President to Catholic Press: On the Bishops

In response to Joe Feuerherd’s question about whether the president might “write off the bishops,” President Obama had this to say:

He said that he would not “write off the bishops,” and he gave his reasons.

“No. 1, one of the strengths of our democracy is that everybody is free to express their political opinions, and I take people’s opinions seriously. I’m the president of all Americans, not just the Americans who happen to agree with me,” said the president.

“The American bishops have a profound influence in their communities, in the church, and beyond,” he continued. “What I will say is that although there have been criticisms leveled at me from some of the bishops, there have been a number of bishops who have been extremely generous and supportive, even if they don’t agree with me on every issue. So in that sense the American bishops represent a cross section of opinion just like other groups do.”

He then gave the examples of Cardinal George and Cardinal Bernardin as bishops who he has worked with.

“Part of why establishing a relationship with the bishops is important to me is because I have very fond memories of Cardinal Bernardin, who was in Chicago when I first arrived to be a community organizer — funded in part by the Campaign for Human Development — and working with Catholic parishes on the South Side of Chicago,” the president added. “And so I know the potention that the bishops have to speak out forcefully on issues of social justice. ... There are going to continue to be areas where we have profound agreements, and there are going to be some areas where we disagree. That’s healthy.”