On March 16, 2018, the opening day of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, journalist and former First Lady of California will be featured in a “Conversation with Maria Shriver.” Shriver, a member of the Kennedy political dynasty, is a life-long Catholic, but she has publicly departed from official Church teachings on several issues.
In 2008, Shriver was interviewed by “The Washington Post” about her Catholicism; Shriver referred to herself as a “cafeteria Catholic.” She said:
Even though I consider myself a Catholic in good standing, I disagree with a lot of the teachings of the Church. But I believe in the compassion and the justice of Jesus Christ; I believe in the social justice of the Catholic Church. But I don’t believe in, you know, that if someone’s divorced they shouldn’t get Communion. I don’t believe that people who are gay shouldn’t be accepted into the Church. There are a lot of things like that.
Concerning abortion Shriver said:
I’m pro-choice, I believe that a woman should have that right. I often talk to my daughters at my dinner table about the difference between pro-abortion versus pro-choice. I think a lot of people don’t make that distinction in life — they think everybody’s who’s pro-choice is like, ‘Yeah, let’s have an abortion.’ And I believe that choice should be left to a woman.
On the subject of same-sex marriage, during the contentious 2008 attempt to pass Proposition 8 in California, which prohibited same-sex couples from marrying in California, Shriver said she would vote against the ballot initiative:
I believe in people’s right to choose a partner that they love, and that’s a decision that I have come to, and I have felt that way for a long time.
In a statement from the California Catholic Conference, representing the Bishops of California, Catholics in the State were urged to support the passage of Proposition 8.
Proposition 8 was voted into law, but was later overturned in 2013; on that day, Shriver tweeted:
Big day for love. Big day for marriage equality. I do believe that everyone deserves to say "I do" to whomever they choose. Yes, I do.
— Maria Shriver (@mariashriver) March 26, 2013
In 2015, Shriver co-authored a letter to Pope Francis, along with pro-women’s ordination advocate Sister Joan Chittister. They praised the Pope because “…you gave us hope when you said the Church has become too ‘obsessed’ with gay marriage, abortion, and contraception.” Shriver then cites a poll conducted by her own “Shriver Media” which found that the majority of Catholics perceive the Church as “out of touch and far to the right.” Shriver writes:
Fully 86% of them agree with you that, yes, the Church should be less “obsessed” with the culture wars and more focused on income inequality and the environment. But most of the Catholics we polled go even further — calling themselves “good Catholics” while holding positions that contradict Church doctrine. They insist one can be a good Catholic and use birth control (94%), be pro-choice (71%), get divorced (94%), have pre-marital sex (88%), or marry someone of the same sex (72%). Welcome to America! And while most of us agree with your call for a serious and more potent role for women in the Church, we Americans would do even more — a whopping 88% of us calling for women priests.
You’ve proclaimed an upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy. Might that mercy ever be extended to divorced Catholics who want to remarry in the Church and take Communion, without getting an annulment? Might that mercy ever be extended to gay couples who want to be married in the eyes of God? Might that mercy be extended to those who choose birth control over having another child they can’t afford? Might that mercy be extended to women who feel called to celebrate the Eucharist?