Despite the White House’s recent effort to honor people committed to Catholic education, analysts are cautioning about seeing the gesture as an appreciation for Catholic teachings.
Political commentator and author Mark Stricherz said that the decision to highlight Catholic educators “is not surprising.”
“Teachers have been a Democratic constituency for four decades at least,” he told CNA on Jan. 26.
“But to most practicing Catholics who follow the news, the president's timing would strike them as a Janus-faced move,” Stricherz said.
“He honors their educators while dishonoring their faith and leaders.”
The White House honored 10 individuals involved with Catholic education at a Jan. 25 ceremony, where they were recognized as “Champions of Catholic Education.”
The event included time for each person to share how he or she was able to help improve Catholic education in the United States.
Currently, more than 2 million children are educated in Catholic elementary and secondary schools across the country.
However, the White House ceremony comes amid growing tension between the Obama administration and Catholics in the United States.
That fact was not lost on the U.S. bishops' conference spokeswoman Sister Mary Ann Walsh. “Irony is the word of the day,” she said in remarks to the Washington Post.
The Obama administration has clashed with Catholic leaders over a series of religious freedom disputes.
Most recently, the administration drew strong Catholic criticism for its Jan. 20 decision to require health insurance plans to cover contraception, including abortion-causing drugs – and sterilization.
Despite concerns raised by religious leaders across the country, the Department of Health and Human Services has refused to allow an exemption for most religious employers who object to such “benefits.”
Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, observed that the mandate seemed unfairly targeted at Catholics and those with similar beliefs.
“The Amish have a conscientious objection to health insurance, and so the law exempts them from buying it,” she wrote in a Jan. 24 blog post.
“Why are beliefs of Catholics and others dismissed?”