07/17/17

3 Reasons Catholic Bishops Are Holding Their Tongues on GOP Health Care Debacle

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When President Obama proposed requiring health plans to cover common contraceptives without charge, the Catholic bishops howled like the world was coming to an end. Dire warnings about the future of religious liberty were issued on a regular basis by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, then-head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who personally went to the White House to complain to Obama. A special committee was formed. Legislators were lobbied. Lay Catholics were called on to protest. A scorching letter was read aloud by bishops at masses across the country. And threats were made about the Catholic vote in 2012.

But now, even as the clearly deceptive and immoral Trump administration plunges further into chaos and the Republican Party uses it as a distraction as it plots to take health care away from millions, the nation’s Catholic bishops have remained largely silent.

There have been no condemnations of Trump’s authoritarian tendencies, attacks on the press and outright mendacity. And while the bishops admit the GOP health “reform” efforts would be detrimental to the poor and marginalized and “fundamentally alter the social safety net for millions of people,” they have limited their objections to written statements from Bishop Frank Dewane, chairman of Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, a little known backbencher with virtually no profile in the national media.

As Michael Sean Winters noted in the National Catholic Reporter:

…there was no “postcard campaign” like the bishops launched on previous issues of less significance, no full court press as it were. It is clear that so long as they get rid of the contraception mandate, many bishops are willing to look the other way if millions are thrown off the insurance rolls.

It’s likely that the bishops are holding their tongues because, while they don’t love the health plan—except for the part that would further limit abortion services by private health plans—they still hope to get several much-wished-for goodies from the Trump administration beyond the promised roll-back of the contraception mandate. Here are three things the bishops are still hoping to gain from Trump and the GOP.

  1. A massive federal tax credit for parochial schools. As Politico reported:

Catholic leaders are meeting with GOP lawmakers and members of the Trump administration, hoping to shape a federal plan they believe could spur a rebirth of parochial education. The Trump administration’s consideration of a federal tax credit scholarship program could be a boon for Catholic schools … Catholic leaders are seizing the moment, pushing for a federal program that comes with few constraints. “We see this as game-changing,” said Greg Dolan, associate director for public policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Catholic education.

  1. The further marginalization of contraception and reduced contraceptive access. Make no mistake. The bishops’ real objection to the contraceptive mandate was that it threatened to enshrine contraception as an essential health benefit, which was a direct threat to the Catholic Church’s promotion of natural family planning. As Archbishop William Lori, head of the USCCB Religious Liberty Committee recently told Crux, preventive services should only “pertain to preventing diseases and not to … preventing birth.”

But, as New York Times reports, under Trump a number of anti-contraception activists have been given prominent roles in the administration. They are moving not just to finalize a rule that would allow any entity to opt-out of the contraceptive mandate for any reason, which has long been on the bishops’ wish list, but have a history of attacking contraception in general.

Katy Talento, who is now a White House domestic policy aide, has warned of the (false) health risks of oral and other hormonal contraceptives, charging that they are carcinogens, ruin women’s fertility and cause miscarriages. And, like the bishops, she suggests that natural family planning, which has the highest failure rate of any contraceptive method, is a suitable alternative:

“There are other ways to avoid pregnancy and to space children’s birth if necessary and appropriate, if a family or a woman wants to do that,” Ms. Talento said. “You don’t have to ingest a bunch of carcinogens in order to plan your family.”

Mathew Bowman, who is now a lawyer for the Department of Health and Human Services, came from the Alliance Defending Freedom, where he represented Conestoga Wood Specialties in its successful challenge, along with Hobby Lobby, to the contraceptive mandate. Bowman argues that there is no evidence that the mandate reduced the number of unintended pregnancies and has disputed that there are any ill health effects related to unintended pregnancy.

  1. Allowing Catholic Church-affiliated adoption agencies, such as those run by Catholic Charities, to refuse to provide adoptions to LGBT couples and individuals. The move by states to require any adoption agency that participates in state-funded adoption programs to provide services to LGBT couples and individuals was part of the original impetus behind the bishops’ “religious liberty” push. The bishops are backing the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2017, which would “prevent the federal government, and any state receiving federal funds for child welfare services, from taking adverse action against a provider that, for religious or moral reasons, declines to provide a child welfare social service.” This would create a blanket exemption for faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to provide services to LGBT couples or individuals.

The bishops also would love any GOP health reform plan to include a wide-ranging “conscience” clause that would allow health care providers to refuse to provide any service for moral or religious reasons, which could be used to deny services to LGBT patients or single mothers. When it comes to the Trump administration, the bishops have apparently decided to hold their noses and see how much on their wish list they can get, literally selling their souls to the devil.

Complete Article HERE!

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02/9/17

Steve Bannon Aligns With Vatican Hard-Liners Who Oppose Pope Francis

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Anti-Pope Francis posters appeared in Rome last week, with a message in a Roman street dialect saying, “Hey, Frank, you took over Congregations, suspended priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of The Immaculate, ignored Cardinals… Where the heck is your mercy?”

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White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is known to have cultivated ties with far-right parties in Europe, like the National Front in France. He also seems to have forged an alliance with Vatican hard-liners who oppose Pope Francis’ less rigid approach to church doctrine. The New York Times reported this week on Bannon’s connections at the Vatican.

Before becoming White House chief strategist, Bannon — who is Catholic — was the executive chairman of Breitbart News, which he called a “platform for the alt-right.” That’s a movement associated with white nationalism.

During a visit to Rome a few years ago, Bannon struck up a friendship with the American Cardinal Raymond Burke, a traditionalist who has emerged as one of Pope Francis’ most vocal critics.

Bannon hired Thomas Williams, an American former priest, as Breitbart’s Rome correspondent. Williams belonged to the conservative Legion of Christ, which was roiled by scandal when it was revealed its founder had been a pedophile.

Williams recently told his own story on an Italian TV talk show: In 2003, he fathered a child, but he kept it secret until he was outed by a news report. He then left the priesthood and married the child’s mother — who is the daughter of the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Mary Ann Glendon.

In July 2014, Bannon addressed a conference that was held inside the Vatican but was sponsored by a conservative Catholic group. Speaking via Skype, Bannon painted an almost apocalyptic vision of the state of the Western world.

“We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which, if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting.”

A barbarity, Bannon added, that would completely eradicate “everything we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years,” and which he clearly spelled out a few minutes later: “We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism. And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it.”

This is language that Pope Francis has never used. The pope has repeatedly urged European countries to welcome migrants — who are, in the majority, Muslim — and he has championed the rights of the poor.

A year ago, Francis criticized candidate Donald Trump for wanting to build a wall along the border with Mexico, saying, “A person who thinks only about building walls … and not building bridges is not Christian.”

But that’s not Bannon’s worldview. While most Breitbart reports on the pope have been neutral, headlines about the pope when Bannon was in charge included:

  • “Seven Ways Pope Francis Slapped Conservatives in the United States”
  • “A Vatican Expert: Pope Francis a ‘Friend of Islam’ “
  • “Pope Francis Slams Capitalism, Death Penalty, Immigration Law; No Real Mention of Abortion, Gay Marriage”
  • “Pope Francis Threatens Legacy of Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan”

While Breitbart and Bannon seem to be making common cause with Roman Catholics who are on the outs with this pope, these Vatican hard-liners are not very powerful.

Nevertheless, Pope Francis’ supporters inside the Vatican worry that following Trump’s election victory, the pope is a little more isolated — a lonely progressive on the global stage. They say this has emboldened his critics both within and outside the Vatican, who have become more vocal.

For example, just last week, mysterious anti-Francis posters cropped up around Rome. The photo showed the pope looking uncharacteristically very grouchy, and the unidentified author — using a Roman street dialect — accused him of acting in an authoritarian manner and showing lack of mercy, despite the fact that Francis has made “Mercy” the unofficial slogan of his papacy.

Francis has not reacted. But in a surprising move, on Sunday, he issued the very first papal blessing for the Super Bowl. It was a video message in his native Spanish — not in Italian, which he usually uses for official messages — in which he said such a sporting event “shows that it’s possible to build a culture of encounter and a world of peace.”

The Italian media labeled the message “anti-Trump.”

Complete Article HERE!

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11/28/16

Trump, White U.S. Catholicism, and the Fate of God’s Creation

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By Marian Ronan

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In a blog posted soon after the presidential election, I argued that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops colluded in the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency. But that’s not all there is to Catholic collusion in the Trump phenomenon, not by a long shot.

In a preliminary analysis published on November 9, the Pew Research Center reported that 52% of U.S. Catholics voted for Trump.  But 60 percent of white Catholics voted for Trump. And while only 26% of Latinx Catholics voted for him—67% went for Clinton—the percentage of Latinx voters going for Clinton was an 8% decline over the percentage that went for Obama in 2012. This was another component of the Trump victory

And when we examine the individuals central to Trump’s campaign, the picture is no less disheartening.   Though I could find nothing about her current religious affiliation, if she has any,  Trump’s campaign manager and current top advisor, KellyAnne Conway (née Fitzgerald) graduated from a Catholic high school and from Trinity College, once a leading Catholic women’s college.

Then there’s Steve Bannon, the former head of the Breitbart News, an unambiguously  anti-semitic, white nationalist news site, and soon to be Trump’s chief counsel in the White House. Bannon is a Catholic. In a talk he delivered at the Vatican on June 27, 2014, sponsored by the Institute for Human Dignity, he spoke of “a crisis both of our Church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.” The U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has also recently assured us of Donald Trump’s Christian values, arranged to have Bannon speak at the Vatican conference.

Then there is Paul Ryan. An article I read recently—God knows where— argued that we should be more worried about Reince Priebus, Trump’s soon-to-be chief of staff,  than Steve Bannon. Why? Because Priebus will ultimately be more influential than Bannon—having major impact of administration hires, for example. And he is totally on board with Paul Ryan’s campaign to eviscerate the social safety net. And what’s Ryan’s religious affiliation? Roman Catholic, of course. At least the U.S Catholic Bishops did call him out for the cuts to social programs he proposed during the 2012 election, something they hardly did at all with regard to Trump’s threats during the 2016 campaign.

Now this is by no means the first time in U.S. history that white Catholics, and their bishops, have come down on the wrong side of pivotal ethical issues. In his recent book American Jesuits and the World, the distinguished scholar of U.S. Catholicism, John McGreevy, documents how the American church, and the Jesuits, were strongly pro-slavery for a stunningly long time. I believe the church called slavery “just servitude.”

And in the 1950s, the Catholic press, and the highly influential archbishop of New York,  Francis Cardinal Spellman, strongly backed anti-Communist and anti-gay “witch-hunts” by the Catholic senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy was eventually censured by the U.S. Senate, and died, probably of alcoholism, in 1957.

But the support of slavery and of Senator McCarthy by American Catholics and the U.S. bishops pales in significance beside their support of Donald Trump. This is so because Trump is a complete climate change denier, pledged to roll back President Obama’s already inadequate climate change initiatives, and restore the fossil fuel industry. And he has already appointed a “notorious climate change denier” and “head of a coal industry funded think tank,” Myron Ebell, to lead the transition at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Some may think this is no more significant than the threat Trump poses to Muslims and undocumented immigrants. But as an editorial in this week’s issue of The Nation argues compellingly, climate change is the “worst crisis that human beings have ever faced.” And as the U.S. Catholics who voted for Trump, and those who work for him, and the bishops well know, this is an increasingly irreversible crisis that the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has called out emphatically in an encyclical, the primary teaching instrument of the Catholic Church.

But who cares about that? What really matters to the majority of white U.S. Catholics,  a minority of Latinx Catholics, and the vast majority of the U.S. Catholic bishops, is the “right to life.” And everybody knows that the environment, God’s creation, has nothing to do with life.

Complete Article HERE!

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