• RSS Queering the Church

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS Spirit of a Liberal

    • To my Republican Friends July 6, 2020
      You voted for Trump even though you didn't like him. Doubted his character. Questioned his fitness for the job. Yet, your aversion to Hillary was even greater The post To my Republican Friends first appeared on Spirit of a Liberal.
      Obie Holmen
    • Wormwood and Gall a Midwest Book Award Finalist May 4, 2020
      The Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA) recently named Wormwood and Gall as one of three finalists for a Midwest Book Award in the Religion/Philosophy category. The awards program, which is organized by MIPA, recognizes quality in independent publishing in the Midwest. The post Wormwood and Gall a Midwest Book Award Finalist first appeared on S […]
      Obie Holmen
  • RSS There Will be Bread

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS The Wild Reed

    • Rob Sheffield Pays Tribute to the “Peaceful and Stormy at the Same Time” Songs of Christine McVie December 6, 2022
      Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone magazine has written a heartfelt and insightful appreciation of the life and music of Christine McVie, who died last Wednesday, November 30.Following, with added images and links, are excerpts from Sheffield’s tribute that particularly caught my attention.Christine McVie always came on like the grown-up in the room, which admit […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • “Your Perception Is a Choice” December 5, 2022
      My friend Iggy is dedicated to facilitating mind and body transformation – within his own life and the lives of others who are similarly interested in holistic personal growth and change. To this end, Iggy’s professional/vocational life involves providing a range of services, including mindset mentoring, naprapathic massage, and personal training in boxing, […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
  • RSS Bilgrimage

    • So the Former US President and Current GOP Candidate for the Presidency Calls for a Coup and the End of US Democracy — And? December 5, 2022
      President Donald J. Trump 2 March 2019, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, MD; official White House photo by Tia Dufour, at Wikimedia CommonsHeather Cox Richardson, "Letters from an American: December 3, 2002":The leader of the Republican Party has just called fo […]
      noreply@blogger.com (William D. Lindsey)
    • I'm Now on Mastodon — Please Feel Free to Connect December 2, 2022
      I've now succeeded in setting up an account on Mastodon.My handle there is @wdlindsy@toad.socialPlease feel free to connect to me there if you wish. I'm hoping to reconnect via Mastodon to as many of the friends and conversation partners I had on Twitter, with whom I've lost touch after I left Twitter when Musk acquired it. I'm a total no […]
      noreply@blogger.com (William D. Lindsey)
  • RSS Enlightened Catholicism

  • RSS Far From Rome

    • the way ahead March 23, 2013
      My current blog is called the way ahead.
      noreply@blogger.com (PrickliestPear)
  • RSS The Gay Mystic

    • A saint for the millenials: Carlo Acutis beatified today in Assisi. October 10, 2020
       A saint for the millenials: the young Italian teen, Carlo Acutis, who died in 2006 of galloping Leukemia, will be beatified today in Assisi by Pope Francis (last step before being officially declared a saint). Carlo came from a luke warm Catholic family, but at the age of 7, when he received his first 'Holy Communion', he displayed an astonishing […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Unknown)
    • Ronan Park and Jack Vidgen: The Travails of Gay Pop Stars October 28, 2019
      (Jack Vidgen)Quite by accident, through a comment from a performance arts colleague of mine, I stumbled across the recent bios of two boy teen singing sensations, both of whom made a big splash worldwide 8 years ago. The first, Jack Vidgen, won Australia's Got Talent Contest in 2011 at the age of 14, primarily for his powerful renditions of Whitney Hust […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Unknown)
  • RSS The Jesus Manifesto

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS John McNeill: Spiritual Transformations

  • RSS Perspective

    • We the People December 6, 2022
      We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.Trump has called for ... Why? So […]
      noreply@blogger.com (crystal)

Rick Santorum’s Opus Dei Catholicism

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

In a recent post I explored the influence of the teachings of  Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer on GOP Presidential contender Rick Santorum. I warned that circumstantial evidence and the candidate’s own past statements suggested a strong identification with the secretive, ultra-traditionalist sect, Opus Dei, which Escriva founded.

The Washington Post now confirms much – and a great deal more – of what many of us have suspected all along.

I recently posted about Santorum’s connection to Opus Dei and some of Escriva’s teachings.  He is apparently not a member, but a “cooperator” — a designation for someone who supports the secretive organization’s goals of a more theocratic society built upon a foundation of ultra-orthodox Catholic notions of morality.  I wondered, how far does Santorum’s admiration for Opus Dei’s founder extend to his vision for America?

The Post suggests that the answer is very far indeed. The paper reported, for example, that Opus Dei paid for Santorum’s 2002 trip to Rome for a celebration of Escriva’s 100th birthday. He was accompanied by none other than Opus Dei evangelist, Rev. C. John McCloskey.  The future presidential contender used the occasion to launch his first attack on JFK’s 1960 campaign speech on the separation of church and state.

The Post also surfaces other important aspects of McCloskey’s relationship with the ambitious pol.  For example, “McCloskey enlisted Santorum’s help in converting then-Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) to Catholicism.”   The relationship has continued, as Santorum also met with McCloskey the day before last week’s Illinois presidential primary.

In a previous post (here and in The Public Eye , I’ve discussed McCloskey’s divisive nature. He pines for a Church that has eliminated moderate and liberal faithful, who would be replaced by former conservative protestant converts. He further envisions a United States torn asunder by a secessionist movement bent on creating a separate theocracy.

The Post portrays a man who is deeply influenced by the Opus Dei founder:

During Senate debates about abortion, Santorum told the audience in Rome, he hears Escriva telling him that “it is not true that there is opposition between being a good Catholic and serving civil society faithfully.” In his public fight to uphold “absolute truths,” Santorum said, “blessed Josemaria guides my way.”

“‘As long as you are making straight for your goal, head and heart intoxicated with God, why worry… ?'” Santorum said, quoting Escriva, according to a transcript of the speech.

In my last post on this subject, I reviewed several of Escriva’s more troubling teachings – his condescending view of public education; his distrust of liberty and his call for his followers to be secretive about their dealings with Opus Dei.  Perhaps of greatest concern was his admonition that his followers should “Get rid of those scruples that deprive you of peace” – especially in light of Santorum’s gross mischaracterizations of President Obama’s call for Americans to pursue some form of higher education. And then there are Santorum’s repeated attempts to disingenuously paint JFK as a president who had no tolerance for people of faith in the public square.

Santorum is not stupid. He had to have known that president wasn’t being “a snob” about higher education or that the first Catholic president did want to exclude religious principles from public debate.

These are acts of demagoguery, perhaps  made in accordance with Escriva’s admonition to “put aside those scruples.”

Now the Good News

The New York Times reports that Santorum is losing the Republican Catholic vote to the more ideologically amorphous Mitt Romney.

Mr. Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, has trailed Mr. Romney among Catholics in 10 of the 12 states in which Edison Research conducted exit polls that asked about religion.

With two exceptions, he has lost the Catholic vote by a minimum of 7 percentage points (in Michigan, where Mr. Romney grew up) and by as much as 53 percentage points in Massachusetts, where Mr. Romney was governor. He has even lost among Catholics in the South, although he was nearly tied with Mr. Romney among Catholics in Tennessee and won decisively among Catholics in Louisiana.

Why is that? I suspect that even many socially conservative Catholics are put off by Santorum’s often-strident tone. As one Maryland primary voter told Times  reporter Katherine Seelye, “I feel Governor Romney is more willing to tolerate different views and values, and the president of the United States has to accept and respect the right of every American to believe as they will.”  Perhaps some are put off by Santorum’s rejection of certain Catholic principles. Santorum embraces, for example,  the evangelical notion of creationism, a teaching that the Vatican rejects in favor of evolution.

But while Santorum’s path to the Republican presidential nomination is questionable, he may gain enough support to land a spot on the GOP ticket, or play a role in a Romney administration.

It is, therefore, more than reasonable for voters to ask themselves if they want an Opus Dei cooperator to be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office. Apparently, most Republican Catholic voters, the Catholics who know Santorum and Opus Dei best, have already answered that question for themselves. How the conservative evangelical element of the electorate answers the question, may be different.

Rick Santorum’s Opus Dei Vision for America

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

The deeper into the GOP primary season we get, the more  former Sen. Rick Santorum (PA) class and culture war rhetoric abandons all pretense of moderation.  More concerning, he has become more heated, snide and resentful as his popularity has grown.

He has demonstrated that he is willing to reach blue-collar voters by fear-mongering. But more importantly, he has shown us how Opus Dei’s teachings inform his vision for society.

When Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as the president of a disuniting nation, he attempted to calm the anxieties of his Southern brethren by asking them to appeal to “the better angels of our nature.” One hundred and fifty years later Rick Santorum is headed in the opposite direction.

He is attempting to stoke blue-collar sentiments of feeling ignored — some of which is legitimate — into a frenzy.  But the candidate is not directing that anger and resentment toward oligarchs who do not believe in involuntary unemployment — folks such as the Koch brothers.  Instead, he is misdirecting it towards straw-man educated elites, personified by President Obama.  As The Daily Howler’s Bob Somerby explained, Santorum is doing nothing more than playing off two constant conservative memes:  Big government never did anything right.  Liberal elites think they’re better than you are.

At the same time, the prospective GOP candidate for president is being dishonest about himself and his opponents.  Since this past January, for example, Santorum has claimed:  “Obama says he wants everyone to go to college.”  He pauses and then exclaims:  “What a snob!”  Santorum then begins a diatribe about how the president supposedly looks down on blue-collar work.

Never mind that President Obama never said any such thing.  Indeed, the President was emphasizing any form of higher education to prepare for a wider choice of possible employment, including trade and technical schools.

In an interview with Glenn Beck, the candidate doubled-down with another divisive broadside aimed at the higher educated. This time claimed that a college education encourages anti-religious behavior and that the President is encouraging higher education because college essentially brainwashes the youth of America into becoming neo-atheistic liberals.

Santorum committed the sins of omission by failing to note how various wealthy conservatives are practically buying ideological influence at colleges and universities by their endowments.  And as an example of his own hypocrisy, he did not mention his own efforts at encouraging college attendance.

As Fred Clarkson wrote, Santorum’s latest outrage concerns President Kennedy 1960 assurance to Protestant ministers that he would not impose his personal religious beliefs on non-Catholic citizens. That is a far different thing than his characterization that “…faith is not allowed in the public square.”

But where does a Catholic find the authority to use such mendacity in pursuit of political power?  Perhaps the answer lies in the writings of Opus Dei founder, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer.

Santorum is what is known as an Opus Dei cooperator. While not officially a member, being a cooperator offers plausible deniability to those who support the secretive organization’s goals of a more theocratic society built upon a foundation of ultra-orthodox Catholic notions of morality.  It is no accident that Santorum’s first public condemnation of JFK’s Houston speech came in 2002 when the then-junior U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania was at the Vatican attending a Vatican celebration of the birth of Escrivá.  It was while attending that event that Santorum told The National Catholic Reporter that he was “an admirer” of Escrivá.

It was Escrivá who famously said, “Have you ever bothered to think how absurd it is to leave one’s Catholicism aside on entering a university, or a professional association, or a scholarly meeting, or a congress, as if you were checking your hat at the door?”

Santorum has embraced that view, going as far as to comment, that JFK’s promise not take orders from the Vatican as president has caused “much harm in America.”  Indeed, many of the candidate’s more inflammatory comments echo Escrivá.

Many of Santorum’s culture war pronouncements also echo Escrivá.  In the Opus Dei founder’s two primary works, The Way and In Love with the Church, he urged secrecy in his apostolate (The Way, No. 839); condemned modern notions of equality as “injustice” (The Way, No. 46); defines compromise as laziness and weakness (The Way, No. 54) demands blind obedience to Church teachings (The Way, No. 617); calls non-Catholic schools, “pagan schools” (The Way, No. 866); mocks Voltaire (The Way, No. 849). His book In Love with the Church cites such questionable authorities such as the openly anti-democratic Pope Pius IX.  (This was the same Pius IX who ordered a young Jewish child kidnapped from his parents in Bologna and raised him in the Vatican to become a priest, all against his family’s will).

There are also two passages in The Way that may offer Santorum a justification for his conduct. In No. 258, Escriva preached, “Get rid of those scruples that deprive you of peace. What robs you of your peace of soul cannot come from God.”

“In No. 259, Escriva continues, writing, “Still those scruples!  Talk simply and clearly with your director.  Obey… and don’t belittle the most loving heart of our Lord.”

Oxford Dictionaries Online defines “scruples” as follows:

noun
     1 (usually scruples) a feeling of doubt or hesitation with regard to the morality or propriety of a course of action:
     I had no scruples about eavesdropping
     [mass noun]:
without scruple, politicians use fear as a persuasion weapon

It is it possible that Santorum has “gotten rid of those scruples” — or at least those that would restrain a more reasonable candidate from angrily mischaracterizing the president’s true intent on higher education?

Santorum who has enjoyed the benefits of elite higher education, is playing a highly cynical political game.  Santorum has an undergraduate degree from Penn State, an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh and a law degree from the Dickinson School of Law — better known as Penn State Law.

Santorum’s other personal philosophy, neo-conservatism also comes into play.  This theory of governance is awash in the concept of neo-platonic society, one where everyone knows “his or her place,” and is likewise at war with modernity. It is also a system where “philosopher-kings” rule over the more “vulgar” members of society.  Such a worldview dovetails neatly with an Opus Dei vision for society.

And what of Opus Dei itself?  Apparently, the lay organization’s history is rife with elitism.”  The organization’s founder was witnessed making statements dismissive of more open-minded popes such as John XXIII and Paul VI.  Indeed, Escriva’s former personal secretary, Maria del Carmen Tapia, described how the organization, “… set its eye on the intellectual elite, the well-to-do, and the socially prominent.”

In a 1997 National Catholic Reporter review of Tapia’s book about her time with the secretive organization, Sister Kaye Ashe wrote, “If they had reason to wonder at the speedy beatification of its founder in 1992, 17 years after his death, their mystification will double as they see him through Tapia’s eyes: a self-preoccupied, authoritarian man given to loud and angry tantrums.”

While it seems that the teachings of Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer have left their mark on candidate Santorum, the question to which we deserve an answer is just how far does Santorum’s admiration for Opus Dei’s founder extend to his vision for America?

Santorum’s Second Song

Originally published at Talk to Action.

Many of us thought that Rick Santorum’s (R-PA) political career was over when he lost his seat to to Democrat Bob Casey, Jr. in 2006.   But recent events suggest Santorum is enjoying an historic comeback.  His second place finish in the Iowa caucuses and the backing of 150 national Religious Right leaders seeking to unify behind a single candidate may make him the main conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.

But all this may signal not only a revival of Santorum’s political career, but the neoconservative philosophy.

Neoconservatism’s tide had seemingly ebbed with the growing unpopularity of the war in Iraq.  But I have always sensed that this philosophy of empire, religious orthodoxy and laissez-faire was far from consigned to the dustbin of history, and was perhaps only a national crisis away from resurgence. It now appears that the neocons have found a horse to ride into rehab in in the person of Rick Santorum.

As it happens, Santorum is a good barometer of the status of Catholic neo-conservatism, a movement that has taken some hits in recent years. Their powerful figurehead, Richard John Neuhaus passed on; the quagmire of Iraq displayed the limits Inverse Trotskyism and an economy bankrupted by deregulation has disproved their economic paradigm.

But we still suffer recession today because of a Democratic president who is not Keynesian enough in his approach while hesitant (until recently) to identify his political opposition with their beliefs in intentional economic sclerosis and downward mobility.  To those of us who are not well-versed in economics, it is easy to understand why we could be led to believe that stimulus does not work.

Simultaneously the GOP presidential candidates have fail to satisfy Republican primary voters.  Different states provide the script for different outcomes.  Thus, a candidate needs to grab onto a block of powerbrokers to propel him into a very negotiable position.  Santorum has done this, trumping Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry with the simultaneous endorsement of almost every Religious Right leader that matters.

Santorum may not be able to wrest the nomination from Mitt Romney, but he may very well emerge as a power broker.  If and when the former one term governor of Massachusetts becomes the 2012 GOP standard bearer, he will need Evangelical support in order to have a chance at winning in the general election. If Evangelicals — and, to a lesser extent, conservative Catholics — don’t go to the polls in November, President Obama is reelected. To get their support, he will probably need Santorum.

The implications of such an occurrence are well worth considering.  The price of Santorum’s blessing could range from an end to the federal funding and oversight of embryonic stem cell research; to a veto on U.S. Supreme Court choices or even a spot on the ticket as Vice-President.

Neocon op-ed writers such as David Brooks and Charles Krauthammer have recently portrayed Santorum as some sort of blue-collar saint; the great “Christian” hope who reflects his middle-class roots — although he is a millionaire many times over.  Santorum earned $1.3 million in 2010 and the first half of 2011 alone and embraces economic policies antithetical to upward social mobility, such as free trade agreements, deregulation and tax cuts for the top .001%.  

The mainstream press often describes the former senator as Catholic. But Santorum is a particular kind of Catholic, one who is often out-of-step with the beliefs of some sixty-million American co-religionists. While the clear majority of American faithful largely ignore the Vatican proscription against artificial contraception, Santorum has made his opposition a campaign issue.  He has also opposed the federal funding and oversight of embryonic stem cell research.

Two of Santorum’s sons attend a private Opus Dei school in Washington, D.C.  Beyond that, the former senator is well known as an Opus Dei cooperator.  While not officially a member, being a cooperator offers plausible deniability to those who support the secretive organization’s goals of a more theocratic society built upon a foundation of ultra-orthodox Catholic notions of morality.

In 2007 he became a Senior Fellow with the Koch and Scaife-funded Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), the infamous neoconservative think tank.

He has used that position to advance a noxious culture war agenda demonizing liberals, gays and those who advocate a healthy separation of church and state.  Indeed, his 2011 denunciation of JFK’s 1960 embrace of that fundamental First Amendment principle was a formal elaboration of a long held view.  In 2002, while attending a Vatican celebration of the birth of Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, he told the National Catholic Reporter, President Kennedy’s position had caused “great harm in America.”  He went to say, “All of us have heard people say, ‘I privately am against abortion, homosexual marriage, stem cell research, cloning.  But who am I to decide that it’s not right for somebody else?’  It sounds good, but it is the corruption of freedom of conscience.”

What the former senator derides as “the corruption of freedom of conscience” was actually JFK’s pledge not to give in to the temptation of using government to invoke religious supremacy; something often visited upon Catholics in America’s past.

But there is a clear Catholic case against Santorum.  In his support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he chose the bellicose policy of George W. Bush over the trepidation of Pope John Paul II.  His embrace of laissez-faire economic runs afoul of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical, Caritas in veritate (“Charity in truth”). His support for the teaching of Intelligent Design appears to be more of a political sign to friendly conservative Evangelicals than a sign of fealty to Rome (in 2006 the Director of the Vatican’s observatory severely rebuked the entire concept). He has taken extremely large campaign contributions from the tobacco industry.

Indeed, Santorum’s tobacco industry contributions do not square with his very public anti-abortion pronouncements. According to The March of Dimes, both first-hand and second-hand tobacco smoke is hazardous to any fetus: Statistics from the United States are compelling. According to the U.S. Public Health Service, if all pregnant women in this country stopped smoking, there would be an estimated 11 percent reduction in stillbirths; 5 percent reduction in newborn deaths. Cigarette smoke contains more than 2,500 chemicals. It is not known for certain which of these chemicals are harmful to the developing baby, but both nicotine and carbon monoxide play a role in causing adverse pregnancy outcomes.  

Catholic neoconservatism is making its presence felt in this year’s Presidential Election.  It is not inconceivable that one of their number may soon be one heartbeat away from the presidency.