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Why Catholic Officials Have Been So Deferential to Trump

More judges, more judges, more judges,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) declared in addressing a meeting of some affluent Catholics, bishops, and priests in July. “Graham lauded Trump’s Supreme Court appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, and reminded the audience that two more Supreme Court vacancies could occur during the next presidential term,” Dan Morris-Young reported.

“Trump has confirmed 150 lifetime judges…. piles of unqualified and ideologically extreme people many of whom have records of being anti-abortion [and] anti-LGBTQ rights,” noted Jennifer Bendery on Sept. 17.

So U.S. bishops avoid criticizing Trump by name.

In just the past two months:

After Trump said he didn’t want to let “very bad people” fleeing the devastation in the Bahamas into the U.S., Florida Bishop Frank Dewane blamed “the government” for not granting temporary protective immigration status to Bahamian migrants.

After Trump called the arrest of almost 700 undocumented immigrants – and the separation of scores of families – in Mississippi “a good deterrent” to illegal immigration, Newark Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin blamed “elected officials” for “manipulating immigrant families as political pawns.”

“Catholic bishops from dioceses along the Texas-Mexico border lamented the challenges facing migrants and called on governments to welcome newcomers.”

Regarding immigrant children being held in federal custody, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) Committee on Migration, blamed “the administration” for “undermining critical protections for these children.”

After Trump called Baltimore “a rat and rodent infested mess,” three chairmen of USCCB committees blamed “national leaders” for the “denigration of the city of Baltimore.” Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory blamed “comments by our president and others and the responses they have generated [that] have deepened divisions and diminished our national life.”

The avoidance of criticizing Trump by name is not due to bishops not wanting to being seen as too politicized. Below is a sampling of prelates’ condemnations of Pres. Obama while he was in office:

Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky compared him to Hitler and Stalin.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput scorned him as a “messiah.

Cardinal Francis George, then president of the USCCB, called Obama a “despot.”

Cardinal James Francis Stafford, a Vatican official, described him as “aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic.”

When Pres. Obama was invited by the University of Notre Dame to give the commencement address in May 2009, scores of U.S. bishops publicly asked that he be “disinvited.”

The invitation is “truly obscene,” said Bishop Thomas G. Doran of Rockford, Ill.

Pres. Obama “intentionally holds and deliberately advocates positions contrary to fundamental moral principles,” declared Bishop Joseph Galante of Camden, N.J.

WHY FEDERAL JUDGES MATTER

“The upcoming Supreme Court term – which starts Oct. 7 – will offer plenty of cases that Catholics will be paying close attention to including: … a number of religious liberty cases including a school-choice [i.e. tax-payer funding of religious schools] program in Montana and workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender,” reported Carol Zimmerman.

Most of Trump’s judicial appointments are also dependably pro-“religious freedom” or “religious liberty,” code words for discrimination, intolerance, sexism and homophobia, explained Martin R. Castro, former chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights.

“The court also has a lot of hot-button cases in the wings that it hasn’t decided yet if it will take up such as: a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals or the question of whether or not a city or state can require religious adoption services to place children with same-sex couples ….” Zimmerman wrote., issues deeply involving our basic human dignity.

In just the past two months:

“A federal judge is set to hear arguments over whether Georgia’s  new restrictive abortion law [banning an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks] should be allowed to take effect while a legal challenge is pending.”

“A federal appeals court debated Wednesday whether the Trump administration’s new restrictions on abortion referrals illegally interfere with how health-care providers who receive government money interact with pregnant women,” reported the Washington Post.

Tennessee’s law requiring a 48-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions is being challenged in federal court.

“A federal judge has temporarily halted a North Dakota law that required doctors to tell patients the effects of abortion drugs can be reversed.”

The Supreme Court issued an order “that will temporarily allow the Trump administration to enforce its new rule preventing many Central American migrants from seeking asylum in the United States.”

The 7th U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on an Indiana law to “make it tougher for underage girls to get an abortion without their parents’ knowledge.”

A federal judge in Missouri ruled on “a strict and controversial abortion ban a day before the state was set to criminalize abortions performed after eight weeks,” reported

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Christian videographers against the state of Minnesota which “interpreted its human-rights act to require them to ‘produce both opposite-sex- and same-sex-wedding videos, or none at all.’”

Trump’s 2016 Campaign Promises to Catholics 

Trump sent a letter to the Catholic Leadership Conference: “I am, and will remain, pro-life. I will defend your religious liberties and the right to fully and freely practice your religion, as individuals, business owners and academic institutions …. I will protect and work to expand educational choice.”

In the final days of the campaign, Trump gave an interview on EWTN, “the largest religious media network in the world.”  “The biggest issue right now is the Supreme Court judges,” Trump said.

Besides “pledging to nominate pro-life Supreme Court justices,” Trump also promised to “sign into law a ban on late-term abortions; defund Planned Parenthood and reallocate funding to community health centers that do not perform abortions; and make permanent a ban on taxpayer funding of abortion,” reported John L. Allen.

Trump won the Evangelical Southern and rural 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)” reported Robert P. Jones, states where there are more Catholics than Evangelicals. Trump won 60% of white Catholics, as compared to only 46% of the national popular vote.

Post-Election

The USCCB stated the bishops, “look forward to working with President-elect Trump to protect human life from its most vulnerable beginning [and] a commitment to domestic  religious liberty, ensuring people of faith remain free to proclaim the truth about man and woman [anti-transgender dogwhistle], and the unique bond of marriage that they can form …. We are firm in our resolve that our brothers and sisters who are migrants and refugees can be humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security.”

The bishops stated, “We will work to promote humane policies that protect refugee and immigrants’ inherent dignity [that] honor and respect the laws of this nation”at the USCCB national meeting on Nov. 11, 2016.

While over 800 faith communities provide sanctuary for immigrants, the bishops do not even though “Catholic parishes, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other organizations operate an estimated 70,000 buildings.

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said he was “honored to have been asked” to pray at the inauguration. He told the Washington Post that Trump “will find some links already in place between himself and Pope Francis, as well as some common foreign policy initiatives.”

Pope Francis said that abortion, even to save a woman’s life, is a “horrendous crime,”and “what the Mafia does – throw someone away to save another.”

Pope Francis called same-sex marriage an “anthropological regression” and that it “disfigures God’s plan for creation.”

Pope Francis compared transgender persons to nuclear weapons saying both do not “recognize the order of creation” and that they are “the sin against God the Creator!”

On religious freedom, Pope Francis declared that Christians are persecuted. “It’s a persecution that robs man of his freedom, even from conscientious objection!” he added. The pope “has used similar vocabulary to object to what he calls an ‘ideological colonization’ of developing countries by Western nations … on matters such as contraception, abortion and gay marriage,” noted Ines San Martin.

(Trump echoed Pope Francis at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 23, 2019. Trump called on world leaders to “end religious persecution. Stop the crimes against people of faith. Release prisoners of conscience. Repeal laws restricting freedom of religion and belief.”)

So Pope Francis and Vatican officials have been deferential to Trump, also.

Just prior to the 2016 election, Pope Francis said, “Migrants should be treated according to certain rules because migration is a right, but one which is highly regulated.” Also, “if a country is only able to integrate 20 [refugees], let’s say, then it should only accept that many.”

And for all his pro-immigration rhetoric, and despite his incalculable wealth, Pope Francis has sponsored only six refugee families even though the Vatican owns “thousands” of apartments in Rome.

The second highest Vatican official, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, congratulated Trump on his victory, noting that the election “was characterized by a large turnout at the polls.” (see “Voter turnout at 20-year low in 2016”) Parolin said the first issue on which the Vatican would “collaborate” with Trump was peace. The second was “the internal [domestic] issues” of the U.S. Church such as “religious freedom.”

 “Trump and the Vatican, a relationship to be built” was an op-ed written by Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli in February 2017. Tornielli  was appointed by Pope Francis as editorial director of the Vatican’s Department of Communications in 2018.

‘We will see what he does and will judge…’ Twenty days ago, Pope Francis responded this way to a question about Donald Trump. The Pope showed his intention of not being associated with certain preventive campaigns against the new president ….

Trump’s decisions have been greeted positively by the U.S. bishops, starting from the executive order to cut public funding to International Planned Parenthood ….

There could be other possible agreements with the Holy See in the less exclusionary approach with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, as well as in social policies.

Like Trump, Pope Francis has been Putin’s firm ally.

During his first trip abroad, Trump met with Pope Francis. According to a Vatican statement, they spoke of their “joint commitment in favor of life, religious liberty and freedom of conscience.” Also, a hope for “a serene collaboration between the state and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants,” meaning continued tax-payer funding for the bishops’ charities.

Trump Keeps Promises to Catholics on Judges

In February 2017, Trump chose Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

Gorsuch “has an excellent record on religious freedom,” Carrie Severino stated. She cited as an example the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was at the heart of the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision and the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, both involving Obamacare’s contraception coverage.

Pope Francis showed his support for both plaintiffs. He granted a private audience to the Green family, the billionaires who own Hobby Lobby. “The pope did ask how the [Supreme Court] case was progressing.” The pope visited the Little Sisters of the Poor during his 2015 trip to the U.S. after his address at the White House “voicing support for U.S. bishops as they challenge the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.”

Robert George, Princeton law professor with connections to Opus Dei also endorsed Gorsuch.

Per Erin Matson:

In his first year on the Supreme Court, “Gorsuch confirms conservatives’ hopes, liberals’ fears …. His willingness to speak at Trump International Hotel sparked objections from some ethics experts who noted a case involving foreign payments there could one day reach the high court ….

“Major cases to be decided involve … the religious rights of same-sex marriage objectors, partisan efforts by states to influence elections and other issues. Gorsuch’s vote could be critical in several of them – and that worries liberals.

Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh is “the apotheosis.of what the ‘pro-life’ movement stands for and plans to achieve … Denial of agency, autonomy, and human rights are the core outcomes of this worldview.” Trump will “create the enduring five-seat majority on the U.S. Supreme Court that will end the federal constitutional right to abortion.”

Kavanaugh is a practicing Catholic. He delivered the commencement address at the Catholic University of America Law School in 2018, referencing both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis.

Other “faith facts” about Kavanaugh as noted by Emily McFarlan Miller:

In 2015, he wrote a dissent opposing the Affordable Care Act‘s contraception mandate.

LGBTQ groups expressed concern about his promotion by the conservative Family Research Council when he initially was nominated for the D.C. circuit. Family Research Council is a Christian lobbying group that believes ‘homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed.’”

“Kavanaugh replaces his fellow Catholic, Anthony Kennedy. That means the religious makeup of the court would remain the same – five Catholic justices, three Jewish justices and Trump’s previous pick, Neil Gorsuch, who was raised Catholic but now attends an Episcopal church.”

An Opus Dei Judiciary

Leonard Leo can take credit for installing four Supreme Court justices”- John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. “As executive vice president of the Federalist Society, Leo has been the quiet architect of a pivotal shift to the right throughout the federal judiciary” including “dozens of lower court federal judges across the country,” Lorraine Woellert reported.

It was Leo who prepared Trump’s “list of judges and the people that he’s put on the bench,” noted NPR.

Leo is on the board of directors of Opus Dei’s Catholic Information Center located at 15th and K Street, two blocks from the White House.

Attorney General William Barr was also a director of the Catholic Information Center  (2014-1017).

The Center is “a rallying point for ultra-conservative Catholics eager for a voice in the secular halls of government power” and “advances a hard-right political agenda,” according to Church and State, the magazine for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Opus Dei is a secret society and an official arm of the Catholic Church. The group is supported by Pope Francis. Its roots are in fascist Spain.

Non-Catholics are welcomed as “cooperators” who “assist the educational and social undertakings.” Only the identities of board members of the Catholic Information Center and Opus Dei priests are public.

At the top:

“Opus Dei is an efficient machine run to achieve worldly power,” wrote investigative reporter Penny Lernoux in her book, People of God.

“Opus Dei pursues the Vatican’s agenda through the presence of its members in secular governments and institutions and through a vast array of academic, medical, and grassroots pursuits. Its constant effort [is] to increase its presence in civil institutions of power. [T]heir work in the public sphere breaches the church-state division that is fundamental to modern democracy,” noted Gordon Urquhart, author of The Pope’s Armada: Unlocking the Secrets of Mysterious and Powerful New Sects in the Church (1995).

“Opus Dei uses the Catholic Church for its own ends which are money and power …. Its members form a transnational elite. They seek to colonize the summits of power. They work with stealth – ‘holy discretion’ – and practice ‘divine deception,’” declared Robert Hutchison in the introduction to his book, Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei

“Opus Dei is mostly middle- and upper-class businessmen, professionals, military personnel and government officials. Its members control a large number of banks and financial institutions,” according to Martin A. Lee, author and activist who has written books and articles on far-right movements.

The President and members of Congress are elected with term limits. Federal judges are appointed for life.

(Betty Clermont is author of The NeoCatholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America.)

9 Responses

  1. Oscar Wilde spoke of the love that dare not speak its name.
    The US bishop’s love of Trump is they dare not speak his name while he proceeds to upend democracy, civility and humanity. Yet the bishops were not reluctant to call out Obama by name. This parallel treatment of presidents is an important reminder of how fast we forget. Trump is backing Francis’s ‘ideological colonization’ effort regarding contraception, abortion and gay marriage.
    A lot of high protein meat here of how influential Catholics are back the soon-to-be impeached embarrassment to humanity – Donald J. Trump.

  2. Wow! Thanks so very, very much for your astute, timely and insightful comment. As always, you say it better than I. This is VERY MUCH appreciated!

  3. Betty Clermont, your work is amazing and appreciated but the revelations of this unfathomable and evil! alliance just adds to my fury. To think I gave this church so much of my hard earned money makes me even sicker, and I also feel a certain sadness to have to relinquish a part of my identity and what was for so long, a community.

    • Thank you, Ms. Borkoski for taking the time to comment. I share all of your emotions of feeling sick, anger and the sadness of having to leave our beloved communities behind.

  4. Betty

    This is an excellent and well documented analysis….The clock is ticking.

    Jack

    ______________________________

    John Alonzo Dick – PhD, STD Historical Theologian

    Geldenaaksebaan 85A 3001 Heverlee/Leuven BELGIUM

    >

  5. Well done, Betty.

  6. There is book being released on October 15 titled, “The Cult of Trump.” Chapter 7 deals heavily with Barr and the role of Opus Dei in the Trump administration.

    • Thank you, Frank. Praise from you means a great deal to me. Also, many thanks for informing us of the new book, “The Cult of Trump.” I am so very happy because I have been trying so hard to have the threat of Opus Dei taken seriously!

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