To understand the reasons for the demise of the Religious Right, we need to understand the reasons for its creation.
The Religious Right is an artificial construct of the corporatocracy in the 1970s intended to energize conservative Americans into political activism. The tool would be Christian Nationalism, a type of religion capable of persuading these voters to choose their own impoverishment in return for a government which would embrace fundamentalist “moral values.” This religion would legitimize conservatives’ fear, bolster their conviction of cultural superiority and American exceptionalism and claim its own infallibility as being divinely inspired.
Before SuperPACs and Citizens United existed, religious organizations could accept unlimited donations from sources foreign and domestic with no disclosure of names or amounts and offer their American benefactors a tax deduction to boot. The expenditures of their tax exempt proceeds never have to be revealed.
In addition, religious leaders exhorting their followers on carefully structured and framed “issues” would have the deference of the mainstream media including the presumption of sincerity and moral rectitude often in the face solid evidence to the contrary.
From the beginning, the corporatocracy selected the Roman Catholic Church as their instrument, an institution with millennia of experience in unity of church and state – prelates urging the laity to a docile acceptance of tyranny in return for government support and feigned obsequiousness.
Catholicism, unlike other Christian denominations, has a global hierarchical authority, diplomatic clout, sovereign immunity and a transnational financial network anchored in the “offshore” (i.e. geographically beyond the reach of regulators) Vatican Bank – the last three due to its unique status among religions as an independent state.
Older Republicans had already formed close working relationships with reactionary Catholics, the Knights of Malta – an international brotherhood experienced in maintaining oligarchies – under the Pope Pius XII/Cardinal Francis Spellman partnership in the clandestine, dirty wars against Communism in Italy, Eastern Europe, Vietnam and Latin America. (Several CIA directors were either close to, or members of, the Knights, as were Nixon Chief of Staff, General Alexander M. Haig, and Secretary of the Treasury, William E. Simon.)
The corporatocracy needed, however, additional conservative Christian voters in order to win elections. Paul Weyrich, the little-known Catholic strategist who founded ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, and many other neocon innovations, chose Jerry Falwell to lead the Moral Majority. Weyrich not only conceived the name but its issues and methods as well. From there, it was easy to recruit venal ministers with the lure of fame and fortune. No doubt most evangelical pastors are sincere Christian National believers but they ignore their own denominational roots as persecuted minorities in Europe and as Americans who fiercely resisted colonial established churches.
The corporatocracy scored huge victories after placing Gov. Ronald Reagan (see the October Surprise archive at consortiumnews.com) and Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (see my book, The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America) into leadership positions. Both men were transformed into superstars by the corporate-owned media which looked the other way at their support of Central American death squads. The president placed neocons in government positions and the pope appointed American bishops holding the same ideology ready to fight for the Republican Party.
Fast forward to the present and the Catholic Church is still the leader of the Religious Right.
Earlier this year, the bishops – each one swearing obedience to the head of a foreign state – generated two Congressional hearings, legislation introduced in the House with 190 cosponsors and the Senate with 29, a lawsuit by seven state attorneys general and the support of three of the four GOP presidential candidates, over the Affordable Care Act’s mandate of health insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Failing legislative means, in May 43 dioceses and other Catholic organization filed suit in federal court to eliminate the coverage.
Currently, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is leading their Fortnight of Freedom campaign of public demonstrations to convince us that, although they failed to disapprove when 28 states – some since the 1990s – already require insurers to provide coverage for contraceptives, that this is really about “religious freedom” and not presidential election-year politics.
Yet something is happening this year. Whether it’s the Church’s positions against women’s rights, same-sex marriage, the cumulative effect of a decade of shocking and disturbing news about the sexual abuse of children, or all of the above, there is an increasing number of columns and blogs rejecting the bishops as good-faith proponents of any issue. Even the hierarchs’ unenthused interest in poverty and immigration is seen as only a lame pretense to bipartisanship.
The same is happening at the corporatocracy’s religious headquarters in Rome. Reuter’s reporter, Philip Pullella wrote that the Church now “faces a deeper crisis of authority and relevance in the wider world.”
The European press has not been favorable to what Vatican observers say is the “imminent” reintegration of the schismatic group, the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), into the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI has waged a decades-long campaign for reconciliation with the group which was founded by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, a Vichy French collaborator and anti-Semite. SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson is an infamous Holocaust denier and the Southern Poverty Law Center considers the religious order to be a hate group “characterized by open anti-Semitism.”
Since January, official Vatican documents leaked to the press have disclosed details of an insider world of ambition, corruption, greed and scandals including:
- Assertions that the IOR (Institute for Religious Works), the formal name of the Vatican Bank, continues to act as an “offshore bank” with secret accounts affording anonymity to, and laundering money for, politicians, businessmen and the Mafia.
- The successful plot to oust IOR president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was led by a papal-backed faction who feared Gotti Tedeschi’s desire for greater transparency of Vatican finances and cooperation with international regulators.
- Further confirmation that Pope John Paul II knowingly protected serial child-molester and founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr. Maciel Marciel Degollado.
- The sex abuse scandal in the U.S. is considered only a financial problem. How much money is necessary to pay off accusers in order to avoid the horrific disclosures of public trials?
- On December 10, 2009, a car owned by the Vatican gendarme was found riddled with bullets in Rome.
A whistle-blower who claimed to work in the Vatican for 20 years, appeared on Italian television in February with his identity hidden. He stated the Vatican is a place where one can literally get away with murder, a reference to the “suicide” of 22-year-old Swiss Guard Lance Corporal Cedric Tornay in 1998. Tornay’s mother, who literally had to steal her son’s body from Church custody, produced forensic evidence that Cedric was murdered but her pleas to Pope Benedict to allow the case to be reopened and the evidence presented to Vatican judicial officials have always been refused.
The same whistle-blower also called for the pope to allow a reinvestigation of the 1983 disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, the 15-year-old daughter of a Vatican employee, with the same zeal Benedict has shown for discovering who has leaked documents to the press.
In April, the tomb of mobster Enrico de Pedis was opened in a Rome basilica after police received a tip that that’s where Emanuela’s remains would be found. That story led to the further revelation that the Vatican allegedly was paid $660,000 to allow the remains of de Pedis to be buried next to various popes and cardinals.
The post-9/11 anti-terrorism, anti-money-laundering regulation of financial institutions has caused additional problems for Vatican officials who have no choice but to use banks outside their jurisdiction.
In September 2010, €23 million was frozen by investigators in Vatican accounts held in two Italian banks for suspicion of money-laundering.
JP Morgan Chase closed the Vatican account in their Milan branch this past February because the Church wouldn’t provide the provenance for the €1.5 billion moved through that account over an 18-month period.
Susan Pittman of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement spoke to Reuters in March after the Holy See (the juridical and diplomatic name of the Vatican) was placed on their watch list of problematic countries for the first time. “To be considered a jurisdiction of concern merely indicates that there is a vulnerability to a financial system by money launderers. With the large volumes of international currency that goes through the Holy See, it is a system that makes it vulnerable as a potential money-laundering center,” she said.
Vatican officials are currently refusing to cooperate with a request made by Italian police that the IOR disclose records regarding the “vast sums of money” passed through the account of an Italian priest suspected of laundering money for a Mafia godfather.
Contrast this year’s news coverage with the reporting of the 1980s Vatican Bank scandal even though those fraudulent activities were well known by international financiers. Not only were two of those involved, Roberto Calvi and Michele Sindona, assassinated with the British and Italian governments accepting the pretense that they were “suicides,” but at least 10 innocent Italians – bank employees, law enforcement officials and a reporter – were also killed as part of the cover-up, all deaths which could have been prevented had Pope John Paul II exposed those he knew to be criminals or if he had contacted Italian authorities for assistance. That pope was given a free pass by the media after not only looking the other way but also protecting the conspirators.
Like the shift in U.S., I can only guess the difference is because now everyone knows that the pope and his hierarchs have operated a global pedophile safe-house – that millions of children have been tortured under the Church’s supervision and secrecy. While statutes of limitations have protected the bishops in this country and the pope’s sovereign immunity has shielded him and his men in Rome from accountability and justice for these crimes against humanity (as documented by a 20,000-page complaint filed with the International Criminal Court in the Hague), they can no longer hide from public opinion including those of financial authorities.
Last week, when the pope called his Church’s sexual abuse of Irish children a “mystery,” he was internationally castigated by all save the rightwing media.
What can we do?
We can demand that the Obama Administration stop pouring billions of tax-payer dollars through the executive branch into the U.S. Catholic Church for charities and programs which can be more equitably administered by American non-profits which are not anti-women, anti-gay and under the control of a criminal foreign potentate.
Secondly, we can ask that our government recall its ambassador to the Holy See in the name of all the children who have been brutalized. I understand that we maintain diplomatic relations with dictators who are mass murderers. However, trade and balance of power considerations and the innocence of the country’s inhabitants enter the deliberations. In contrast, the Holy See conducts no trade other than money transfers and its few inhabitants are mostly clerics and prelates who hold citizenship in other countries.
I also understand that these actions are not possible during an election year because they would create further distractions from the more pressing issues facing us.
But they are the right things to do.
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