Initially hailed as a possibility for ecumenical cooperation, the Catholic Alliance, the newly formed branch of the Christian Coalition aimed at U.S. Catholics, has created a rift between the Catholic hierarchy and the evangelical organization that claims to speak for more than 200,000 Catholics.

Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, New York, became an early critic of the alliance, calling the coalition's initiative "startling and offensive--another effort to split Catholics from their bishops."

At the very least, Hubbard told fellow bishops, "It must be made clear that the Catholic Alliance does not speak for the bishops, who are the official teachers of the church, and that we should be very careful about disseminating their materials through our parishes and other church organizations both for reasons of compounding the confusion and for legal reasons."

Hubbard's remarks in an executive session with fellow prelates at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) meeting last November were the first to begin a steady stream of warnings. A January statement from Colorado's three bishops cautioned parishes to keep an arm's length from the organization that claims to represent the "Catholic" position without any communication with the bishops' conference.

"We must say as strongly as possible: the Catholic Alliance of the Christian Coalition does not represent the Catholic Church," reads the statement, signed by Archbishop J. Francis Stafford of Denver, Bishop Arthur Tafoya of Pueblo, and Bishop Richard Hanifen of Colorado Springs.

Many in the Catholic hierarchy admit that the Catholic church and the alliance share views on pro-family issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and pornography.

But they sharply disagree on many other ...

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