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Fidelis’s CatholicVote.org Enbraces the Apostate Glenn Beck and More!

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

The Tom Monaghan-linked group Fidelis which has seemingly dabbled in financial fiddling seems to be at it again. It’s political affiliate, CatholicVote.org is employing Catholic Right culture war memes to help elect Mitt Romney to the presidency – while also falsely casting economic libertarianism as the basis of the Church’s understanding of Social Justice.

We’ll talk about that in a moment, but let’s first call on Glenn Beck to help us set the stage.

One would think that Glenn Beck should be the last person to instruct American Catholics on how to vote in the upcoming election. After all, Beck is the former Fox television talk-show host who gave religious folks an odd admonition:

“I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words.  Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”

Now, a few oddly influential neocons or libertarians notwithstanding, economic justice is a cornerstone of Catholicism, especially since 1891 papal encyclical Rerum Novarum.  This means the right for workers to organize; the right to a living wage; and the belief that labor is not to be treated as a mere commodity.  This has been repeatedly reaffirmed, most recently in the papal encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

I guess no one should be surprised that Mr. Beck abandoned Catholicism to become a Mormon in 1999 because “For me some of the things in traditional doctrine just doesn’t work...”

The actual Catholic view of economic justice is as lost on the folks at CatholicVote.org as it is on the apostate, Glenn Beck.  So much so, that the group created a September 25th town hall call-in event designed to reach Catholic voters centered around the self-described “Rodeo Clown” in the hope of roping them into the GOP.  Uncoincidentally, the group’s the group’s president, Brian Burch, took a leave of absence to work for the Romney campaign.

As previously noted, CatholicVote.org is a project of Fidelis (it may have superseded Fidelis itself as its web site no longer exists)

Fidelis is currently affiliated with Champion the Vote, a project of United in Purpose (UIP), which has been quietly financing and organizing a revived, dynamic religious right. Who makes up UIP’s leadership? The Los Angeles Times reports, “Most of its financial supporters remain anonymous, but one of its main backers is technology entrepreneur Ken Eldred, a generous Republican donor. Its board includes Reid Rutherford, a Silicon Valley solar-energy plant developer.”

UIP is the group that bankrolled at least American Family Association’s involvement in the Perry prayer rally – an event that featured prominent anti-Catholic New Apostolic Reformation ministers.

There seems to be some hypocrisy here. Conservative Catholics and conservative evangelical Protestants both oppose reproductive rights; marriage equality; and embryonic stem cell research. Those issues are consistent with the Vatican hierarchy. But with that said, CatholicVote.org is clearly out of sync with Rome – and the larger Church — on economics and environmental stewardship.

This disconnect was readily apparent by their town hall event featuring none other than… the apostate Glenn Beck!

This disconnect is evident right on the CatholicVote.org’s “Issues” page on its web site where culture war hot button issues – marriage, for example – are prominently featured.

But also front and center is an an essay in the “Taxes and Government” by Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor of The National Review, complaining about how entitlements for the elderly are financed. The link to Economic Justice features a brief essay authored by Samuel Gregg, Director of Research for the libertarian Acton Institute.  And the link to Environmental Stewardship while darkly warning of the “worship of nature” makes no mention at all of global warming.

Let’s consider Samuel Gregg a little further. He is also affiliated with the anti-regulation, libertarian Atlas Economic Research Foundation.  A past president of Atlas once said its mission “is to litter the world with free-market think-tanks.” To that end, major funders include Exxon-Mobil ($500,000 since 1998) and Koch family foundations (1997-2008: $122,300). Other similarly-minded contributors include the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Earhart Foundation (Harry B. Earhart, who started the foundation, funded much of the work of libertarian icon economist Friedrich von Hayek).

Ramesh Ponnuru’s leading role at The National Review speaks for itself.  But he comes from good libertarian stock. He served as a fellow of  The Institute of Economic Affairs , which also gave birth to Atlas. The Institute was founded by another Hayak benefactor, Antony Fisher.

By clicking on “Educational Freedom” we find an essay by Kevin Schmiesing calling for the public funding of vouchers for private school tuition. Who is Mr. Schmiesing? He is a research fellow at the Acton Institute.

Economic libertarianism is anything but synonymous with the principles of Catholic Social Justice. Indeed, it is its antithesis. It is a theory in which workers are commodities and should not be paid much beyond subsistence. I suspect that advancing this belief under the guise of religious freedom (for the hierarchy, that is) is what CatholicVote.org’s agenda is ultimately about.

Writing in his recent book, The “Poisoned Spring” of Economic Libertarianism: Menger, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard: a Critique From Catholic Social Teaching of the ‘Austrian school’ of Economics, Catholic economic author Angus Sibley noted:

Most practical methods of reducing inequalities are repugnant to libertarians. Labor unions are hated because they obstruct the worker’s freedom to agree his own contract with his employer. Minimum wage rates are another blasphemy against the divine free market, whose worshippers assert, against much historical evidence, that fixed minima “inevitably” reduce the demand for labor and so cause unemployment. Redistributive taxation (higher tax rates on higher personal incomes) “is a mode of disguised expropriation of successful capitalists and entrepreneurs” according to Mises, while his admirer Murray Rothbard stated that “Taxation is Robbery” and that “the libertarian favors the right to unrestricted private property and free-exchange”.

He also wrote:

Catholic teaching flatly repudiates all that nonsense. Leo XIII (Rerum Novarum, §45) spoke of “a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner”, and he strongly commended (#49) workers’ associations, of which “the most important of all are workingmen’s unions.” John Paul II (Centesimus Annus, §20) observed that “unions… are indeed a mouthpiece for the struggle for social justice, for the just rights of working people.”

It is a sham, (arguably self-satire), for any organization that purports to inform Catholic voters of where the Church stands to try to sell them unCatholic ideas. But then again, to understand why CatholicVote.org engages in such mendacity one only need to follow the money — and Glenn Beck!

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