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Catholic Dark Money: The Bishops

 “Biden has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender” the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Archbishop José Gomez, stated on Biden’s inauguration.

 “Catholic bishops are not partisan players in our nation’s politics,” Gomez further declared.

Creating a Plutocracy

Abortion and anti-LGBTQ human rights are the foundational “moral values” specifically chosen to energize conservative Christians into political activism and to get-out-the-vote for Republican candidates.

By 1978, neoconservatives were supplanting Establishment Republicans with men whose goal was to shift American wealth to an elite upper class who would rule this country – a plutocracy. The intentional formation and implementation of the Religious Right was meant to further this goal.

The Catholic Paul Weyrich, founder of the Moral Majority, the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and many other hard right organizations, convinced conservative Christians that they were choosing the “moral” candidate as they voted for our economic enslavement.

Additionally, religious organizations are permitted by the IRS to be the perfect conduits for dark money. Donors are assured complete anonymity and get a tax deduction to boot. Money spent on politicking stays hidden.
As a result of the alliance between Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan to crush the freedom movements in Latin America, the pope replaced American bishops who had supported racial equality and opposed nuclear weapons with bishops who were toadies of the GOP.

Every October – the month before elections – is designated by the USCCB as Respect Life Month so they can flood Catholics with programs and materials to get-out-the-vote for the Republican Party.

When Republican governor Mitt Romney instituted Romneycare which provided insurance coverage for abortion, there was no organized opposition from the bishops. In fact, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley “said that Romney was a better friend to the Catholic Church than any other Massachusetts governor in decades, and he was about the only one that wasn’t Catholic,” as noted on the aboutmittromney.com/catholics website.

Like the GOP establishment, the Catholic bishops were committed to denying Pres. Obama any success. They tried to block enactment of the Affordable Care Act by falsely asserting that it provided coverage for abortion even though this was already barred by the Hyde Amendment. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), who failed to reach an accommodation that would please the USCCB, finally admitted “that people tried to use abortion as a tool to stop health-care reform, even after [unnecessary] protections were added,” as reported by the Daily Beast on May 6, 2010.

Trying to Deny Success for the Biden Administration

On Jan. 23, 2021, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, the USCCB pro-life chairman, called Pres. Biden’s defense of Roe v. Wade “deeply disturbing and tragic.” Marking the 48th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Pres. Biden and Vice Pres. Kamala Harris issued a statement: “We are deeply committed to making sure everyone has access to care – including reproductive health care.”

Other Catholic bishops took to social media throughout the day to reaffirm their commitment to making all abortion unlawful, as reported on cruxnow.com.

On Feb. 23, 2021, the USCCB asserted: “The [Equality Act] represents the imposition by Congress of novel and divisive viewpoints regarding ‘gender’ on individuals and organizations. This includes dismissing sexual difference and falsely presenting ‘gender’ as only a social construct.” The Equality Act, a comprehensive bill that would add “sexual orientation” and. “gender identity” to a range of federal nondiscrimination laws, was passed by the House on Feb. 25.

On Feb. 26, 2021, the USCCB launched a digital campaign opposed to the COVID relief package. Although the American Rescue Plan Act “addresses the needs of many vulnerable people related to the pandemic, it lacked federal protection against funding of abortions and abortion coverage,” they wrote. Gomez and the chairmen of six USCCB committees called the March 10 passage of the bill “unconscionable.”

Five days later, the USCCB urged lawmakers to oppose ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that states “[e]quality of rights under law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” The USCCB stated “prohibiting sex discrimination would require government funding of abortion by design.” 

Not “pro-life”

Catholic bishops mounted no similar political opposition to Trump’s cruelty.

In  just one state, remains of 227 migrants were found in 2020  said Humane Borders, making it “the deadliest year for migrants crossing unlawfully into U.S. via Arizona. 

“In the 2020 fiscal year, 21 people died in ICE custody,” according to CNN, “the highest annual death toll since 2005.”

“At least seven children are known to have died in immigration custody since last year, after almost a decade in which no child reportedly died while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” NBC News reported in May 2019.

“An unprecedented 69,550 migrant children were held in U.S. government custody in 2019, enough infants, toddlers, kids and teens to overflow the typical NFL stadium …. 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.”

 “The parents of 545 children intentionally separated at the border still haven’t been found as of October 2020, …. It is perhaps the most tangible legacy of one of President Trump’s most widely condemned policies,” reported the Washington Post.

By Biden’s Inauguration Day, 400,000 Americans had died of Covid-19. Experts agree that the magnitude of the tragedy was exacerbated because Trump withheld information, gave false information and encouraged his followers to forego masks and social distancing.

Between July 2020 and the Inauguration, Trump became “the country’s most prolific execution president in more than a century, overseeing the executions of 13 death row inmates,” the BBC reported. The prelate of Wall Street, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, defended Trump’s executions by stating that Biden “ran on a platform avidly supporting this gruesome capital punishment for innocent pre-born babies.” Factually, Biden’s platform had made no mention of abortion.

Dark Money

In the case of the Catholic Church, the IRS also permits the USCCB to determine which agencies and organizations are “official” and, therefore, eligible to accept and spend dark money.   

How many agencies and organizations is that?

As of April 24, 2020, the federal program to help small businesses during the first phase of the COVID19 epidemic had funded 20 percent of the Catholic entities that applied. Statistics compiled by the bishops’ own Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference showed that 8,000 parishes, over 2,000 schools, 104 bishops’ headquarters, 185 Catholic Charities agencies and 200 other organization operated by bishops constituted the 20 percent that received taxpayer funding.

They received the funding even though the American Catholic Church has hundreds of billions of dollars in assets according to a review of sex abuse court filings by Bloomberg Businessweek as reported on Jan. 8, 2020.

Lobbyists for the Plutocracy

The national USCCB Office of Government Relations (OGR) “coordinates and directs the legislative activities of the USCCB staff and other Church personnel to influence the actions of Congress,” according to their website. The bishops also have “Catholic Conferences” at the state level to influence local legislation and regulations. Regardless of their overtly political purpose, the above organizations still get the same “dark money” benefits as any “religious organization.”

Many observers are under the impression that when the Supreme Court reaches a decision about Roe v. Wade in June 2022, the matter will be relegated to the states. So that’s where the bishops are gearing up to make an impact.

The Roe decision “will really be only the beginning in sustaining Arizona as a pro-life state. The fight doesn’t go away,” Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, told the National Catholic Register. Also quoted in the Register:

“Kansas is going to be the first of the dominoes to either stand or fall. And it’s going to be a knockdown, drag-out,” said Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.

Jason Hall, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, “is deeply engaged in an effort to get the state’s voters to approve in November 2022 an amendment to the state’s constitution saying that it does not provide a right to abortion nor guarantee public funding of abortion.”

 “I think some sort of abortion restriction will be a priority this year,” said Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Catholic Conference.

Mission Accomplished

“The Top 1% of Americans Have Taken $50 Trillion From the Bottom 90% …. That is how much the upward redistribution of income has cost American workers over the past several decades TIME reported in September 2020.

“The wealth gap between America’s richest and poorer families more than doubled from 1989 to 2016” according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.  “In 1989, the richest 5% of families had 114 times as much wealth as families in the second quintile (one tier above the lowest) … By 2016, the top 5% held 248 times as much wealth at the median. (The median wealth of the poorest 20% is either zero or negative in most years we examined,),” the Center wrote.

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

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3 Responses

  1. Thank you. Major turning points for the U.S. and for the U.S. Catholic Church. Will history smile on them? I doubt it.

  2. Brilliant article as ever. It looks like the Spring 1994 issue of Conscience, the journal of Catholics For a Free Choice, exploded the myth that the Religious Right is a Protestant movement. However, I have looked around for that issue but never found it. Most outlets (including liberals and women’s groups) prefer to tiptoe around the Catholic church …

    • Thank you so very much for taking the time to comment. Your encouragement is appreciated! I’m sorry I couldn’t find that issue either. Yes, the entire U.S. mainstream media “tiptoes around the Catholic church” because on the extremely rare occasion when they are critical they are accused of being anti-Catholic!!

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