Former Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, whom President Biden has picked to be U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, is at odds with Catholic teachings on issues ranging from abortion to religious freedom, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights said Friday.
An analysis of Mr. Donnelly’s voting record by the prominent watchdog group shows he shifted leftward against church teachings on abortion, gay marriage and the Obamacare contraception mandate between the time he served as congressman from Indiana from 2007 to 2013 and his subsequent tenure as a senator from 2013 to 2019.
Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights President Bill Donohue told The Washington Times on Friday that some church-affiliated news sources have incorrectly reported Mr. Donnelly to be a “pro-life Democrat” since the news broke of his nomination last week.
“The guy is oppositional to the Catholic Church on every major moral teaching,” Mr. Donohue said. “For him to represent the United States at the Vatican is a disgrace.”
Mr. Donnelly did not immediately respond to attempts by The Times to reach him for comment Friday.
However, the president of the University of Notre Dame, where Mr. Donnelly graduated college in 1977, has defended the former senator’s faithfulness.
“He will bring to this role a deep understanding of the issues currently facing our nation and the world, a genuine Catholic faith and an understanding of the role the Church can play in our world,” the Rev. John Jenkins said in an Oct. 8 statement congratulating Mr. Donnelly on his nomination that day.
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, meanwhile, claims that as a congressman in 2009 and 2010, Mr. Donnelly agreed with the positions of the anti-abortion group National Right to Life 83% of the time. But when he later became a senator, the percentage suddenly plummeted, initially to 20% in 2013 to 2014 time frame, then to 25% in 2015 to 2016 timeframe, and then 28% in 2017 to 2018 time frame.
With that as a backdrop, the pro-choice group known as NARAL gave Mr. Donnelly a 0% score in 2016, but rated him with an 84% score in 2017 and an 80% score in 2018, when he voted to support taxpayer funding of the abortion procedures.
On gay marriage, the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign gave him a 30% score in the House and an 85% score in the Senate.
Mr. Donnelly, who is identified in reports as a practicing Roman Catholic, also voted against an Indiana religious freedom bill in 2015 and against school choice during his last term in the Senate.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken stances opposite to Mr. Donnelly‘s votes on all of these issues, according to Mr. Donohue.
“There’s a reason he came out of retirement to run Catholics for Biden,” Mr. Donohue told The Times. “He lost his re-election bid. If people know he started as pro-life and then evolved into pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion, anti-religious liberty, and anti-school choice positions in direct contradiction of the bishops, it looks bad.”
Catholic News Service (CNS), the U.S. bishops’ wire service, called Mr. Donnelly pro-life in its report on his nomination this week.
Mr. Donohue said the National Catholic Reporter, a pro-choice newspaper that operates outside of official church approval, spread that claim to CNS and other Catholic news sources by originating it in a prior report on the nomination.
“If he‘s tagged as pro-abortion, that might create problems for his nomination, so they’re trying to snooker people,” Mr. Donohue said.