By Marybeth Hagan
Woe to the Catholic who dares express his or her deeply held beliefs in the public square. For in some political circles, Catholics are considered a politically incorrect threat that must be manipulated.
The proof is in the hacked WikiLeaked emails of John Podesta, campaign chairman and confidant of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
While other voter blocs were disrespected in some of these emails, Catholics were treated with contempt for their “severely backwards” way of thinking. One exchange from 2011, which was sent to Podesta, was between Jennifer Palmieri, communications director of the Clinton campaign, and John Halpin, of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. They were making assumptions about why two high-profile Catholics – News Corp. chief executive Rupert Murdoch and the Wall Street Journal managing editor Robert Thomson – chose to raise their children as Catholics. “Friggin’ Murdoch baptized his kids in Jordan where John the Baptist baptized Jesus,” wrote Halpin.
“Many of the most powerful elements of the conservative movement are all Catholic (many converts) from the SC [Supreme Court] and think tanks to the media and social groups,” Halpin added. “It’s an amazing bastardization of the faith. They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.”
In her response to Halpin, Palmieri piled on insults to include evangelicals. After noting that Halpin made an “excellent point,” Palmieri added, “I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion. Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelicals.”
The two Clinton supporters reveal more about their “systematic thought” than those of the two men whose minds they presume to read. Do Palmieri and Halpin really believe that some social movement like progressivism knows better than an individual, religious or not, about how to raise his or her children? Do they really think that social acceptability is the end all and be all, even when it comes to faith?
While there’s plenty of snark in their musings about Murdoch, Thomson, and Catholics in general, there’s no perception of how sacred faith is to believers. Palmieri and Halpin reflect the ignorant mindset described by Stephen L. Carter, an Episcopalian and Yale professor of law, in his 1993 book, The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion. “In contemporary American culture, the religions are more and more treated as just passing beliefs – almost as fads, older, stuffier, less liberal versions of so-called New Age – rather than as the fundaments upon which the devout build their lives,” Carter wrote.
Another Wiki-Leaked email exchange – this one between Podesta and Sandy Newman, founder of the the progressive advocacy group Voices for Progress – demonstrates how some political operatives have moved beyond trivializing religion to targeting it.
In 2012, Newman suggested to Podesta that “There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church.” In the next breath, Newman admitted his “total lack of understanding of the Catholic church” before he wondered about how to “plant the seeds of revolution” in it.
Newman has a lot to say on a church about which he knows nothing other than wanting to divide and conquer it.
Podesta, who is Catholic, assured Newman that his concern was already covered: “We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this. But I think it lacks the leadership to do so now. Likewise Catholics United.”
Catholics like me, along with people of other faiths, don’t need political operatives to empower us. We turn to the Almighty for empowerment.
We shouldn’t be surprised, though, that Clinton supporters think this way about religion. Clinton herself, during a speech about empowering females at the Women in the World Summit last year, advocated a modus operandi a lot like Podesta’s. “All the laws we’ve passed don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will,” Clinton declared. “And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.” Yes, this person who wants to be our next president said that.
Changed by whom? Clinton and her minions. Changed by what? Their “political will.”
And heaven only knows what a President Trump would have up his sleeve.
God help us.
Marybeth Hagan is a writer in Merion Station. firstname.lastname@example.org