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Pope Francis Met with Mike Pence – 69,550 Migrant Children Held in U.S. Detention Ignored

On Jan. 22, Pope Francis “urged men and women of goodwill to promote and practice a culture of welcome especially towards vulnerable migrants in search of a better life.” Care of migrants has been a constant theme of his pontificate.

Two days later, during “a remarkably long meeting at the Vatican, especially for one not involving a head of state” the pope and vice president discussed the “sanctity of life” for the unborn, religious persecution in the Middle East and the impoverished in Venezuela.

No mention was made ofan unprecedented 69,550 migrant children held in U.S. government custody in 2019 [alone], enough infants, toddlers, kids and teens to overflow the typical NFL stadium. That’s more children detained away from their parents than any other country, according to United Nations researchers. And it’s happening even though the U.S. government has acknowledged that being held in detention can be traumatic for children, putting them at risk of  long-term physical and emotional damage.”

Pope Francis has curried favor with U.S. Republicans and conservatives his entire pontificate because, in part, the American Catholic Church is dependent on tax-payer funding. The GOP has been a reliable provider of government money and, in turn, Catholic officials have done their best to get-out-the vote for Republican candidates.

Pope Francis has held private meetings with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and former U.S. Senator Dirk Kempthorne, R-Idaho.

The pope met in private with Doug Coe, head of the Family, a secretive fellowship of conservative Christian politicians.

Pope Francis also met in private with members of the Green family, the Oklahoma billionaires whose company, Hobby Lobby, took their challenge to Obamacare’s contraception mandate to the Supreme Court. “The pope did ask how the [Supreme Court] case was progressing.” Now, with a favorable majority, the case is once again before the Supreme Court.

Pope Francis has appointed only four American lay persons to Vatican positions: Greg Burke, former Fox News correspondent and member of Opus Dei; Kim Daniels,  founder of  Catholic Voices USA, an Opus Dei affiliate (at the top, Opus Dei is about “power politics and big money“) Mary Ann Glendon, George W. Bush’s ambassador to the Vatican, and Juan Zarate, former adviser to George W. Bush.

Although Pope Francis briefly met with the extended Biden family in Philadelphia to console them after the death of Beau Biden, Vice President Joe Biden received only “greetings” from the pope while attending a Vatican conference.

Former Vice President Al Gore wanted to meet with the Pope Francis on climate change “but was informed that the pope did not meet with former presidents or vice presidents.”

Abortion is the “preeminent” issue

Abortion is such an important issue for Republicans that, on the same day Pope Francis met with Pence, Trump became the first sitting U.S. president in history to attend the anti-abortion rally in Washington D.C.

Abortion is the “preeminent” social and political issue, Pope Francis said during a Jan. 16 meeting with U.S. bishops. The pope “put it in a very beautiful way: Do we always want to simply eliminate those who are inconvenient?” said Bishop W. Shawn McKnight.

“At the same time Pope Francis said there’s another significant issue and that would be ‘transgender’ – where we are trying to make all human beings the same, it makes no difference, you can be whoever you want to be,” related Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann explained that while Pope Francis has “elevated issues like the care of refugees and migrants,” he also understands that the situation in the United States is different compared to other countries.”

 “Situation in the U.S. is different”

The American Catholic Church is dependent on tax-payer funding.

For example, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) received $48.5 million in government grants and contracts, or about 24% of their total operating revenues, according to their last financial statement. Presumably, this is mostly spent on migrant and refugee services. Regardless, when bishops boast about the care they provide they never mention how much is funded by taxpayers.

Worse, not one American bishop has offered the use of any Church property –  “an estimated 70,000 buildings” – as a sanctuary for immigrants. Nor has Pope Francis ever asked them to. Meanwhile “the number of churches, mosques and synagogues offering sanctuary nationwide has grown … from 400 to more than 1,100” as reported in April 2018.

Catholic Charities USA receives $1.875 million in government support or 42% of their total revenue – also never mentioned in episcopal boasting.

The USCCB and Catholic Charities USA are national organizations. If the government support also provided to 195 individual dioceses is considered, the total would be staggering.

Tax-payer funding is critical

The bishops’ dependence on tax-payer funding is growing due to the decrease in people in the pew. The number of “those raised Catholic who no longer self-identify as Catholic” has almost doubled since 2005. While the U.S. population grew by 44% between 1980 and 2018, the official Catholic population grew by only 36%.

Adding to the pressure, bishops’ settlements for child sex abuse claims totaled over $3 billion as of 2011 as noted by the BishopAccountability organization with the caveat that “most survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy will never come forward to file a criminal or civil complaint.”

“A whopping $301.6 million on costs related to clergy sexual abuse between June 2017 and June 2018” was spent by the Church according to a USCCB report.

The steady decline in Catholic school attendance also adds to the need for more tax-payer funding.

The Supreme Court “is set to hear a case that could make it easier to use public money to pay for religious schooling in many states.” The case involves the Montana state constitution barring religious schools from receiving state aid. Montana is among 37 states that have such a provision in their constitution.

Trump appointee, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, “said the Montana constitutional bar on aid to sectarian schools stemmed from ‘grotesque religious bigotry’ against Roman Catholics in the 19th century,” noted the Wall Street Journal

“Hopes are that the high court will bolster the administration’s marquee education issue: public funding for private schools,” the New York Times reported.

Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “has proposed a $5 billion federal tax credit scholarship program that would allow states to adopt initiatives much like the one Montana struck down,” wrote the New York Times.

“Religious Freedom” – code for tax-payer funded discrimination

In recognition of National Religious Freedom Day, on Jan. 16, “the White House announced nine federal agencies” – including the Education Department, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department – “will release rules that it says ensures religious and non-religious organizations are treated equally.” The goal is that the nation’s religious service providers and organizations will be included by federal agencies “in their grant-making processes.

“The administration has launched a full-court press effort to reward discriminatory organizations even if the organization is anti-LGBTQ or has an anti-LGBTQ record,” noted the LGBTQ Nation website. This action “paves the way for more religious organizations to become ‘compliant’ with federal regulations” said Lambda Legal attorney Camilla B. Taylor. “We are talking about government grants to the tune of millions and millions of dollars.”

The Catholic Vote

The Catholic vote is so important that Pence gave an interview on the Catholic Eternal Word Television Network, “the largest religious media network in the world.” the same day he met in private with Pope Francis. In the final days of the 2016 campaign, Trump also gave an interview on EWTN. “People who are faith-based are not being accepted in our country anymore,” he told his audience.

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. All are states where there are more Catholics than Evangelicals. Trump won 60% of white Catholics, as compared to only 46% of the national popular vote.

When the USCCB held their semi-annual meeting in November, the bishops voted that abortion should be Catholic voters’ main concern. The introduction to their 2020 voting guide states, “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority.”

In a November national poll, “58% of Catholics who say they accept all Church teaching also said they are ‘sure to vote’ for Donald Trump in 2020.”

Already, the pro-Trump CatholicVote organization is preparing to target Catholic voters. “We are building the largest Catholic voter mobilization program ever,” CatholicVote president Brian Burch wrote. “The media is fond of talking about the generic ‘Catholic vote,’ ” he wrote, “but the real Catholic vote is made up of those who go to church regularly, and will bring their Catholic views on life, faith, and family with them to the ballot box.”

“CatholicVote plans to use geofencing,” i.e. capturing cell phone data of Mass-goers, “in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Florida in 2020, in much the same way it did in 2018 in Missouri to help defeat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill by calling her ‘anti-Catholic’ for her stance on abortion.”

“A representative from CatholicVote.org – former Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, – now a senior political advisor for the organization – was among several conservative Catholics who attended a White House meeting on Dec. 18 led by Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s chief of staff.”

Pope Francis has always been right-wing

Favoring the Republican Party is not just about the money for Pope Francis. Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been a right-wing conservative since the 1970s.

While Bergoglio was the provincial (head) of the Argentine Jesuits (1973-79), his publications were “full of articles against liberation theology

Michael Campbell-Johnston, provincial of the British Jesuits, was assigned to make a critical visit to Argentina about how to respond to the Dirty War (1976-83) waged by a military junta against anyone even suspected of being leftist. Campbell-Johnston recounts his meeting with Fr. Bergoglio in 1977.

“At the time,” Fr. Campbell-Johnston wrote, “there were an estimated 6,000 political prisoners in Argentina and another 20,000 desaparecidos, people who had been ‘disappeared.’” In some countries, the Jesuit social institutes were forced to act underground and in secrecy, he wrote, “but our institute in Buenos Aires was able to function freely because it never criticized or opposed the government. As a result, there were justice issues it could not address or even mention.”

“This was the topic I remembered discussing at length with Fr. Bergoglio. He naturally defended the existing situation, though I tried to show him how it was out of step with our other social institutes on the continent. Our discussion was lengthy [but] we never reached an agreement.”

After Bergoglio’s dismissal as the provincial, “Little is known about …the real motivations that led to his subsequent marginalization until his exile in the peripheral Jesuit residence of Córdoba as a simple spiritual director,” wrote veteran Vatican reporter, Sandro Magister.

During the 1980’s, Pope John Paul II had aligned with Pres. Ronald Reagan in supporting Latin American military dictators who were crushing freedom movements in the region.*

In 1992, Pope John Paul II appointed Bergoglio as auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, a highly unusual appointment because the position is almost always filled by a priest who has served the diocese with distinction.

“The star of Jorge Mario Bergoglio starts rising” from “anonymity,” wrote another veteran Vatican reporter, Andrea Gagliarducci.

Pope John Paul II elevated Bergoglio to Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998 and to cardinal in 2001. Pope Francis canonized St. John Paul II in 2014 and has just co-authored a book of reflections on the life of St. John Paul II entitled St. John Paul the Great.

Bergoglio was appointed auxiliary bishop to Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the “visible head of the conservative sector of the Church” in Argentina.  “In the political world Quarracino was considered close to President Menem.”  Like Menem, Quarracino supported an end to all investigations of the crimes of the Dirty War.

Carlos Menem, president from 1989-99, “cultivated a strong relationship with the Vatican during his ten years in office. He made strenuous efforts to strengthen that link.” (also here)

Nestor Kirchner was elected president in 2003. He was succeeded by his wife, Cristina Fernandez in 2007. Nestor died suddenly in October of 2010. Cristina stood for reelection in 2011 and won.

Like his American confreres who used “moral issues” to oppose progressive government, Bergoglio “clashed with the Kirchner administration sharply over issues of abortion, contraception and sex education.”  Kirchner called Bergoglio the “spiritual head of the political opposition” and also “castigated the Church for its willingness to accommodate the military regime during the 1970s and early 1980s.”

Fernandez’ relationship with Bergoglio was “strained due to her support for same-sex marriage and the leftism of her administration.” A week before the vote on legislation approving same-sex marriage, Bergoglio wrote a pastoral letter “harshly criticizing the initiative.” The legislation was a “move by the father of lies[Satan] meant to confuse and deceive the children of God,” he wrote.

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.”

A series of interviews with the former junta leader, General Jorge Videla, were published in July 2012. He confirmed “he kept the country’s Catholic hierarchy informed about his regime’s policy of  ‘disappearing’ political opponents, and that Catholic leaders offered advice on how to ‘manage’ the policy.”

Church leaders had little choice but to respond. As cardinal primate, Bergoglio would have approved such an important declaration. The statement, Los Obispos de la República Argentina, 104º Asamblea Plenaria, 9 de noviembre de 2012, absolved the Church. Videla’s statement was “completely divorced from the truth of what the bishops were involved in at that time.” The bishops equated the “suffering” from “state terrorism” with “the death and devastation caused by guerrilla violence,” referencing the quickly-crushed left-wing opposition.

Bergoglio was elected pope four months later,

“Today the media are building this image of him as the humble pope,” said Andrea D’Atri, founder of the feminist organization, Bread and Roses. “In Argentina, his naming as pope has been received with the warmest enthusiasm by the rightist opposition.”

Brazilian Catholic nun, philosopher, and feminist theologian, Ivone Gebara wrote the following five days after Bergoglio was elected pope. She predicts his support of the U.S. Republican Party.

Regarding Vatican electoral policies:

There is no criticism of this perverse system, which continues to invoke the Holy Spirit in order to maintain ultraconservative positions clothed in the pretext of religiosity and docile submission …. It is part of a global power project in which the forces of order are seen as being threatened by the social and cultural revolutions underway in today’s world ….

Re: the secular and Catholic media:

They repeat that Pope Francis uses public transportation, that he is close to the poor, that he cooks his own meals and that the name he has chosen as pope shows his similarity to the great saint of Assisi. [They] say nothing about many people’s suspicions regarding his role during Argentina’s recent military dictatorship, or about his current political stands against gay marriage and the legalization of abortion. Neither do they mention his well-known criticism of liberation theology or his disdain for feminist theology …. We are capable of being impressed with a public gesture of affection and friendliness without asking ourselves about this person’s real life story. We don’t ask ourselves about his past actions, his present behavior or his future stratagems ….

Re: Vatican geopolitics:

The See of Peter and the Vatican State are positioning their pieces in the world game of chess in order to empower political projects championed by the North and its allies in the South. [There is] a commitment to a hierarchical order in a world where the elites reign.

 

*See chapter 6 of my book, The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America.

(Update 2/14/20. I removed the reference to Pope Francis meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo because I have just learned he met with Secretary of State John Kerry, also.)

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2 Responses

  1. A pity he didn’t get his own house in order…….

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