The Catholic Church is Orwell’s future incarnated as we head towards the closing days of the 2012 Presidential Election campaign. “Religious Freedom” means obeying the pope. “Pro-life” means continual war and privation. “Pro-marriage” means forbidding matrimony to loving couples.
With the wealth and power of their own Inner Party - accurately described in “Nineteen Eighty-Four” as prosecuting “thought crimes” (dissident theologians) - inextricably dependent on the success of the U.S. Inner Party which supports war, torture and constant surveillance as Orwell predicted, the propaganda of the ordained and their Outer Party supporters is a constant barrage of mind control aimed at Catholic voters and their evangelical partners.
As a recent study by The Economist tells us, tax payers provide 62% of the funding (over $4 billion annually just to the national offices of Catholic agencies) for Catholic charities, a result of Bush’s gratitude to the bishops in the form of his Faith Based and Community Initiative, while only 2.7% of Church spending goes towards the same charitable activities.
Government funds provide more than 50% of the income of Catholic hospitals (11% of the U.S. total) which refuse women abortions even to save the life of the mother, contraception and Plan B after a rape. Taxpayers support Catholic agencies which bar gay couples from adoption and organizations which refuse to cooperate with non-Catholic agencies regardless of the benefits to the poor.
The Economist article also points out that collections from the pews have been supplanted by “elite groups of large donors” and municipal bonds issued by state and local authorities “ to pay for the expansion and renovation of facilities.”
Muni bonds are generally tax-free for investors, so the cost of borrowing is lower than it would be for a taxable investment. In other words, the Church enjoys a [taxpayer] subsidy more commonly associated with local governments and public-sector projects.The Church is increasingly dependent on Republican state legislators for vouchers and donor tax relief to sustain their schools. The same lawmakers are needed to quash reform of statutes of limitations (currently in New Jersey, Arizona, Illinois, New York, Florida, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and California) which would provide justice for all victims of sexual crimes but would increase the liability of the Church to its victims, already costing over $3 billion.
As Catholic attorney Gerald Slevin noted, the Church needs a deferential Republican judiciary to handle these cases. Prosecutorial discretion decides many court-related issues regarding bankruptcies to shield assets, non-disclosure of damaging records, imposing gag orders, fines and sentences. There are always a myriad of civil cases involving Church properties, employment suits, etc., in the courts in addition to sex abuse cases.
A Republican president is a guarantee of continued executive branch funding of Catholic agencies in spite of their discriminatory practices. A friendly Department of Justice would be a boon to the Church’s authority in ways we can’t as yet even imagine. Supreme Court justices will continue to protect the Church and other “dark money” sources of campaign spending from financial transparency. Reversing Roe v. Wade will give the Church even more power over women. (Catholic and Republican leaders no more give a crap what happens to a fetus than they did for Iraqi pregnant women and children and the children tortured by pedophile priests and bishops.)
With so much at stake, it’s no wonder the entire unchallenged-by-the-government-tax-exemption network of 200 dioceses, 17,000 parishes and 40,000 Catholic affiliated organizations are directed to a “non-partisan” get-out-the-vote effort to elect Republicans.
Although the Church has told us for decades that a human person exists at conception and every abortion is an “intrinsic evil” while war, torture, poverty and child rape are “prudential judgments” subject to interpretation, Romney’s support for abortion in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother and contraception never earned him the epithets and vitriol directed at President Obama.
Instead, Fr. Frank Pavone, head of Priests-for-Life who “had been confined to the Diocese of Amarillo by his bishop, Patrick J. Zurek, who sent a letter to every other U.S. bishop declaring that he had so many concerns about the group's $10 million budget that Pavone shouldn't be trusted with donors' money,” came to Romney’s defense. “We don’t necessarily need in public office someone who is going to be a crusader on this issue. We just need someone who’s going to make it easier for us to do our job,” he said.
The bishops, however, were temporarily nonplussed. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, past president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warned of “anti-religious sentiment, much of it explicitly anti-Catholic…communism’s better-scrubbed bedfellow.” Baltimore Archbishop Lori, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, alerted his flock that “both life and liberty have been under assault by an overarching godless secularism.” Both omitted the “A” word and instead urged Catholics to vote against this rejection of their authority.
Finally, the wily éminence grise of the U.S. episcopate, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, got his confreres back on track. Yes, abortion is the “defining issue,” but Catholics shouldn’t vote for “someone who, for example, favors unlimited access to abortion … undermines the meaning of marriage or supports policies that really undermine the foundation of our culture.”
With the balance of the Catholic universe now restored, the drumbeat for a Republican victory continues to Election Day.
• “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rallies were held in over 140 cities from coast to coast to remind the Religious Right voters of Obama’s “war against religion.”
• The Knights of Columbus keep funding the campaigns against gay marriage, a dependable GOTV issue for the GOP.
• The Hispanic Outreach for the Catholic Association “is currently using a ‘grassroots system’ that reaches out through local parishes, pro-life groups and religious freedom rallies to distribute Spanish voter guides” in Florida. Romney is given an A+ and Obama an F. “The majority of Spanish speakers in this country are Catholic and deserve to know how the candidates measure up,” a spokesperson explains.
• The group is part of the Catholic Association which has already distributed the English version in other battleground states.
• The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy has released a “non-partisan” voting guide in the form of a free mobile device app available at no cost for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows smart phones and tablets. “The guide specifically focuses on six issues: right to life, religious liberty, sanctity of marriage, private property, access to necessary goods and war,” which points out that only abortion and gay marriage are “intrinsic evils” while the others may involve only “morally flawed positions.”
• An Ohio priest organized a protest against the “Nuns of the Bus” in Marietta where they were met with signs calling them “fake nuns” and “bums on the bus.”
• Bishop Alexander Sample of Marquette, Mich., argued against same-sex marriage as well as abortion in a four-part series on the election published in his diocesan paper. “Any threats to human life or any efforts to force the Church, her institutions or individuals to violate the sacredness of human life and the dignity of the sexual intimacy in marriage must be opposed,” Sample wrote.
• Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt of Greensburg, Penn., directed his invective against Joe Biden. A Catholic politician who has “an established pattern of voting in favor of abortion legislation and an established pattern of public rejection of a core teaching of the Church” is “engaged in public cooperation with a grave moral evil.” “Politicians who live in such a disintegrated way are a matter of concern not only to Catholics, but to ‘society itself,’ Bishop Brandt said.”
• Bishop of Bismarck, N.D., David Kagan, published a letter read at all masses this past weekend “that - without mentioning names - effectively endorses U.S. senate Republican candidate Rick Berg over his opponent Democrat HeidiHeitkamp.” The bishop states “I will not tell you how to vote,” but “lists some actions he believes ‘are never acceptable and should not be made so by law, they include: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and not recognizing the unique and special role of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.’”
• Greenbay Bishop David Rickens is distributing his letter to all parishioners both last weekend and this weekend. “I’m not encouraging one party or the other,” he says, but only “one” particular party supports abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and homosexual marriage and a vote for this party “goes against faith and morals.”
• Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky (who made headlines in April comparing Obama to Hitler and Stalin) wrote a letter to be read at each mass this weekend, Nov. 3 and 4, stating “that the Affordable Healthcare Act will ‘require all Catholic institutions, exempting only our church buildings, to fund abortion, sterilization, and artificial contraception.’ It overtly implies that any Democrat politician supporting the Affordable Healthcare Act and anyone voting for a Democrat ‘rejects Jesus as their Lord’ and are ‘objectively guilty of grave sin’ and show no ‘hope for salvation.’"
I’ll close with the words of my favorite blogger, “dissident” Catholic theologian, Dr. William Lindsey, commenting on Andrew Sullivan’s column, "Religion, Race, and Double Standards," at the Daily Beast:
Who can imagine that in following their bishops' partisan political lead and choosing the Republican Party in this election for “moral” reasons they're making a really moral choice. But whose immorality in voting for a party that has established its strong “moral” base by employing outright racism in the final decades of the 20th century and right up to the present will have serious destructive consequences for the whole planet and the entire human community if Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are elected.
Serious, immoral, destructive consequences brought to the world quite directly and deliberately by the leadership of my Roman Catholic Church . . . .
Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America.