Christopher White, national correspondent for the online Catholic newspaper Crux, reported that President Donald Trump made a conference call, at the end of April, to an estimated 600 US Catholic leaders, among whom were: Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York; Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston; Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB); Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, Chair of the USCCB committee for Catholic Education. Also among the 600 were superintendents of Catholic schools in Los Angeles and Denver, and a variety of other US Catholic leaders.
In his message to these prominent US Catholics, the President reiterated his pro-life (meaning for him ‘anti-abortion’) position and his support for Catholic schools. Clearly begging for support from Catholic leaders, President Trump repeated his warnings of dire consequences for the Catholic Church in the United States, if he would not be reelected.
On April 26, the Sunday following this presidential conference call, Cardinal Dolan, from his pulpit in St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, offered friendly and great praise for Mr. Trump: “The president has seemed particularly sensitive to the religious community…..I’m in admiration of his leadership.”
Meanwhile, Father Frank Pavone, Catholic priest and National Director of Priests for Life and President of the National Pro-Life Religious Council, announced that he enthusiastically supports President Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection.
Pavone, one may recall, made national headlines in 2016 when he strongly endorsed Donald Trump for President. In his 2016 pro-Trump video-propaganda, he used a dead aborted baby, laying naked and bloody on an altar, as a campaign prop. Quite a sign of being a pro-life priest.
These days Pavone is a key leader in the “Catholics for Trump Coalition.” In a recent interview he stressed that while Trump is “trying to protect the right to life,” the president is acting on other issues as well in ways “completely consistent with Catholic teaching.” He went on, “He’s protecting our people by strengthening borders, not to stop immigration but to stop crime, to protect families, to protect neighborhoods,” He sounds just like a Trump speech writer….
Some may doubt me, but very honestly I am not interested in playing politics in Another Voice. If people ask, I acknowledge that I am a Democrat. Frankly, I come from an active and solidly Republican family background. (In grade school in 1951, I was an avid supporter of Dwight David Eisenhower’s Republican presidential campaign. “I Like Ike” was my theme song and I proudly wore one of his campaign buttons to prove it.)
These days I am not a political activist. I am an historical theologian. My theological DNA has been strongly shaped by both my Catholic mother and my Protestant father….My now rather long academic career, however, has been in mostly Catholic institutions.
As a Christian believer and an historical theologian, I am very critical of the current US President. I find his values and behavior morally repugnant. If he is a “Christian” I suspect that must be a personal quality in name only. I am also very critical, therefore, of Catholics who support the policies of our current chief executive. Whether bishops, priests, or lay people, I believe they have succumbed to a very distorted moral vision. I find their behavior in supporting the current chief executive disorienting, disruptive, and disconcerting. I find it difficult, for instance, to reconcile continued public lying, no compassion for the distressed, self-centered admiration, xenophobia, promoting racist stereotypes, mocking people with disabilities, and denigrating women with any sense of healthy Christian virtue.
They and we urgently need some contemporary values clarification discussions and exercises.
Some fundamental questions that should be asked: What are the person’s basic beliefs, principles, and attitudes? What are they based on? Are they humane? Are they Christian? Are they good and healthy values? How does one know? If these are one’s values, is one’s behavior consistent with them? If institutions or institutional leaders do not have good values, are values re-education and transformation possible? Is it enough to inform the emperor that he has no clothes? Or maybe one needs a new emperor….one who has better moral sense and sensitivity.
Opposing abortion is not enough for a genuine Christian response to today’s human life situations. Over the years I have encountered a great number of anti-abortion demonstrators who were cruel, crude, and inhumane. Fortunately there have been, as well, Catholics – even bishops — who have demonstrated broader Christian beliefs and behavior.
In 2011, by way of example, the then Catholic bishops of the United States issued a “Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities” which advocated a consistent broad-based ethic of life. This is material for good values clarification discussions and exercises for contemporary Catholics, regardless of their political party affiliations. In that document issued almost ten years ago, we read: “Opposing abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care…”
Now THAT reflects authentically Christian values!