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!


18 thoughts on “Short-Sighted Moral Vision

  1. Dear Jack,
    Simply BRILLIANT! I am copying this and sending it to all of my friends and family. If there is to be a litmus test for a candidate, you have written it. Thank you for defining what a true Christian leader should be.

  2. Thank you for your reflection this week, Jack. Values clarification — what a transformational concept and eye-opening exercise if we are honest with ourselves. How do we apply Christian values in our modern life, especially in the field of politics these days? It’s not always easy, but there are some simple questions we can ask ourselves as you’ve done here.
    I love your graphics, a modern collage.

  3. Your insights are on target, as usual, Jack. I’ll never forget, during a political discussion with my friend, our church choir director and liturgist, said to me, “Hell Patti, we’d all be Democrats if they’d get on the right side of abortion”. This in response to my question asking how people of goodwill could vote for a party that demonizes anyone who needs help as lazy; ignoring poverty, equality, etc.

    I have yet to figure out if our US religious hierarchy are simply Republicans, no matter what, or if the only issue they care about is abortion. (Sigh) Thanks for the reminder about the statement from 2011.

    Blessings to you this Memorial Weekend.

  4. Jack, right on target as usual. I am amazed at the number of priests who avidly favor the current president. I am learning to keep my thoughts to myself, and there are some rectories where I’ve chosen not to go. For each of them their only source of news is Fox, and they brag about it. Have a safe holiday.

  5. Jim, just wondering if those priests ever say why they support Trump? The abortion issue? And do they show other signs of narcisssism? Psychology Today denotes “narcissistic personality disorder as the condition that “explains” Trump’s behavior. Among those making this assertion are more than 70,000 mental health professionals who signed a petition warning of Trump’s potential dangerousness, despite longstanding professional injunctions against “diagnosing” public figures whom experts have not personally examined.”

    Or do they mention other issues?

  6. I remain stunned that the bishops of American and other Christian leaders continue to look to President Trump. He is the only politician I ever heard publicly mock and contemptuously dismiss the essential ethic of our Christian life. Not only did he publicly belittle our ethic and those who honor it; he proudly proclaimed that he was dedicated to its opposite. Every day he gives us evidence of that dedication to reinforce his sense of how to make America great again. I am not as concerned about the decline of American life as I am about the decline in Catholicism evidenced by the complete lack of awareness or indifference about the ethic we should be living. I do not expect others to live by our ethic, but I would like our bishops to give witness to it by standing up for it.
    I am also waiting for one of our religious leaders to remind the Biblical faithful of the commandment. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Trump seems to have dismissed this as an old fashioned idea,as well. I have not yet heard anyone bring this to his attention when he claims to be so supportive of our religious traditions.
    Thanks Jack for bringing to our attention the 600 phone calls. I was amazed by this outreach from the White House. Is there any evidence that any of the bishops or leaders presented a Christian stance in talking with the president?

  7. Tom, it wasn’t to the president but I was heartened by the letter to Dolan from the Sisters of Providence, West Terre Haute, IN. Their comments are very direct calling out the bishop for his failure to stand up for traditional Christian values. If you’re interested —
    Usually congregations fly under the radar, but this group, as a whole body, proclaimed it publicly, as did a few others.

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