billdonohue.jpgWhen Catholic League for Civil and Religious Life President Bill Donohue attacked John Kerry’s faith outreach director as insufficiently godly–“her resume is that of a person looking for a job working for Fidel Castro”–the Kerry campaign silenced her, forbidding her to talk to the press.
When Donohue attacked the Democratic National Committee’s faith outreach director for similar reasons shortly thereafter, she resigned. Barack Obama’s National Catholic Advisory Council is taking a different tack, fighting Donohue’s attacks head on.
God-o-Meter reported late last week that the Catholic League characterized Obama’s Catholic council as a bunch of “Catholic dissidents” because some of their social positions jarred with the official Vatican line. Today, many members of the council–not all–joined forces with other Catholic activists and struck back with a letter to Donohue. Here’s the money line:

Mr. Donohue, your work to fight legitimate cases of anti-Catholic bigotry in this country should be applauded. But when you smear other Catholics with whom you disagree, you betray your own cause.

Here’s the full text of the letter:
May 8, 2008
Dear Mr. Donohue:
We write in our individual capacities and not on behalf of the campaign. Last week you labeled many of our friends, and some of us, as “Catholic dissidents” because we support Senator Obama.
Unlike the Catholic League, the U.S. Catholic Bishops advise careful consideration of candidates’ positions on a broad set of issues. While abortion and other life issues are of fundamental concern, the bishops teach that particular issues must not be misused “as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity” such as “racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care or an unjust immigration policy” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, #29). Our bishops go on to point out that “these are not optional concerns which can be dismissed.”
Across these issues Senator Obama offers much to the well-formed Catholic conscience, which helps to explain why many Catholics are supporting him.
As Catholics, we view abortion as a profound moral issue. But what have nearly three decades of Republican promises to end abortion accomplished? Other aspects of the conservative Republican agenda have been carried out with fervor, such as weakening of the social-safety net, privatization, deregulation, destruction of labor unions, and belligerent and aggressive foreign policy. But ending abortion remains the perennial promise, one that is too often hijacked by partisan operatives who seek only to divide voters. Many Catholics are fed up with the divisive tactics and empty promises around this issue.
Senator Obama recognizes that abortion presents a profound moral challenge, tied in part to a loss of the sense of the sacredness of sex and lack of parental involvement. On the campaign trail he regularly calls on parents to turn off the television and has called on fathers to meet their family responsibilities. Regrettably, these clips are not included in your press releases.
Senator Obama has also reached out to Americans on both sides of this issue and embraces practical proposals designed to reduce the number of abortions in this country, including comprehensive health and sex education, better health care, economic support for women, and promoting alternatives like adoption.
Like other Americans, we have watched as many candidates brought to office on a so-called prolife platform insisted on policies that have left the lives of millions more of our brothers and sisters at risk from war, uncontrolled pollution, deeper poverty, and growing economic inequality.
Not this year.
This year, there are many Catholics – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – who won’t let that happen again.
We are proud to be counted among Senator Obama’s Catholic advisors. Collectively our experience spans decades of scholarship and service working for and with the Catholic Church on the broad set of issues under the “consistent ethic of life.”
We were drawn into the campaign by Senator Obama’s vision for the common good, his profound message of hope, and his ability to unite citizens across class, race, and even party lines. We are excited about his promise as president, and we commend him to our fellow Catholics.
Mr. Donohue, your work to fight legitimate cases of anti-Catholic bigotry in this country should be applauded. But when you smear other Catholics with whom you disagree, you betray your own cause. Our measure of what it means to be a “good” Catholic is not defined by the narrow pronouncements of partisan operatives; but rather by the rich teachings of our Church and our informed consciences.
Former Congressman Tim Roemer of Indiana
Sr. Catherine Pinkerton, Congregation of St. Joseph
Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin
Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas
Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut
Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts
Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont
Representative Xavier Becerra of California
Representative Lacy Clay of Missouri
Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut
Representative Anna Eshoo of California
Representative Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona
Representative George Miller of California
Representative Linda Sanchez of California
Mary Jo Bane, Professor, Harvard Kennedy School
Nicholas P. Cafardi, Catholic Author and Scholar, Pittsburgh, PA
Lisa Sowle Cahill, Professor of Theology, Boston College
Tom Chabolla, Assistant to the President, Service Employees International Union
M. Shawn Copeland, Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College
Ron Cruz, Leadership Development Consultant, Burke, VA
Sharon Daly, Social Justice Advocate, Knoxville, MD
Richard Gaillardetz, Murray/Bacik Professor of Catholic Studies, University of Toledo
Grant Gallicho, Associate Editor, Commonweal Magazine
Margaret Gannon, IHM, A Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Scranton, PA
Don Guter, Judge Advocate General of the Navy (2000-2002); Rear Admiral, Judge Advocate
General’s Corps, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Pittsburgh, PA
Teresa Heinz, Chairman, Heinz Family Philanthropies
Cathleen Kaveny, Professor of Law and Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
Victoria Reggie Kennedy, President, Common Sense About Kids and Guns
Peggy Kerry, Independent Consultant, New York, NY
Jim Kesteloot, President and Executive Director, Chicago Lighthouse
Vincent Miller, Associate Professor of Theology, Georgetown University
David O’Brien, Loyola Professor of Catholic Studies at the College of the Holy Cross
Reverend Michael Pfleger, Pastor of Faith Community of St. Sabina, Chicago, IL
Sr. Jamie Phelps, O.P., Director and Professor of Theology, Institute for Black Catholic Studies,
Xavier University
Peter Quaranto, Senior Researcher and Conflict Analyst, Resolve Uganda (Notre Dame Class of
Dave Robinson, International Peace Advocate, Erie, Pennsylvania
Vincent Rougeau, Associate Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame
Mary Wright, Inter-Faith Liaison, Louisville, KY


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