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Originally posted at Talk to Action.

Glenn Beck's recent admonition that people who attend a church that teaches social justice should leave -- was anti-Catholicism. This was obvious from a wide range of perspectives --from a Jesuit scholar to a liberal newspaper columnist and a neoconservative evangelical blogger.

Yet perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this tawdry episode was that stepping forward to defend Glenn Beck was none other than Bill Donohue leader of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

But before we get too deeply into the scandal, let's recap: On the March 2, 2010 Fox News TV show that started it all, Glenn Beck said:

"I'm begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!"

James Martin, S.J., writing in the Jesuit journal America, observed:

"Of course this means that you would have to leave the Catholic Church, which has long championed that particular aspect of the Gospel."

Martin elaborated on the thinly veiled anti-Catholic vitriol of Beck's pronouncement:

The term "social justice" originated way back in the 1800s (and probably predates even that) and has been continually underlined by the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the church) and popes since Leo XIII, who began the modern tradition of Catholic social teaching with his encyclical on capital and labor, Rerum Novarum in 1891.  Subsequent popes have built on Leo's work, continuing the church's meditation on a variety of social justice issues, in such landmark documents as Pope Pius XI's encyclical on "the reconstruction of the social order," Quadregismo Anno (1931), Paul VI's encyclical "on the development of peoples," Populorum Progressio (1967), and John Paul II's encyclical "on the social concerns of the church" Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (1987).  Social justice also undergirds much of Catholic social teaching on peace.  "If you want peace," said Pope Paul VI, "work for justice."

On his March 11, 2010 radio program, Beck went even lower, conflating real Catholic social justice with the bigoted Rev. Charles Coughlin, which was a thinly veiled effort to equate the social justice teaching of the Church with fascism.  But it as with most such coarse demagoguery, what is left out is as misleading as what is actually said.

Washington Post op-ed writer Harold Meyerson helped correct the historical record.

The most celebrated and notorious Catholic of the New Deal era was radio priest Charles Coughlin, the Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly of his day. On his weekly nationwide radio broadcast, the Detroit-based Coughlin was a staunch FDR supporter during the initial years of Roosevelt's presidency. He approved of the first phase of the New Deal, the National Recovery Act, which rejected laissez-faire capitalism and endeavored to replace it with a managed economy that balanced opposing social interests -- echoing Catholic economic doctrines propounded by Pope Leo XIII in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum and by Pius XI in his 1931 Quadragesimo Anno. By 1935, however, Coughlin had split with Roosevelt over the issue of America's recognition of the World Court (the very kind of issue that today's talk-show fascisti also love to demagogue). The cosmopolitanism of the New Deal and the new CIO was increasingly unbearable to the anti-Semitic Coughlin, and by 1936 he was attacking "Franklin Double-Crossing Roosevelt" in every broadcast.

Initially Roosevelt sought to keep Coughlin in the fold, sending such prominent New Deal Catholics as Joseph P. Kennedy and Frank Murphy, who'd recently been mayor of Detroit and was soon to become governor of Michigan, to try to rein him in. But Coughlin had made up his mind, and as the 1936 election drew near, he was calling FDR a "liar" and a "communist."

Then Meyerson compared Coughlin with Monsignor John Ryan and other Catholic economic liberals:

But Roosevelt also had allies within the Catholic hierarchy, and he made sure to showcase them whenever possible. Foremost among these was Monsignor John A. Ryan, a professor of political science and moral theology at Catholic University and the longtime director of the Social Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Council. Inspired by Rerum Novarum, Ryan helped create a distinctly Catholic brand of American economic progressivism. (His dissertation, completed in 1906, was titled "A Living Wage.") In 1936, in an address he called "Roosevelt Safeguards America," Ryan took to the airwaves to denounce Coughlin's attacks on the president. Ryan also delivered the invocation at FDR's 1937 and 1945 inaugurals.

Ryan's labor Catholicism probably claimed the allegiance of several million adherents during the New Deal years. Among the most prominent were New York Senator Robert Wagner, who authored both the National Labor Relations Act and the Social Security Act, and Philip Murray, the first president of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) and the second president of the CIO.

Coughlin was a renegade who, like Beck has moved from any semblance of mainstream political philosophy, to embrace one that is increasingly conspiratorial and radical.

Also criticizing Beck was Baptist neocon Joe Carter. Writing in First Things the journal founded by John Richard Neuhaus  Carter asked: "Could Beck's claim be construed as "anti-Catholic?" Yes and no. I think if anyone else had made the remark it would have been hard to dismiss the anti-Catholic undertones."

Carter went on to say:

"But Beck is a special case: He is too prone to say any dumb thing that pops into his head and too ignorant about history and religion to truly understand the implications of his statement. This doesn't excuse him, of course, but it certainly is reason not to be too shocked when a self-professed "rodeo clown" advises people to leave their churches over Catholic "code words" like social justice."

Carter closed his piece by wondering, "Still, I'm curious to see how Beck's loyal defenders will excuse his latest outrageous remarks."

Joe Carter, say hello to Catholic League President Bill Donohue!

In a March 12, 2010 Catholic League press release Donohue declared:

Many are hammering Beck for saying, "Am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!" A closer read of what he said shows he followed that quip with, "If I am going to Jeremiah Wright's church. If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish."

Beck didn't say Christians should abandon their religion. He recommended shopping around to find a more conservative parish if one is dissatisfied with hearing left-wing sermons. Nothing new about that. In the Catholic Church, there are priests who are stridently left-wing and stridently right-wing; many parishioners shop accordingly. Protestants shop by leaving one denomination for another. And so on.

See? Glenn wasn't trying to strip Catholicism of a central tenet; he just wants us to go shopping!

Then Donohue tried to deflect attention away from Beck's anti-Catholicism. But nowhere does he make any effort to explain the meaning of Catholic notions of social justice:

Some of those who have criticized Beck have done so in a sincere way. Others are just phonies. Just yesterday, we dealt with an issue which is far more serious than a sarcastic remark-we called out a radical feminist leader for branding pro-life Catholic congressman Bart Stupak "un-American." And the day before we protested news stories accusing the bishops of "polluting" the health care debate. But we heard nothing from the social justice crowd about these matters. Wonder why.

Donohue does not in any way rebuke Beck, let alone defend Catholoic notions of Social Justice or such leaders as  Monsignor Ryan, Robert Wagner, Sr. and Dorothy Day.

But this is nothing new.  I've written before that for Donohue, movement conservatism always takes precedence over addressing ant-Catholicism.  

Glenn Beck not only launched a frontal assault on Catholic theology, but provided an opportunity for Donohue's Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights to carry out its stated mission.  That the League deflected for Beck rather than standing up for the social justice teaching of the Church ought to be a singularly illuminating moment for American Catholicism.

Originally posted to Frank Cocozzelli on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 05:21 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Right-wingers like Donohue (10+ / 0-)

    Would have you believe that they are just concerned members of their church rising up in protest against a creeping un-Christian liberalism worming its way into their churches.

    The very reverse is the case.  There has been for some decades now an organized and aggressive push by conservatives bankrolled by Richard Mellon Scaife and others, to take over vulnerable churches all over the country and get control of both their messaging and their assets.  Their most visible organ is a group called the "Institute on Religion and Democracy", but it should not be assumed that it is the only one.

    Their M.O. is to infiltrate churches, create artificial crises within denominations pitting 'liberals' against 'conservatives', push the liberals out where possible, or cause a large subsection of the church to secede where not possible.  The ultimate goal is to make every church the same kind of tool of the right-wing political bloc that the fundamentalist churches are now.

  •  Donohue (6+ / 0-)

    is the face of modern anti-Catholicism in the same fashion as BB is the face of modern antisemitism.  Both are devout self worshipers.

  •  Great diary (7+ / 0-)

    It is always interesting how blowhards like Donohue, while decrying what they call "cafeteria Catholics", are more than willing to do their own picking and choosing when it comes to matters of economic justice. It goes back to the saying "people in glass houses should not throw stones".  

    He is also being intellectually dishonest with people because his group is not an official group of the Catholic Church.  But the way the he spins it leads to the impression that it is.  He thinks he is more Catholic than the Pope.  


    "Patriotism is no more about signs or pins than religion is about reminding others how pious we think we are." -- Bob Schieffer

    by sable on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 05:35:27 AM PDT

    •  What Would Help... (5+ / 0-) if one cardinal or bishop who has had it with Donohue spoke out against him.

      Trust me, they're out there.

      •  Where? Where are they? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        khughes1963, paul2port

        I have long said that this man is a disgrace unto the Catholic Church.  His recent rant on an Irish radio show denying that any abuse occurred, labeling it all as "emotional abuse only" is, to my mind, nothing short of being a Holocaust denier (of course the scope is different, but the denial, the excuses, etc. are the same). In his pogrom against several religious orders of nuns, he has gone as far as accusing many of them as being lesbians.

        Why hasn't his home Bishop shut him up? The same for Alan Keyes when he went around running for president, completely misrepresenting the Church's teachings. In Mass., we have the Archbishop calling the police to drag parishioners out of closed churches, shutting down catholic schools 2 days before graduation so that parents / students couldn't use graduation to make a public statement about the school closing.  But Bill Donohue continues his screed.

        No, they aren't out there. The Pope continues with his campaign to reunite with Lefebve's breakaway bunch - who are still out there preaching Deicide, still preaching that if you aren't Catholic you're going to hell, etc. The Bishops are shutting the windows and even the drapes, rolling back Vatican II as fast as they can.  I don't see any of them speaking out against Donohue.

        Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

        by absdoggy on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 06:22:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  "Go Shopping" seems to be (5+ / 0-)

    the favorite answer to all problems for Conservatives.  Support the Troops?  Go shopping.  Fix the broken ruins of our economy?  Go shopping.  Hallelujah!  

    ~War is Peace~Freedom is Slavery~Ignorance is Strength~ George Orwell "1984"

    by Kristina40 on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 05:52:02 AM PDT

  •  Great Diary Frank (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    khughes1963, Frank Cocozzelli, sable

    Off Topic:

    I'm not able to write right now but I'm hoping you, or others, might address the Maciel/Legion of Christ/Regnum Chrisi scandal at some time in the future.

    The LC are extremely "orthodox", are in agreement with Donohue on the rejection of "social justice" and influential both within the Curia and the laity through their operation of schools, university and ownership of Catholic media (National Catholic Register etc.) Donahue is, of course, affiliated.

    It is a huge story that is just breaking in the English language press.

    •  Just Breaking? No, It's Been Out & Covered Up (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      khughes1963, paul2port, sable


      The basic facts, as we know them, are that Fr. Maciel was the founder of the Legion of Christ (religious order) and Regnum Christi (lay order). Over the years, Fr. Maciel: - plagiarized many of his writings - stole $$ from the order - was a sex offender and a pederast - paid off women with whom he had sex and children - oh, and also used the stolen funds to feed his drug habit.

      No word on whether he listened to rock and roll (sex and drugs and rock and roll!)

      Pope Benedict has ordered an investigation, as it is fairly clear that other senior members of the Order had to have known about it and covered all of this up. However, there's no word, no coverage - it will take at least another year and then there will be some small press release exonerating everyone.

      Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

      by absdoggy on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 06:09:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not really... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Frank Cocozzelli, sable

        Dana Kennedy's piece for AOL News on 14 March is the first piece that I think revives the story. AOL News: International Probe Targets Secretive Catholic Group

        As sex abuse scandals rock the Vatican, the results of an investigation into a rich, ultra-conservative and secretive Roman Catholic order founded by a priest accused of pedophilia and incest are due to be filed in Rome on Monday.

        The sordid story of the Legion of Christ, whose late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, was a close ally of Pope John Paul II before being forcibly retired by the Vatican in 2006, is a microcosm of the crisis currently enveloping the church.

    •  Colleen Kochivar Baker Is Covering It (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      khughes1963, paul2port, sable

      And doing a damn good job at her web site, Enlightened Catholicism.

      Here is the link to her latest post on the story.

      •  Thanks Frank (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Frank Cocozzelli, sable

        I am very impressed with Colleen's writing. There are others, of course, but there's so much denial too.

        Canadian Canon Lawyer Peter Vere's views are worth reading: Catholic Light His heartfelt apology seems genuine.

        However I still feel that many of the LC/RC and those who have left were willing dupes. As Colleen has pointed out it is a very immature, almost childish faith at the lowest possible level that motivates them.

    •  Also, the real breaking story is Popegate (5+ / 0-)

      As regards the abuse scandals coming to light in Germany - what did the Pope (then Archbishop Ratzinger) know, and when did he know it?

      Small diocese geographically, about 750 parishes, 1200 priests at the time. Just about the same as the Archdiocese of Boston.

      We are to believe that a priest was accused of sexual abuse, investigated for such, a finding made that confirmed (at least to some extent) the accusation, was transferred to an administrative position / sent to counseling, and then released from counseling and sent back to parish work where he abused again, all without the knowledge of Archbishop Ratzinger? It was all done by underlings? It was how it was done at the time?

      Funny, that sounds an awful lot like Cardinal Law's defense in the Boston archdiocese. Time will tell whether German authorities and lay catholics there will bear the truth out.

      Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

      by absdoggy on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 06:39:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Kathy Griffin on Bill Donohue (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    khughes1963, dss, paul2port, slksfca

    and thanking Jesus publicly for earthly rewards.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 06:01:37 AM PDT

  •  I dont think Donohue thinks there is one Catholic (5+ / 0-)


    He thinks there is a valid conservative one, and an heretical liberal one.

    From his POV, Beck was attacking the latter, which he agrees with because he thinks it is not REAL Catholicism.

  •  Birds of a feather! (4+ / 0-)

    Beck and Donohue have the same thing in common:they are both ignorant of Church teaching and of history. Donohue is nothing if he is not a loud-mouth bigot.  Virtually everything he stands for, is contrary to some aspect of the teaching of the Church. He is 'more to be pitied than picked on.' This is true because he does not know Church teaching. His local pastor and bishop should develop some backbone and deny him the Eucharist if he doesn't straighten himself out. He is a public scandal and the church should do what it can to silence him from speaking in its name about anything.

  •  Christian conservatives will always make (4+ / 0-)

    excuses for right wing media bluster!  It's ingrained, and it's their downfall! As with Bush's idiotic tenure, excuses and party loyalties will always outweigh common sense amongst the ignorant.

    "These are people of the land. The common clay of the new west. You know.....morons!" -The Waco Kid

    by fedorko on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 07:37:27 AM PDT

  •  GOP Alibi - Don't Hit The Retarded Kid (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    khughes1963, paul2port

    The GOP manages to get a pass time after time by pleading "Please don't be mad at us. We are too dumb to know right from wrong. Can I hug you? Want to visit us this summer in the Hamptons?"

    We saw this with Monica Goodling - everbody treated her with kid gloves as if her homeschooling and Xtian diploma mill degree entitled her to use the handicapped parking space.

    Carter went on to say:

    "But Beck is a special case: He is too prone to say any dumb thing that pops into his head and too ignorant about history and religion to truly understand the implications of his statement. This doesn't excuse him, of course, but it certainly is reason not to be too shocked when a self-professed "rodeo clown" advises people to leave their churches over Catholic "code words" like social justice."

  •  It isn't only Donohue (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paul2port, Frank Cocozzelli, sable

    I am getting the strong impression that just as Donohue makes movement conservatism more important than religious faith, the American hierarchy is making movement conservatism and the preservation of their own power and privilege more important than spreading the Gospel and living by Christ's example. And then they wonder why so many people are getting disgusted?!

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