The real priorities of the Catholic Right were described in a recent article at the progressive Daily Kos: “Catholic Right Still Tied to Big –Money Republicans” [by Betty Clermont, January 16, 2015]. She notes that if anything, their strength is underestimated.
The last time anyone counted, “about one-in-five religious advocacy organizations in Washington D.C. have a Roman Catholic perspective,” the biggest spender being the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at $26.67 million. Unfortunately, [a Pew Forum] report didn’t list the organizations it considered to have a “Roman Catholic perspective.” Because they’re not based in Washington D.C., the 195 dioceses, Catholic Foundations and the state level Catholic Conferences who lobby on behalf of the local bishops, and the approximately 40,000 other organizations controlled by the bishops throughout the U.S., were not included. Unlike Evangelicals, all the above speak with a unified voice on anti-equality for women and gays. Additionally, no other religion has a global financial network capable of accepting and moving “dark money” thanks to exemptions in requirements to file financial statements and to pay taxes.As Clermont describes, these organizations fund and undertake a huge amount of activism on issues such as abortion and homosexuality. Of course, a progressive should be outraged about all this. Speaking purely for myself, the Catholic Church has long opposed one of my most important causes, family planning for women.
There are many organizations which don’t declare themselves “Catholic” but are allied with the USCCB agenda. They include right-wing think tanks such as the Acton Institute and the Ethics & Public Policy Center (EPPC). [Links in original]
But notice that, in this long Leftist tirade against the power of the Roman Catholic Right, there is not a word about the Church’s support of immigration. The Church is just as active in promoting illegal immigration it is in promoting what progressives would consider retrograde policies on family planning etc.
Many conservatives, of course, would support the Catholic Church because of its efforts against abortion and its work to secure “religious liberty.” But conservatives should also consider how good an ally the Catholic Church really is, especially when the Church’s contemporary efforts seem so utterly self-interested.
Let’s look at how some of the Catholic Church’s affiliates operate in Clermont’s account:
The Becket Fund is “one of the Religious Right legal groups that has pushed to expand the definition of ‘religious liberty’ to allow corporations and individuals as well as religious institutions to opt out of laws they say violate their religious beliefs.” It was founded by Notre Dame graduate, Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson, who was granted honorary doctorates from the bishops’ own Catholic University of America and Domino Pizza magnate Thomas Monaghan’s Ave Maria University. Hasson named his organization for St. Thomas a Becket.All of these organizations are well funded, extremely active, and increasingly powerful—yet none is willing to touch the immigration issue. And it’s implicitly dishonest of Daily Kos to sound the alarm about some kind of impending right wing theocracy without noting that the Catholic Church is one of the strongest supporters of open borders.
The Thomas More Society was founded by another Notre Dame alumnus, Thomas Brejcha, and also named for a saint. Three of the four board members and the majority of attorneys have Catholic backgrounds. “We’re litigating for pro-lifers and people of faith who face crises of conscience, filing friend-of-the-court briefs in support of other significant court cases, and building a pro-life, pro-family infrastructure by providing organizational and legal support for 31 other non-profits,” according to its website.
What’s truly disheartening about all of this is that the Catholic Church’s advocacy of mass immigration undermines and undoes anything it does to combat poverty or help workers. Both progressives and conservatives are hypocritical in claiming some kind of moral superiority while supporting policies espoused by self-interested corporations, plutocrats addicted to cheap labor, and tribalistic ethnic lobbies.
The Roman Catholic Right seems willing to take public criticism for taking conservative or even reactionary stands on sexual issues. Where is their courage on immigration?
The truth is that the Roman Catholic Right serves as a kind of giant misdirection. It takes conservative-minded Catholics and funnels their money and time into dead-end causes. They are showily making a moral stand while the fabric of our civilization disintegrates and our rule of law evaporates.
Consider the powerful presence of Catholics in the legal profession. Clermont writes:
“Speaking of legal groups, while not “Catholic,” the Federalist Society, which “built the intellectual foundations for an extreme conservative legal movement” boasts Catholic jurists Bork, Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts as members.”Six of the nine members of the Supreme Court are Catholic. Three of those members are rumored to have associations with Opus Dei, which asks its adherents to put allegiance to the precepts of the Church over allegiance to secular government. But now that President Obama has unilaterally abolished immigration law, where are these Catholic legal groups?
And what about Catholics in the corporate world? There is a group known as “Legatus,” which unites Catholic executives. It gave a pro-life award to former President George W. Bush and has hosted such worthies as Newt Gingrich and Cardinal Francis George at its conferences. Yet its most important attendee might be Thomas Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which would explain Legatus’ utter silence on immigration.
It’s all very well to promote Catholic identity or judgmental social beliefs. It’s quite another thing to confront ingrained privilege and stand for workers and citizens against the economic and political elite. The fact that so called “right-wing” Catholic groups are so silent on the critical issue of our time means that that they are no real obstacle to America’s hostile elite.
In fact, we might even say they are an essential component, making sure that those who subscribe to the Church of Rome never get in the way of those who hold to the worship of Mammon.
Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former longtime member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013