By Michael Sean Winters
(National Catholic Reporter) President Obama met with New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan without fanfare Nov. 8, the White House has confirmed.
Dolan is the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The men discussed a range of issues related to the often complicated and recently fractious relationship between the administration and the U.S. church hierarchy. A spokesperson for the USCCB declined to confirm or deny the meeting.
The meeting came in advance of next week’s plenary meeting of the USCCB in Baltimore at which the bishops will discuss their new ad hoc committee on religious liberty. It was sandwiched between two of Obama’s foreign trips, to France for the G-20 summit and to Asia.
According to a White House official who spoke with NCR on background, the meeting was part of the Obama administration’s work with faith leaders from across the spectrum, and was one among many meetings with officials from the Catholic Church and the administration.
The official also noted that the Obama administration has robust partnerships with organizations such as Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA to serve individuals and families in need across the country and the world. The official said that the administration looks forward to continuing these critical partnerships in the future.
The meeting between the president and Dolan comes against the backdrop of continued news stories about friction between the administration and the bishops. In today's Washington Post, Jerry Markon reports on congressional Republicans inquiring into the decision by the Department of Health and Human Services not to renew a contract with the USCCB for a program assisting the victims of human trafficking. Another article in the Post, by Religion News Service’s David Gibson, highlights that tension between the White House and the USCCB.