A WAKE-UP CALL FOR THE USCCB:
An Authentic Preaching of the Gospel Demands a Critique of Right-wing Catholics
Part II: Endorsement of the Political Agenda of Donald Trump
John R. Connolly
April 11, 2022
John R. Connolly
April 11, 2022
Politically the radical-right-wing Catholic movement in the United States has endorsed the Trump agenda and his fraudulent claims that he won the 2020 election. Their militant support of Donald Trump, a self-proclaimed white supremacist nationalist, and their identification of his agenda with the objectives of the Catholic faith was evident even before the 2020 election. The radical-right-wing Catholic supporters of Donald Trump reduced Catholic identity to a single issue, namely abortion, while ignoring all of the other social and moral teachings of the church. They turned their interpretation of abortion into a political ideology. Contrary to the 2020 U.S. bishops’ voting guide document they focused on abortion to the exclusion of all the other moral and social issues, like racism, poverty, the environment, the plight of immigrants, sexual discrimination, and sexual abuse. In their voting guide document, the U.S. bishops affirmed that racism, like abortion, is also an intrinsically evil act, a statement that seems to have escaped the consciences of the radical-right-wing Catholic movement.
The radical-right-wing media along with Catholic cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, and laity preached the “gospel according to Donald Trump” which claimed, among other things, that a believer could only be a true and faithful Catholic if he or she voted for Donald Trump because, as they claimed, he supported the church’s position on abortion. Therefore, one could not be a true Catholic if he or she voted for Joe Biden. Supporters of this such judgmental claims include clerics like Cardinal Raymond Burke, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Bishop Thomas Tobin, Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Bishop Joseph Strickland, Fr. Frank Pavone and Fr. Stephen Imbarrato, to name but a few. They preached the “gospel according to Donald Trump,” to their parishioners, sometimes from the pulpit, some even threatened Catholics with damnation if they voted for Biden. Archbishop Vigano predicted that the election of Joe Biden would be the beginning of a “near-Satanic age.” Some of these clerical Trump supporters actively worked for the Trump campaign.
All of this was taking place in defiance of the official directives of the Catholic Church that members of the clergy should remain neutral in political elections and not publicly support a particular candidate. The U.S. bishops’ 2020 voting guide document states that the church should refrain from endorsing parties or candidates. Pope Francis has said that the church is called to form consciences, not to replace them. The 1994 Vatican document, the Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, states that a priest ought to refrain from actively engaging himself in politics.” Canon 287.2 in the Canon Law of the Catholic Church clearly states that clerics are not to take an active part in political parties. However, the leadership of the USCCB never once pointed out that the bishops and priests who were preaching the political “gospel according to Donald Trump” were de facto in violation of these directives of the Catholic Church. Keep in mind that these clerics were bishops and priests in the U.S. Catholic church and yet, the leadership of the USCCB said nothing at all, and still to this day not a word has been said about these clerical violations.
Even after the election of Joe Biden, the radical-right-wing Catholic support of the Trump agenda continued in full force but moved to a more deceptive and incendiary level. Not only did the radical-right-wing Catholic movement support Donald Trump’s 2020 election, but they also continue to support his on-going efforts to overturn the results of the election. Even today they support his fraudulent claim that he won the 2020 election, and that the election was stolen from him. They accept the “Big Lie’ even though all of his fraudulent evidence has been proven to be false and all of his fraudulent lawsuits have been rejected by the courts. But even more appalling is the radical-right-wing Catholic movement’s approval of the January 6, 2021, insurrection and violent attack by Trump’s supporters on the Capitol and their misguided efforts to justify it. Incited by Trump himself his supporters stormed the Capitol building in an effort to intimate the Vice-president, the House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate into reversing the results of the 2020 election. The U.S. Congress was in joint session with the Vice-president to carry out their constitutional duty to certify the legitimate election of Joe Biden as president of the United States. A mob of Trump supporters surrounded and stormed the Capitol effectively imprisoning the assembled legislators, endangering their safety. The nation watched in horror as guns were drawn in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives. Along with their guns, their flags, both U.S. and confederate, they carried signs and banners claiming that their actions were supported by God and Jesus. They promoted themselves as the saviors of our nation. In outright blasphemy they identified their political aspirations and their violent tactics with the Christian Gospel of salvation. It is amazing that more Christians in this country were not scandalized by this idolatrous distortion of the Christian faith.
Not only do the actions of Trump and his supporters violate U.S. election laws and the rules, procedures, and traditions of the U.S. constitutional democracy, they are also radically incompatible with some of the very basic teachings of the Catholic faith. The Catholic faith is rooted in Jesus’ command to love God and your neighbor as yourself. As Jesus said this is the greatest of all the commandments. It embraces the fundamental doctrinal, moral and social teachings of the Catholic Church, as well as the ten commandments, the theological virtues, and the beatitudes. Lying, cheating, bearing false witness, and spreading fraudulent conspiracy theories are actions that are certainly incompatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church. The filing of fabricated and unfounded lawsuits, coarsening others to perform illegal acts to further one’s own gain and misleading one’s supporters through lies and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories are all actions that are incompatible with the fundamental beliefs of the Catholic faith. The hateful threats and violence of the Trump inspired rioters certainly is not compatible with Jesus’ Gospel of love. In their 1983 pastoral letter, The Challenge of Peace, the U.S. bishops pointed out that the way of Jesus is the way of nonviolence.
And yet, undeterred by all of this, the radical-right-wing Catholic movement in the United States has praised and approved of Trump’s election conspiracy theories, his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and even the violent insurrection on January 6. Some have even attempted to justify these actions in the name of faith. We find the radical-right-wing Catholic media, along with U.S. bishops, priests, religious and lay women and men, praising, supporting and justifying these acts. Archbishop Marie Vigano treats the election fraud claims as if they were an article of faith. The influential radical-right-wing website, LifeSite News, has helped to spread Trump’s bogus election claims to a large Catholic audience. LifeSite News’ coverage of the day of the insurrection and riot was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Claiming that there were a million people present, (the Associated Press said several thousand) a LifeSite News correspondent glowingly reported, “It’s just a wonderful spirit, to be around a million patriots.” In spite of the violence LifeSite News applauded the January 6 insurrection suggesting that the rioters were being oppressed by the state and that the violence was not their fault. Accolades supporting and justifying the actions of the January 6 rioters also could be found on other far right Catholic online websites as well. Church Militant described the rioters as patriots, blaming their violent acts on the so-called Marxist media which distorted the results of the 2020 election in favor of Biden. They falsely claimed that Trump got 80 million votes. In their on-scene reports on the events of the day they celebrated the mob’s advance as they trampled fences, swung clubs, erected gallows, and broke into the United States Capitol building. Statements supporting the January 6 insurrection could also be found on the website, OnePeterFive, and the television network, EWTN.
All of these media fonts call themselves Catholic and profess to be giving the Catholic view on the events and issues on which they comment. They identify their own political and theological views and faith interpretations with those of the Catholic Church, setting themselves up as an alternate magisterium. Ironic as it might seem, the rioters claimed that they were doing something holy. This is not surprising since the views being presented in the radical-right-wing media are the same views that a cardinal, a number of bishops, and many priests, aligning themselves with the self-appointed champions of “true Catholicism,” had been preaching from their pulpits. As a result, both the media and some of the Catholic clergy have misled many Catholics, convincing them to accept and support views that actually violate some of the basic teachings of the Catholic Church.
Yet, the leadership of the USCCB has consistently refused to speak out against the distorted and erroneous views of the radical-right-wing Catholics. The bishops have not done anything to stop the promulgation of the “gospel according to Donald Trump” by the radical-right-wing media and its clerical supporters. Ironically, the silence of the leadership of the USCCB has enhanced the credibility of the radical-right-wing Catholics by allowing them to continue to present their views under the false assumption that they are authentic teachings of the Catholic Church. The silence of the leadership of the USCCB has unwittingly helped spawn the political and faith distortions of the radical-right-wing Catholic movement in the United States. Now is the time for the U.S. bishops as a body to speak out and condemn these errors. If not, things will only get worse. An authentic preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ demands that the USCCB publicly and specifically condemn the theological errors and faith distortions being promulgated by the radical-right-wing media and its supporters, clerical and lay. Not only is the integrity of the Christian Gospel at stake here, but so is the unity of the Catholic Church in the United States, as well as the credibility of the U.S. bishops themselves. Errors and distortions of the faith must be equally condemned no matter from what political spectrum they arise.