An Opus Focus on SCOTUS? (Part 2)
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 04:27:23 PM EST
The following is the second installment of a three part sub-series regarding the influence of non-mainstream, ultra-traditional Catholics now sitting on the US Supreme Court and federal judiciary.

"Opus Dei is very good at going to people of influence and promoting their own agenda. And sometimes these people don't even know they're doing Opus Dei's bidding."

That happens as well at the level of the "co-operators," she says, who are described as "supporters" of Opus Dei's work. "Define what 'support' means," she says. "You have to ask them very specific questions to get any real answers. I think Opus Dei uses the co-operators for its agenda, and they ask them for money. I talked with one man, a former co-operator, who told me he finally saw through it, and it just turned him off."
                           --Dianne DiNicola, Opus Dei Awareness Network


Raising the Issue
As an American, a Catholic, an attorney and a lover of liberty I am concerned about the strong influence of an ultra-traditionalist Catholic mindset on the U.S. Supreme Court. Unlike the many mainstream and even conservative Catholics who have served on the bench, there are indications that some members of the current court  may want to use their powerful positions to impose their particular orthodoxies on the rest of us..

As I have previously pointed out Opus Dei cooperators and others on the Catholic Right such as former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, see their Catholicism as entirely different from our first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy.  In 2002 the progressive National Catholic Reporter ("NCR") covered a Vatican event honoring Opus Dei's founder, Josemaria Escriva.' In his piece, reporter John L. Allen noted:

Though the sprawling congress touched on many topics, one recurrent theme was the relationship between public life and faith. While speakers stressed that neither Escriva nor Opus Dei impose a particular political option, they also insisted that Catholicism must shape one's approach to public policy.

Speakers cited a famous saying of Escriva: "Have you ever bothered to think how absurd it is to leave one's Catholicism aside on entering a university, or a professional association, or a scholarly meeting, or a congress, as if you were checking your hat at the door?" In contemporary Western debates, this idea of unity between faith and political allegiance often puts Opus Dei-inspired politicians on the right.

From the very same article, consider the former Keystone State's Senator's statement made at the same event:

Santorum was a forceful champion of this view. He told NCR that a distinction between private religious conviction and public responsibility, enshrined in John Kennedy's famous speech in 1960 saying he would not take orders from the Catholic church if elected president, has caused "much harm in America."

"All of us have heard people say, 'I privately am against abortion, homosexual marriage, stem cell research, cloning. But who am I to decide that it's not right for somebody else?' It sounds good," Santourm said. "But it is the corruption of freedom of conscience."

Or consider this tidbit from, again from the same event:

Mariano Brito, a former minister in the government of Uruguay, described how he had blocked a health care program because it included funding for in-vitro fertilization. His stance, he said, was motivated by the desire to defend the right to life, a way of carrying his Catholic faith into public policy.

Brito is a "supernumerary" member of Opus Dei, meaning a layman who is married.

As I emphasized in last week's piece I am not concerned about a general Catholic presence on the court. Justice William Brennan and perhaps until recently, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy acted as mainstream Catholics who seemingly separated their religious views from their decisions. As I commented, Catholicism is not monolithic. Just as we must be concerned with the theocratic impulses of certain Reconstructionist and Dominionist subdivisions of Protestantism, the same approach applies to certain intolerant impulses of ultra-traditionalist Catholic subdivisions.  

But with that said, it would be unprecedented to launch an inquiry into a justice or justices based on religious affiliation. It would be highly improper (as well extremely awkward) to attempt to expose a judicial nominee's affiliation with Opus Dei or another similar organization solely to proclaim, "Sir, simply because you are an Opus Dei cooperator I cannot vote for you." Besides sucking all the air out of the committee room, such a pronouncement misses the point of uncovering a possible abuse of public-entrusted power. It would simply backfire into charges of anti-Catholicism.

Yet, there is good cause to question future nominees for the federal judiciary on this point-- and there are fair and reasonable ways to do it.  While Opus Dei is no ordinary organization, the issue is not Opus Dei itself. What concerns us is the extent to which the nominee will act in accordance with the most orthodox of the organization's pronouncements, specifically when such activity would violate the separation of church and state.

Mainstream Catholics serving on the Committee on the Judiciary, Senators such as Dick Durbin, Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden have the necessary religious standing to question ultra-orthodox nominees about any affiliations they may have with the Catholic Right.  Here are some reasonable and inoffensive ways for Catholic Senators to inquire into such matters:

CATHOLIC SENATOR: Judge, you and I are both Roman Catholics. However, I have read that you are a follower of Josemaria, Escriva,' the founder of Opus Dei. If that were to be the case, while we both share the same basic faith, we may have differing views on what role our Catholicism should have in executing our public duties.

Now, a former member of this body, Rick Santorum is also a follower of Escriva' and his teachings. The former senator once stated that President Kennedy's distinction between private religious conviction and public responsibility has caused "much harm in America."

What both the American people and I would like to know is whether you agree with Senator Santorum's assessment; and if you do, please explain to us in what way?

And, as is the case with former Senator Santorum, the nominee has inicated that he abides by Josemaria's teachings as the means to act in his public office, then perhaps it is appropriate to ask the following:

CATHOLIC SENATOR:  If issues such as federal funding for embryonic stem cell research or a woman's right to choose came before you on the bench would the primary basis for your decision be more "motivated by the desire to defend the right to life, a way of carrying his Catholic faith into public policy" or solely by legal principles?

And if the nominee is close with the infamous Opus Dei priest, C. John McCloskey (as is the case with current Associate Justice Clarence Thomas) the following question is appropriate:

CATHOLIC SENATOR:  Judge, I see that you are quite close with the Opus Dei priest C. John McCloskey. To say the least, he has made some rather provocative comments, such as saying there are "...two Americas. One group in America is made up of Bible Christians and faithful Catholics who possess standards and convictions based on the natural law, the Bible, and the teaching authority of the Catholic Church and strive to live accordingly."

Father McCloskey then went on to characterize his fellow Americans in this manner:

"The other group in America, whatever its religious affiliation" as not believing "... in a normative moral truth or in a God to whom they are accountable in this life and in the next according to their actions here," ultimately describing them as "...culture of death."

Judge, could you please tell the committee if you share Fr. McCloskey's view that all other Americans except for those he believes are "faithful" Catholics or "Bible Christians" are part of a culture of death? More importantly, if you in fact do share Fr. McCloskey's view, would that adversely affect your ability to apply the law to equally to those you associate with "a culture of death?"

Lest anyone think such questions could never come up, consider what happened to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) during the confirmation process for federal appeals court nominee William Pryor. Questionable at best about his commitment to church-state separation, Pryor once proclaimed in 1997, "God has chosen, through his son Jesus Christ, this time and this place for all Christians...to save our country and save our courts."

Leahy ,who is Catholic was attacked "anti-Catholic" by the National Review which framed the issue in terms of a factious and ultra orthodox version of Catholicism that is in hot pursuit of breaching and ultimately breaking the wall separating church and state. Opponents of their agenda are routinely described as anti-Catholic.

This agenda would infuse our common judicial system with a view of morality less based upon the notion of overlapping consensus and much more on a highly subjective form Catholic morality,  which looks to foreign head of state to inform American judicial philosophy. The foreign nation in question is the Vatican, a nation the United States recognizes and maintains diplomatic relations.  This is significant in part because while JFK was very clear that he would respect the separation of church and state in carrying out his responsibilities as president, adherents of Opus Dei and similar groups have a radically different view, as former Senator Santorum made crystal clear.

This goes beyond the separation of church and state.  It can be reasonably seen as the laws of sovereign state being imposed upon another sovereign state. And it must be remembered that in the United States, sovereignty is vested in the people who through the democratic process make their elected leadership accountable to them. Vatican sovereignty, on the other hand, is vested in a pope -- a monarch elected from among about 100 top church officials who are themselves appointed by a monarch.

The vast majority of American Catholics separate their faith from any sense of nationality. For me, Catholicism is a religion, nothing more, nothing less. But many on the Catholic Right see public office as an opportunity and an even an obligation to reshape American law and public policy in line with Vatican's sense of morality . In this age of the Vatican's abstinence-only AIDS prevention and its opposition to certain stem cell research, this is something for every American to ponder.

Having proposed a way to pose reasonable inquiries into how American Catholics judicial nominees relate the views of the Vatican to their role as American public servants, next week I will explore these matters in light of the actions of some current members of the Supreme Court.

An Opus Focus on the SCOTUS? (Part 3)

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   Part Twenty-five  Part Twenty-six



Display:
The freedom of religion is one of the cornerstones of our great American democracy. If it is eroded it will be done use the highly charged emotions that accompany undisciplined thought.

Regardless of whatever baseless charges of anti-Catholicism that may be leveled in puruit of the truth, we must stand our ground. And that is exactly why mainstream Catholic Senators should have to responsibility to uncover potential abuses of office by nominees belonging to this organization.

Always remember: the issue here is not Opus Dei nor membership in it; instead it is taking that membership too far and the propensity for violating other Americans' freedom of conscience.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat May 05, 2007 at 10:14:23 AM EST

This is a profoundly antidemocratic organization and has been since its founding in the cradle of Franco's Spain. When American government officials work for the goals of a secretive collection of elitist religious fanatics, those who care about freedom in America must take notice and shine a glaring light on their scheming.

by nogodsnomasters on Sat May 05, 2007 at 11:36:23 AM EST
Parent


You have it pegged, Frank! Some members of the hierarchy have this tendency in common with Opus Dei. Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis forced St. Joseph's to disinvite Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill as the commencement speaker (her daughters attend the school) because she didn't agree with Burke on abortion & stem cell research. It's scary what the Catholic right is trying to do here, especially in light of their losing the majority of their influence in Europe, but that goes back a long way to when the hierarchy tried to maintain the social status quo and failed to support working people in Europe.

Kathy

by khughes1963 on Sat May 05, 2007 at 10:58:42 AM EST

And I bet Burke wouldn't have thought twice about letting Jim Talent speak even though he took huge sums of tobacco money while suporting a war in Iraq that the Vatican opposed.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun May 06, 2007 at 08:57:14 AM EST
Parent



WWW Talk To Action


And Yet Finn Remains Bishop
It has been more than two years since Bishop Robert Finn was convicted by a Missouri criminal court for failing to report child abuse......
By Frank Cocozzelli (1 comment)
On Christmas Day, in the Morning
In recent years at Christmastime, I have posted a response to the preposterous-but-malevolent claims broadcast on Fox News and elsewhere that there is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (6 comments)
Hallelujah, Mike Huckabee, Hallelujah
Fox News personality Mike Huckabee had a defining moment in the wake of the Newtown massacre. One that as we enter the 2016 presidential......
By Frederick Clarkson (4 comments)
Moses And Michele: Departing Member Of Congress Spreads More Misinformation
The Religious Right's Moses fixation continues to grow.As you might recall, the Texas State Board of Education recently demanded social studies textbooks that highlight......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Christian Right Silent about Bob Jones U Sex Abuse Report
One of the deep scandals of our time, and apparently times past, is that sex abuse, particularly of children, has been so tolerated and......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Boot These Bigoted Bans: Movement Seeks To Remove Anti-Atheist Bias From State Constitutions
Eight states still have provisions in their constitutions that either bar atheists outright from holding public office or require people to believe certain things......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
James Madison and Tax-Supported Chaplains
In light of former Sen. Rick Santorum's recent silly declaration that “the words ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the U.S. Constitution,......
By Chris Rodda (1 comment)
Death to Obama; Death to "Homos"; What's Next?
When the Obama administration was young, threats against the president were common, and sometimes quite public. One notorious such incident was that of Rev.......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Rick Scarborough's America
When Stand Up Sunday was convened by Mike Huckabee in Houston it was to feature the leading spokesmen for the Religious Right agenda.  The......
By wilkyjr (0 comments)
The Republican Diversity Program... Is Working
I don't usually write directly about electoral politics, but sometimes I bring an outsider's perspective to how the inside looks to some of the......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
American Christian Right Leaders in Rome
The remarkable and growing alliance between conservative Catholicism and protestant evangelicalism was on prominent display at a recent event at the Vatican. My colleague......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Religious Supremacism on the Rise Against Marriage Equality
This is a crosspost of an op-ed I recently published at LGBTQ Nation.  -- FC Christian right undermines marriage equality with religious supremacism FREDERICK......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
The Author of Loathing Lincoln Explains Why Some on the Christian Right Loathe Lincoln
One under-reported result of the 2014 elections was the rise of Neo-Confederate politics in the U.S. This included the election of unabashed apologist for......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
A Catholic Theocracy Grows in Florida
Catholic Right pizza mogul Tom Monaghan and his Ave Maria School of Law are back in the news.  Journalist Eleanor Bader has a new......
By Frederick Clarkson (6 comments)
Mississippi Madness: Group Wants To Designate An Official Religion
A group in Mississippi is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to change the state constitution in several ways.The proposal put forth by the......
By Rob Boston (5 comments)

Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (0 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (5 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (4 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.