- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2019

Liberal Catholics are criticizing the spokeswoman for the D.C.-based U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for the conservative politics she shares on her personal Twitter account.

Judy Keane, the director of public affairs at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, doesn’t have a large following on social media — roughly 300 followers — but in the past months she has frequently excoriated Democrats such as Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, according to reporting that first appeared in Commonweal, a liberal magazine for American Catholics.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Ms. Keane, who has been employed as director since 2016, produced a “series of tweets enthusiastically backing President Trump.”

Criticism of Ms. Keane’s tweets began with one posted May 29. She was responding to Newt Gingrich’s remarks about former special counsel Robert Mueller with a link to a pro-Trump website boasting that the president had taken the “shackles” off ICE.

John Gehring, former associate director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who authored Wednesday’s post in Commonweal, wrote, “It’s worth noting that Keane’s employer USCCB has opposed Trump’s wall and strongly denounced the president’s termination of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.”

Neither Ms. Keane nor the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops responded to requests from The Washington Times for comment.

Ms. Keane’s email said she is on leave until next week.

“For several weeks, Catholics on social media noted these tweets were inappropriate, and there was just radio silence from the bishops conference,” Mr. Gehring told The Times in an interview Thursday.

According to reporting, Ms. Keane also liked a tweet from Fox News host Laura Ingraham that said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez should win a prize for stupidity. Ms. Keane has since made her Twitter account private.

Ms. Keane or any other Catholic may support Mr. Trump, Mr. Gehring said, but such comments from the spokeswoman for Catholic bishops can be easily conflated with the conference itself, which is nonpolitical.

“This requires a level of prudence,” he said.

Some liberal Catholics fear movements in the faith toward an embrace of Mr. Trump and changes he represents in the Republican Party.

Last month, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, a Vatican heavyweight and informal favorite of conservatives who are often critical of Pope Francis, announced he was resigning from the Dignitatis Humanae Institute. He cited its ties to the “political program” of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

In April, the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, which is not sponsored by the bishops conference, hosted Mr. Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who told the 1,400 in attendance that Catholic principles were “alive and well” and “driving many of our policies” in the White House.

Mr. Gehring said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ lack of response has raised wounds from 2016 when the Catholic News Service forced the resignation of a longtime CNA editor for taking to Twitter to criticize religious liberty bills that some thought were hostile to the LGBTQ community.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Ms. Keane’s boss, James Rogers, chief communications officer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said bishops, “not staff, set the Conference’s federal policy positions.”

• Christopher Vondracek can be reached at cvondracek@washingtontimes.com.

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