing to deliver the closing blessing at the Republican convention … Continued

NEW YORK — Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who sparked controversy by agreeing to deliver the closing blessing at the Republican convention in Tampa this week, on Monday (Aug. 27) drew further attention to his political role by asking both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama to sign a “civility pledge” promoted by a leading conservative Catholic activist.

The archbishop of New York wrote to Romney and Obama, as well as their running mates, Paul Ryan and Joe Biden, asking them to sign the “Civility in America” pledge developed by Carl Anderson, head of the powerful Knights of Columbus and a man with long-standing ties to the Republican Party.

Dolan, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the most prominent Catholic churchman in America, said he wanted the candidates to forgo personal attacks and “remain focused on the critical issues facing our nation.”

Neither Dolan nor the Knights of Columbus pledge specifies which issues they meant. But Anderson, whose title is “supreme knight,” has been a vocal supporter of the bishops’ campaign against the administration’s controversial birth control health insurance mandate. The Knights have also donated millions of dollars to efforts against legalizing same-sex marriage.

For years Anderson has blasted Obama and Biden, who is Catholic, for their support for abortion rights. Just last week in the conservative journal National Review, Anderson penned a blistering critique of Obama for what he said was the president’s decision “to make unrestricted access to abortion a key component of his campaign.”

Anderson is a veteran GOP operative. He spent several years working for Jesse Helms, the late North Carolina senator and ardent culture warrior, before going to work in the Reagan White House. Anderson has influential allies among conservatives in the Vatican and the hierarchy, and the Knights of Columbus can deploy huge sums for — or against — causes they support or oppose.

In closing his letter to the candidates, Dolan promises that if the candidates sign he will “be most happy to be able to convey to Carl Anderson and to the 1.8 million members of the Knights of Columbus, that you have chosen to support this valuable effort.”

Dolan has become increasingly active and visible as the presidential campaign gears up. His decision to deliver the benediction at the GOP convention on Thursday night immediately following Romney’s official nomination was met with sharp rebukes from many who say his appearance will formalize what was seen as the hierarchy’s growing embrace of the Republican ticket.

Whether either of the candidates will sign Anderson’s pledge is unclear. Dolan’s plea comes after a prominent evangelical, Rick Warren, canceled plans for a “civil forum” appearance at his Southern California church by both presidential candidates, saying the nasty political atmosphere had ruined the opportunity.

Sources in both the Romney and Obama campaigns said that in fact neither candidate was planning to attend Warren’s forum. Both campaigns are targeting Catholics in the November election.

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  • one nation

    All people elected to public office must keep all religions out of our American government. Dolan is being used by the G.O.P. to get the RC vote as Dolan has his message in as well. Who is kidding who?

  • amelia45

    Why should the candidates be required to be civil when bishops are not required to be civil. They lie, distort, and have priests in claim the same lies and distortions from the pulpits.

    Clean up your own house, Dolan.

  • Ed Gentner

    Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and the rest of the religious zealots who line up to interject themselves into the election process should think hard and long at the risks they are taking exposing their institutions to the scrutiny inevitable scrutiny they invite. As a Catholic who had eight years of the Nuns in grade school and Jesuits in high school I was taught that we enjoy the religious freedoms in our country because of a separation between church and state. That separation allows religious institutions tax exempt status as long as the religions remain separate and apart from government, Pope John Paul ll forbid Catholic priests from running for public office, yet today a Catholic Cardinal jumps in to make his amplified voice heard in tacit support for, Mitt Romney, a Mormon Bishop….I would no more consider voting for anyone based on the endorsement of a member of the hierarchy of any church or religion and I certainly would not support that candidate if he or she was a part of the hierarchy of any religious sect. Our country is a non-sectarian nation that does not embrace any one faith, rather we embrace the freedom to choose what ever faith or no faith, that is the lasting gift our founding fathers gave us with the First Amendment. The founding fathers felt so strongly, that they enshrined the principle or a separation of church and state as the first of the ten amendments that are the “Bill of Rights”.