I’ve been too depressed about the 2016 election to write anything, pro or con, about its protagonists but the current crop of emails hacked by WikiLeaks can’t go unremarked.
Being sophisticated readers, you are, no doubt, familiar with the “Know-nothing” Party of the mid 19th century. Chafing under the influx of Irish and German Catholic immigrants to the United States, Protestant nativists (who were hardly “natives”) founded a number of secret and semi-secret societies to address the “problem.” As these societies grew increasingly political and were investigated by curious journalists, members responded to inquiries: “I know nothing.” Of course, as the wags were quick to notice, their ignorance went very deep.
A new crop of anti-Catholicism has reared its viperous head. There’s no small irony in this, as it comes from the party that understands itself to be tolerant of diversity.
It isn’t, not when it comes to Catholicism.
Like any movement, this one has been some time in the making. Catholics – mirroring the society among whom they lived – began serious spiritual fragmentation in the mid-twentieth century. In the past, such groups would have splintered off but in this case, they burrowed in, often killing off entire communities in their fervor to “conscientize” them.
The most “successful” of these dissidents labored under the banner of Call to Action. Its members worked inside the Church to change moral truths (as if that were possible), Church structures, and political opinions.
By the 2008 presidential election, several of these folks saw an opportunity to push the agenda even further. Various structures were created to woo Catholics further and further from its teachings, among them Catholics United and its partner organization Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG), which not only endorsed pro-choice candidates but argued that this was a viable moral position for Catholics. [A detailed discussion of this can be found at Spero
Furthermore, there was (and continues to be) a loose coalition of related groups – including CACG – that lobbied Catholic voters, from various directions, to support legislation that was seriously, critically, and morally flawed. See Spero
So, this anti-Catholic “evangelization” has been going on for a long time. It’s not shocking any more…just frustrating. The latest news comes from newly-released hacked emails, written by Clinton's current campaign chairman John Podesta in 2011, in which he allegedly has an exchange with Sandy Newman, founder of ACORN-related Project Vote (which employed Barack Obama in 1992 as it Illinois State Director).
In a 2012 email thread entitled “opening for a Catholic spring? just musing …”, Sandy Newman writes Podesta that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' opposition to the Obamacare contraception mandate got him thinking: “There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church. Is contraceptive coverage an issue around which that could happen. [sic] The Bishops will undoubtedly continue the fight. Does the Catholic Hospital Association support of the Administration’s new policy, together with ‘the 98%’ [of Catholic women (and their conjugal partners) who he says have used contraception] create an opportunity?”
He explains that he’s coming to Podesta because he has “not thought at all about how one would ‘plant the seeds of the revolution,’ or who would plant them.” Evidently, he hopes Podesta might have some ideas.
Podesta does. “We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this. But I think it lacks the leadership to do so now. Likewise Catholics United. Like most Spring movements, I think this one will have to be bottom up.”
Who are the “we” in the above statement? Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholic United owe their existence, at least in some part, to the efforts of the Soros-funded liberal think tank, Center for American Progress (CAP) of which Podesta has been president and is currently Chair and Counselor. CACG shares several board members and advisors with CAP, including Podesta, and has received funding from Soros’ Open Society Institute. The “we” in this statement can be inferred from these relationships.
Like the 19th century “know-nothings”, this next bit becomes wildly ironic. Another set of Podesta emails includes two other key CAP personages. One is Jennifer Palmieri, former is White House Communications Director under Obama and currently Hillary Clinton’s Director of Communications for the 2016 presidential campaign.
She had just become (or was within a few days of becoming) president of the “progressive communications war room” run by CAP’s advocacy arm, the Center for American Progress Action Fund at the time of these emails (April 2011).
The other person in this discussion, titled “Conservative Catholicism” – as if Catholicism has political parties or can be understood in political terms – is John Halpin, co-director and creator of CAP’s Progressive Studies Program.
The three colleagues try to make sense of these Catholics. “Many of the most powerful elements of the conservative movement are all Catholic,” Halpin complains. “It’s an amazing bastardization of the faith. They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.”
Halpin apparently is unfamiliar with Catholic thought or history. In a later email, he grumbles: “They can throw around ‘Thomistic’ thought and ‘subsidiarity’ and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they’re talking about.” Clearly, Halpin doesn’t.
Snarky comments aside, such as “with a library card and a willingness to learn you, too, could understand these concepts”, the fact is CAP and its minions are selling a distorted “Catholicism” that suits their own political agenda. These nouveau know-nothings have dismissed what they admittedly don’t understand and insist the Church is “backwards”.
No, wait. That would be too consistent. That would be a remark worthy of “systematic thought” and there is no “systemic thought” to be had in these email comments. What Halpin has actually said is that this “backward” Catholic Church supports progressivism.
Halpin, Podesta, and Palmieri don’t apparently care what the Church objectively teaches. Catholics are a political demographic; all that matters is that is that a conversation be introduced to shape that demographic toward progressive political ends, “Thomism” and “subsidiarity” and all other such “sophisticated” Catholic ideas be damned.
There’s a lot of naked bigotry here.
And a bit of existential terror because it’s just possible that the Catholic people you dismiss as “conservative” – the ones who know what the Church teaches about the dignity of human life, and the moral and social structures that serve that dignity – may not be as “unsophisticated” as you think.