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For the Record, Catholics Have Been Very Influential in Trump’s Campaign and Administration

Campaign leaders were Catholic.

At first, the Trump campaign “involved only a handful of key advisers, including longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone” – “the man who created President Trump.” Stone left Trump’s campaign in August 2015.

Trump hired  Corey Lewandowski as campaign manager in February 2015.

“On June 20, 2016, Lewandowski was fired as campaign manager, solidifying Paul Manafort‘s role as the top staff member.”

“Manafort’s position in the campaign changed in August 2016 when Trump hired Steve Bannon as his chief executive and promoted pollster Kellyanne Conway to the role of campaign manager. Manafort resigned on August 19, two days after Bannon joined the campaign.”

Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, “became an influential adviser on foreign policy and national security” and was “really important to Donald Trump as a candidate.”

Former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich “emerged as one of Trump’s most high-profile supporters and even secured himself a top spot on the billionaire’s vice presidential shortlist.”

List of Supreme Court Nominees

As early as April 2016, candidate Trump stated he was “getting names” for Supreme Court nominees from Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.

The day before Trump announced that he was nominating Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) stated, “The president’s outsourced his decision to the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation … I’ve never seen a president of the United States in effect, make himself a puppet of outside groups.”

The Heritage Foundation is the most influential of all the right-wing  think tanks.  It was founded by Catholics Ed Fuelner and Paul Weyrich. It was Weyrich who founded the Religious Right beginning with the Moral Majority.  Feulner Jr. served as president of the Heritage Foundation from 1977 to 2013 and again from 2017 to 2018.

Leonard Leo, vice president of the Federalist Society and a devout Catholic, “will soon have his own grateful bloc of ideological allies on the Supreme Court,” wrote David G. Savage in the Los Angeles Times. “Since the 1990s, he has been one of the most important inside players in the conservative legal movement and the man to see for those who aspire to sit on the nation’s highest courts. Leo has been a longtime friend and champion of [Catholic] Justice Clarence Thomas, and he played a crucial role in promoting the two most recent Republican appointees to the high court: [Catholic] Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch,” raised Catholic,who went to the same elite Catholic prep school as Kavanaugh but is now Episcopalian.

“Leo is always careful to emphasize that Trump is in charge of the court selection process, with the assistance of White House Counsel Donald McGahn,” Savage noted. McGahn is another Catholic member of the Federalist Society.

“No one has been more dedicated to the enterprise of building a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe vs. Wade than the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo,” said Ed Whelan, a devout Catholic,  former clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia another devout Catholic, and president of the right-wing think tank  Ethics and Public Policy Center. George Weigel, one of the founding Catholic theocons, was president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center from 1989 through 1996.

Both Leo and Whelan were present for the White House ceremony when Trump announced Kavanaugh’s nomination. Kavanaugh’s legal thinking is “shaped by Scalia,” according to Rick Garnett, an associate dean and professor of law at Notre Dame Law School. Legal scholar and president of the Catholic University of America, John Garvey, said that “there are a number of issues that have opened up between the Church and where the culture is going and a lot of people are hoping future rulings [by the court] will change that.”

The Election

Trump won all the Southern, and other majority Evangelical states, as expected. But his “victory in the Electoral College came down to a razor-thin edge of only 77,744 votes across three states: Pennsylvania (44,292 votes), Wisconsin (22,748 votes), and Michigan (10,704 votes). These votes represent a Trump margin of 0.7 percentage points in Pennsylvania, 0.7 percentage points in Wisconsin, and 0.2 percentage points in Michigan.”

There are more Catholics than Evangelicals in Pennsylvania  and Wisconsin.  While there are more Evangelicals in Michigan than Catholics (25% v 18%), the Evangelical vote alone wasn’t sufficient to give Trump a win.

Trump won 60% of non-Latino white Catholics, as compared to only 46% of the national popular vote. “Both white and Latino Catholics cast more ballots for Trump than for Romney in 2012.” Evangelicals “went overwhelmingly for Trump, but that was also true in 2012 when they weren’t even sure Romney was Christian. They aren’t the swing voters. Catholics, on the other hand, were plus-2 for Obama in 2012 and plus-7 for Trump.”

Catholics in the Trump Administration

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, became “Counselor to the President.”

Steve Bannon became chief strategist and senior adviser until he was fired last August.

Sean Hannity, a “committed Catholic,” speaks to Trump “most weeknights” and “some days, they speak multiple times.” “Hannity is one of the most influential figures in the Trump administration without a formal White House role, according to Trump aides.” Trump gave Hannity the first interview after his summit meeting with Putin. Hannity “cheered him on.

Bill Shine, an “Irish-Catholic family man” and former Fox News co-president, was appointed by Trump as White House deputy chief of staff for communications. “Fox under Shine perfected ‘fake news’ before anyone used the term.”

Rudy Giuliani is Trump’s newest personal lawyer, spokesman and political adviser. Giuliani “seriously considered becoming a priest.”

“Most of the high-ranking Trump appointees to military-related positions hail from a Catholic background.”  Gen. Michael Flynn was named national security adviser, Gen. James Mattis, Secretary of Defense, and Gen. John Kelly was secretary of the Department of Homeland Security before being named as Trump’s White House Chief of Staff July 2017. Flynn resigned and pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of making false statements to the FBI about his communications with Russia.

Opus Dei in the Trump Administration

Larry Kudlow is Trump’s director of the National Economic Council. Plutocracy is “just what America needs,” Kudlow wrote in December 2016. “Putting the incredibly wealthy in charge of the U.S. government” is described as Kudlow’s great idea.

Kudlow is one of Fr. John McCloskey’s notable converts to Catholicism. McCloskey was director of Opus Dei’s K Street center in Washington D.C. from 1998-2002.  “Opus uses the Catholic Church for its own ends which are money and power,” wrote Robert Hutchison in the introduction to his book, Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei.

Another McCloskey converts is former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, now Trump’s Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

Trump also appointed C-Fam  (formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute), the “intensely anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ group” headed by Opus Dei’s Austin Ruse, to the U.S. delegation to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Catholic Mick Mulvaney, director of Trump’s White House Office of Management and Budget and interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “has reportedly met with a long list of lobbyists, corporate executives and wealthy people with business interests before the government.” His meeting with Opus Dei’s Jeff Bell, architect of Reaganomics, covered “religious and political matters.

Trump’s Cabinet

While it’s true that Evangelicals hold more Cabinet positions (nine) than any other religious affiliation, it also means that most of the 22 cabinet members are not Evangelical. This includes Catholics Kelly, Mattis and Mulvaney and Linda E. McMahon, Administrator of the Small Business Administration.

Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. attended a Catholic college prep school in Manhattan. The U.S. Office of Government Ethics “took issue” with Ross “for failing to divest himself of certain holdings and ‘various omissions and inaccurate statements’ in forms he submitted to the office, prompting the commerce secretary to pledge he’d take action.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer graduated from Georgetown University  as did Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. Before replacing Kelly as DHS Secretary in December 2017, Kirstjen was Principal Deputy White House Chief of Staff to Trump, and before that, Chief of Staff to John F. Kelly during his brief term as DHS Secretary.

Evangelicals and conservative Catholics have been allies for decades and still are.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave an interview to Vatican News on July 23, 2018, to promote his “first-ever international summit on the topic of religious freedom.” Pompeo also gave an interview to EWTN, the conservative Catholic and largest religious media network in the world, about his department’s work for religious freedom. The secretary of state took the opportunity to defend Trump’s joint press conference with Putin in which the U.S. president refused to denounce Russian interference in the 2016 election and blamed the U.S. for tensions with Russia.

In May 2017, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians that took place at a Washington hotel. Hosted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington and Archbishop Christopher Pierre, the pope’s ambassador to the U.S., were present. Also present was Metropolitan Hilarion, the Russian Orthodox Church’s “foreign minister.” The Russian Orthodox Church is in alliance with Putin.

Pence addressed the 13th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in June 2017. Past keynote speakers have included House Speaker Paul Ryan, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and President George W. Bush.

Last November, Pence welcomed Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin in his first ever visit to the White House.

The only school Trump has visited since his election is St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Fla. along with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and other Republicans, Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

DeVos received a standing ovation after delivering the commencement address at Ave Maria University’s graduation ceremony on May 5, 2018. Ave Maria president Jim Towey, in his speech at the commencement ceremony, “applauded DeVos’ policies, including her reversal of Obama-era directives.” Towey had “pointed to Obama’s guidance on Title IX, which offered protections for transgender students and lowered the burden of proof required to adjudicate cases of campus sexual assault, as examples of overreach that DeVos has rightly altered or rescinded.”

DeVos is a “staunch advocate of school vouchers” as is Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. His nomination has “raised expectations that he will help sweep aside legal hurdles to tax-payer-funded school vouchers. Before becoming a federal judge, Kavanaugh served as the co-chair of the “School Choice Practice Group” of the Federalist Society. “National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said Kavanaugh will be a ‘rubber stamp’ for the agenda of Trump and DeVos.”

“Vouchers have the potential to change the fate of religious schools throughout the country at a time when many are struggling financially.”

In fact, the current configuration of Catholic charities, social agencies, hospitals and schools would collapse without taxpayer funding.

Msgr. John Enzler, CEO and president of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where Kavanaugh occasionally volunteers to serve food to the homeless, attended as a special guest of the judge when Kavanaugh accepted Trump’s nomination.

When Pope Francis was in Washington D.C. in 2015, he visited the archdiocesan charity which received over $21 million, or 56% of its revenue, from American taxpayers in 2017. Their tax form 990 – used by non-profits – shows net assets of $30.8 million.

The Catholic Charities Foundation of the Archdiocese of Washington, also headed by Enzler which “provides financial support to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington,” has another $25.7 million in net assets.

The Vatican statement following the meeting between Trump and Pope Francis “expressed the hope for a ‘serene cooperation between the State and the Catholic Church in the United States,’ which is engaged in service to people ‘in the fields of health care, education and assistance to immigrants,’” meaning continued tax-payer funding of Catholic hospitals, schools and agencies caring for immigrants that deny women access to healthcare.

The day before meeting the pope, Trump’s budget was released that takes tax-payer funds out of public schools and gives it to private schools.

The necessity of tax-payer funding for their schools and charities – often used to self-promote their “moral authority” – is why neither Pope Francis nor any of his American bishops have criticized Trump by name as they have progressive presidents.

When Pope Francis was cardinal primate of Argentina, the progressive Pres. Nestor Kirchner called Bergoglio the “spiritual head of the political opposition.

Pres. Cristina Fernandez’ relationship with Bergoglio was “strained due to her support for same-sex marriage and the leftism of her administration.” In 2012, when the Fernandez administration “pushed for mandatory sex education in schools, free distribution of contraceptives in public hospitals, and the right for transsexuals to change their official identities on demand,” Bergoglio accused the president of “demagoguery,  totalitarianism, corruption and efforts to secure unlimited power.”

Chicago Cardinal Francis George warned that Pres. Obama was “moving our country from democracy to despotism.” Bishop Daniel Jenky compared Obama to Stalin and Hitler.

In opposing Obamacare, the prelate of Wall Street, Cardinal Timothy Dolan spoke against the president by name and implied Obama was “anti-American.”

In 2012, in churches across America, priests read a letter sent by every diocesan bishop denouncing Obama’s “severe assault” on their Church.

Catholic officials, however, are not going to bite the Republican hands that feed their Church.


2 Responses

  1. Betty

    What an excellent and well-documented report. The perspective you present is frightening in its impact…..



    J. A. Dick Historical Theologian

    Power over people is not a virtue; and history shows again and again that in religion and in civil society absolute power corrupts absolutely.


  2. Thank you, Jack, for taking the time to comment. I agree.

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