With evangelical Christians still backing the president in large numbers, Trump's re-election advisers hope to add another solid voting block to bolster his chances -- but Catholic leaders are balking at being seen backing the president and want to remain non-partisan.
"The 2016 election highlighted Donald Trump's successful courtship of white evangelicals. This year, much of the focus could be on Catholics. The presidential campaigns are fighting for votes in the Catholic-rich Midwestern states, and the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, is himself a Catholic," the report states before adding, "The Trump outreach effort is troubling some Catholic leaders. The church's official document on political participation, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, eschews any partisan viewpoint, a position consistent with requirements in the U.S. tax code."
According to Chieko Noguchi, spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Part of the church's mission is to shape the moral character of society. But the church isn't aligned with any political party, and it doesn't support or oppose any candidate for elective office."
As NPR notes, Trump's campaign had announced plans for a "Catholics for Trump" movement at a rally in Wisconsin that ended up being canceled due to the coronavirus health crisis, but the cancellation came after Jerome Listecki, Archbishop of Milwaukee, issued a statement distancing the church from the campaign.
"The Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee are not endorsing the rally and are in no way affiliated to or sponsoring this event or campaign locally, statewide, or nationally," Listecki stated. "The mission of the church is religious, not political."
"That message is not what President Trump wants Catholics to hear," the NPR report adds. "On a recent Saturday, Trump hosted a call with several hundred Catholic leaders from around the country. Although the call was private, two participants on the call told the online newspaper Crux that Trump repeatedly made a case for his re-election and urged the Catholic leaders to support him."
After Cardinal Timothy Dolan praised the president on Fox News, an editorial in the National Catholic Reporter criticized the back-and-forth between Dolan and the president "cringe-worthy."
"We think Cardinal Timothy Dolan ... was really making a mistake in letting this president co-opt him in an attempt to get Catholic votes," explained Heidi Schlumpf, the magazine's newly named editor-in-chief. "We called it an unholy alliance."
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