Dubya's "Catholic" Constituency (The Catholic Right, Twenty-five In a Series)
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 02:41:43 PM EST
On Friday, April 13, 2007 President Bush spoke at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. Judging by the event's organizers and featured speakers, Dubya's idea of "national" is a tiny collection of rightwing interest groups.
We know this thanks, in part to a simple press release from Catholics United for the Common Good, which exposed who exactly organized the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. And "surprise, surprise"-- it was a veritable Who's Who of the Catholic Right and its neoconservative friends.

The first name that leaps out is Joseph Cella of Fidelis and Tom Monaghan fame. Mr. Cella was last seen tag-teaming with William Donohue to slam John Edwards' campaign for president.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus (a founder and board member of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and longtime advisor to president Bush), gave an intriguingly entitled speech: "Why I Am Not an American Catholic." Another featured speaker was Leonard Leo, Director, of the Lawyers Division and Executive Vice President of the Federalist Society.

One of the event's Panel Chairs was William L. Saunders, Senior Fellow and Director of the Family Research Council's Center for Human Life and Bioethics. Putting the brakes on possible medical treatments that embryonic stem cell research may render is a political priority of the neoconservative Catholic Right and their evangelical Protestant allies in the Republican Party.

"Let's be honest," said Chris Korzen of Catholics United for the Common Good, "this event would be more accurately labeled the 'Republican Catholic Strategy Breakfast'. Its organizers have a clear track-record of putting partisanship above Church teaching." Actually, Korzen's observation is an understatement. Many in this group are well beyond partisan Republicans. In fact, the speakers described above are key players in a Radical Right movement that is positioned well to the right of mainstream American conservatism.  Beyond that, they are well practiced at the  art of factionalism.

Nowhere on the event program was there any mention of traditional Catholic economic issues such as distributive justice, let alone the Pope's opposition to the war in Iraq.

In the course of his remarks, the president stated:

Renewing the promise of America begins with upholding the dignity of human life. (Applause.) In our day, there is a temptation to manipulate life in ways that do not respect the humanity of the person. When that happens, the most vulnerable among us can be valued for their utility to others -- instead of their own inherent worth. We must continue to work for a culture of life -- where the strong protect the weak, and where we recognize in every human life the image of our Creator.

Allow me to translate:

You, being the ultra-orthodox friends of the Church hierarchy, want me to veto the bi-partisan supported Stem Cell Enhancement Act even though polling shows that it is supported by as much as 69% of American Catholics. Me, on the other hand, am waging a war in Iraq that was opposed John Paul II, and is opposed by Benedict XVI; and by more than 60% of the American public. Let's make a deal: I give you your veto and you support my Iraq war policy.

It comes down to a simple truth: neoconservatives and their enablers-religious or otherwise-- assign varying degrees of value when speaking of the "utility to others." It then follows that an undifferentiated spare embryo, destined to be discarded, should not be used to cure life-threatening diseases. At the same time, young men and women can be sent to Iraq to possibly die or become disfigured to fight in an unjustified and poorly planned war that is seemingly making more terrorists than it is stopping.

I am far from alone in seeing through to the president's moral inconsistency. On April 17, 2007 I noticed a letter to the editor in the New York Times appearing under the banner, "Stem Cell Hypocrisy." The writer, an associate professor of biomedical engineering, genetics and orthopedics, observed:

I find it hypocritical that President Bush, citing respect for life, has such a moral objection to the use of human embryos (five-day-old blastocysts, or microscopic balls of cells) for scientific and medical research when he had no problem starting and supporting a war that has caused the deaths of thousands and did not voice any objection to the death penalty when 131 prisoners were executed while he was governor of Texas.

I guess that in Mr. Bush's ideological world, protecting laboratory-created cells is far more important than preserving the lives of the people who might be treated for diseases, disorders and trauma as a result of embryonic stem cell research.

Far from being a celebration of faith--let alone Catholicism, participants such as Leo, Neuhaus and Saunders have allowed the prayer breakfast to evolve into an obvious political prop designed to put a Catholic window dressing on the president's planned veto of stem cell legislation while making a mockery of Church teachings on poverty, the treatment of labor and most importantly, the Vatican's continuous opposition the Iraqi War.

It is just another perfect example of how the Bush administration and their Catholic Right enablers have abused religion to advance its very non-mainstream political agenda. And in doing so, they place the particular interests of an increasingly unaccountable elite whose interests are often contrary to the rank and file faithful. It is an insult to most American Catholics.
The Catholic Right: A Series, by Frank Cocozzelli :  Part One  Part Two  Part Three   Part Four  Part Five  Part Six   Intermezzo   Part Eight   Part Nine  Part Ten   Part Eleven   Part Twelve   Part Thirteen   Part Fourteen   Second Intermezzo   Part Sixteen   Part Seventeen   Part Eighteen   Part Eighteen   Part Nineteen   Part Twenty   Part Twenty-one   Part Twenty-two   Part Twenty-three   Part Twenty-four

The Bush administration does not listen to ordinary Catholics and--contrary to popular preception--not always the pope, Instead, this administration only answers to a very reactionary part of the Catholic elite.

In any religious faith it is nearly impossible to find a follower who abides by every single article of faith. If the Catholic Right wants to charge that liberal Catholics are "selective" about accepting certain teachings, perhaps that is true. But they often do so out of enduring real life experiences.

The neoconservative Catholic Right's selectiveness is different. They often do so not out of a sense of righteousness (although they make that claim), but more out of a sense of advancing their own political agenda. And what makes it worse is that they fail to acknowledge their own selectiveness.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 03:07:13 PM EST

I wonder, sometimes, about Bush's loyalty to his presidential oath.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 03:04:15 PM EST
Like many others on the Religious Right, I believe that the president believes that the ends always justifies the means.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 03:10:18 PM EST

when Bush was governor of Texas.
Alberto Gonzales was in charge of summarizing the case for clemency whenever an execution was imminent. As the Texas governor's office records show, he did his job so well that Governor Bush only very rarely had to spend more than twenty minutes weighing the continued survival of a fellow human being.
Condemned to death, ugly, crazy, juvenile, stupid, even arguably innocent: twenty minutes was the time that Bush could spare for them.

by nogodsnomasters on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 03:06:31 PM EST
And yet they have the nerve to lecture the rest of us about valuing life "for their utility to others."

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 03:14:33 PM EST


I was wondering when I'd see the next installment of the ongoing Catholic Right series. The conservative Catholic movement is well-funded, and they have the ear of the Curia. I wonder how Neuhaus and company manage to bear the stench of the hypocrisy rising from the Bush administration, but perhaps they don't even notice its existence. I fear that this country is going to undergo some serious financial and political problems stemming from this administration and its behavior in starting the war in Iraq. It's quite evident that for the administration and its political allies, morality begins and ends with sexual matters, and biology is destiny.


by khughes1963 on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 09:42:24 PM EST

I am going to explore their influence on the current Supreme Court.

As always, thanks again Kathy!

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 09:44:44 AM EST

Just a funny side-note: last night on an indy music radio program I heard a song from 1982 by the punk band "Pop o Pies" called "The Catholics are Attacking." It is a must-listen - hilariously funny (and creepily relevant 25 years later). Unfortunately, the song was released only on a vinyl EP called "The White EP" which is long out of print. I cant even find the lyrics of the song online. The band appears to now regret the song according to one report of unknown credibility. So it's really hard to find but it's out there. If any of y'all ever hear this song you will know what I mean. This series reminded me of it, and probably will every time I see another installment!

Oh, oh, oh, oh-oh, the Catholics are Attacking ...

by Splash on Sun Apr 22, 2007 at 06:42:37 PM EST

The Catholic Right may be attacking, but the vast majority of us American Catholics are quite content with American society.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Mon Apr 23, 2007 at 07:19:22 AM EST

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