On the same day that his Roman Catholic nominee to the Supreme Court began her confirmation hearings, and on the heels of a weeklong Catholic outreach blitz around his inaugural meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, President Obama has nominated a well-known Catholic doctor to be surgeon general.
Here's what the usually conservative Catholic League President Bill Donohue—who has attacked the Obama administration on multiple fronts—said about the nomination of Regina Benjamin:
President Obama picked the right person to be the new Surgeon General. Dr. Benjamin is a hero to all those victimized by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Her tireless and selfless efforts are a model for all physicians.
Dr. Benjamin is an African-American Catholic public servant who has been recognized by Pope Benedict XVI: the Holy Father awarded her the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal for distinguished service. When the pope celebrated Mass in Washington, D.C. in 2008, Dr. Benjamin was there to receive his blessing. Moreover, she has also received the National Caring Award, an honor which was inspired by Mother Teresa. "Church was always a very important part of my life," she told Catholic Digest. "I believe I am carrying on the healing ministry of Christ. I feel obligated to help continue his works."
Kudos to President Obama and congratulations to Dr. Benjamin. She should sail through the Senate.
A few weeks ago, Donohue revealed that he was inclined to "quietly root for" court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.
This is the same man whose attacks against John Kerry's religious outreach director in 2004 led the campaign to silence her and whose criticism of Democrats played a major role in inspiring the formation of progressive Catholic groups like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good after the '04 election.
Criticism of the White House notwithstanding, Donohue's repeated praise for Obama is a striking testament to the efficacy of Obama's sensitivities to Catholic concerns.