Sam Brownback's Neo-Carlist Vision for America (The Catholic Right, Thirty-two in a Series).
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jun 16, 2007 at 02:28:04 PM EST
As an American Catholic I am grateful for the separation of church and state. My government's disentanglement from church policy positions means that it cannot be used as the Vatican's policy enforcer. I am secure in the knowledge that I can freely disagree with my faith's hierarchy without fear of retribution or limitations upon my personal pursuit of happiness.

Now comes U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-Ks.) in his bid to become the Republican nominee for president in 2008. If elected, he promises to enforce Vatican orthodoxy whether you are Catholic or not.  Brownback is a neo-Carlist -- a recent convert to Opus Dei-style Catholicism who doesn't agree with JFK that Catholic elected officials should not to take orders from the Vatican.

Senator Brownback's recent statement regarding rape victims possibly being denied an abortion is troubling. And while it might play well with a small minority of religious Jacobins, it displays complete disrespect for followers of other faiths that do not oppose allowing their followers from seeking an abortion in cases of rape or incest.

Earlier this week I learned about Brownback's recent speech before the National Catholic Men's Conference, (as reported in the Houston Chronicle) where the 2008 presidential candidate rhetorically asked:

"Rape is terrible. Rape is awful. Is it made any better by killing an innocent child? Does it solve the problem for the woman that's been raped?"

The senator from Kansas then answered his own question:

"We need to protect innocent life. Period," Brownback said.

This declaration reportedly brought the crowd of 500 to its feet.

Such a bold statement and the applause it garnered left me scratching my head. Yes, I too am a Catholic, but it led me to wonder a few things about audience members, especially if they had been born into a different gender. Would the National Catholic Men's Conference be so gung to outlaw abortion if any of them were the female victim of rape or incest? Heaven forbid, if in fact a wife daughter or aunt were to become pregnant as the result of a rape, would they still be so high-minded?

I think I can safely speak as representative of what most Catholic Americans would: suggesting that abortion be denied to a woman who has been raped is off-the-wall fanaticism, orthodoxy run amuck.   And while it might play well with a small minority of religious radicals, it displays complete disrespect for followers of other faiths who do not share such unusual views.

According to the Chronicle piece, Senator Brownback was introduced by Steve Wood, the president of Family Life Center International -- an organization that believes the Harry Potter series of book to be evil. And as part of that introduction Woods restated a familiar Catholic Right theme that speaks directly to respect of the Establishment Cause, criticizing Catholic politicians --such as, without apparently naming him, JFK -who fail to bring their faith into the elected offices they occupy.

Wood was quoted as saying,

"I don't know about you, but this stuff by many Catholic politicians who say, 'I'm personally opposed, but.' But what? You should have the integrity to be consistent in both the personal and public life."

Apparently for Mr. Wood and his featured speaker, bringing faith into public life requires going beyond the commonly held moralities of a pluralistic society. Instead, it means imposing the subjective morality (and a highly selective interpretation at that) of orthodox Catholicism over other faiths. It is in fact nothing more than the de facto establishment of a state religion.

Naturally, Senator Brownback is a darling of the Religious Right who counts among his supporters Priests for Life Father Frank Pavone as well Catholic Right moneyman Tom Monaghan. And as I have illustrated, he may have both Fidelis and the Catholic League tag-teaming potential opponents, particularly as of late the pro-choice Rudy Giuliani.

In Brownback they see a committed cultural warrior who has long opposed embryonic stem cell research even when  a clear majority of Americans, including Catholics desire for it to be federally funded. He is also an opponent of women's reproductive rights and same-sex marriage. Thus is comes as no surprise that the authoritarian Opus Dei is the source of his particular brand of Catholicism.

Brownback is also a member of The Fellowship, which Sourcewatch describes as "a humanitarian religious-right Christian organization about which very little is known."

Journalist Jeff Sharlet's article on the Kansas crusader in his January 25, 2006 Rolling Stone article shows that not only little known about The Fellowship, but that more should be known about the secretive, even cultic society:

One of the little-known strengths of the Christian right lies in its adoption of the "cell" -- the building block historically used by small but determined groups to impose their will on the majority. Seventy years ago, an evangelist named Abraham Vereide founded a network of "God-led" cells comprising senators and generals, corporate executives and preachers. Vereide believed that the cells -- God's chosen, appointed to power -- could construct a Kingdom of God on earth with Washington as its capital. They would do so "behind the scenes," lest they be accused of pride or a hunger for power, and "beyond the din of vox populi," which is to say, outside the bounds of democracy. To insiders, the cells were known as the Family, or the Fellowship. To most outsiders, they were not known at all.

"In his dream America," Sharlet continues, "the one he believes both the Bible and the Constitution promise, the state will simply wither away. In its place will be a country so suffused with God and the free market that the social fabric of the last hundred years -- schools, Social Security, welfare -- will be privatized or simply done away with."

As I observed in Part Twenty-seven of this series when discussing the same possible agenda existing among Opus Dei-influenced members of the U.S. Supreme Court:

This [Opus Dei's] 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. 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.

Much like Opus Dei founder JoseMaria Escriva' and devotee, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, Brownback believes that JFK's pledge he would not take orders from the Vatican has caused "much harm in America." This is, in fact, it is nothing more than neo-Carlism: the highly subjective belief that orthodox notions of Catholicism should be legislated as the stated morality of secular government - even if it results in state action that abridges the religious freedom of all others.

I, however, come to a very different conclusion than Brownback.  If he does ultimately reach the Oval Office, it will be his pledge to not to separate his faith from his actions that that will do the most harm to American democracy. It is nothing more than a pledge to refute JFK's legacy of respecting the Establishment Clause.

The Catholic Right: A Series, by Frank L. 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   Part Twenty-seven   Part Twenty-eight   Part Twenty-nine   Part Thirty   Part Thirty-one

The one thing that stood out for me in Jeff Sharlet's excellent article on Brownback was how he sees himself as a latter-day John Brown.

This explains how radical Brownback truly is. He equates embryos and fetuses with enslaved natural born human individuals.  And even though he propbably won't get the GOP's 2008 presidential nomination, he wil force them to remain anti-choice, perhaps even finding a place on the Republican ticket.

I shudder at the thought of this man being but a heartbeat away from the presidency.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Jun 16, 2007 at 02:37:48 PM EST

Sam is the candidate of choice for the Christian rightists and Carlist/Opus Dei brand Catholics, but he probably won't get the nod of the Republican moneymen. Bush was able to appeal to the business and Christian Right wings of the Republican party, but I doubt Brownback will have the same appeal to the big business guys. What's interesting is that while Brownback has converted to Catholicism, his wife and children still belong to the evangelical church Brownback attended before his conversion to Catholicism. I am watching the cars at church to see if I find any sporting Brownback stickers.

I wonder if Brownback also has the endorsements of Judie Brown and Fr. Thomas Euteneuer of Human Life International. I would expect so.

The Catholic bishops can't leave well enough alone and start preaching to the public not to vote for politicians that won't toe the line on abortion, and particularly not for Catholic politicians that won't toe the line. Back during the 2004 campaign, one of the new priests then at the church gave this sort of homily during one of the Sunday masses.  Apparently, we as Catholics had to vote for Bush-without mentioning his name, of course, because he was "Pro-Life." Tell that to the Iraqis! I am in the choir and am normally there for Sunday masses in the morning from September to May. For some reason, I wasn't there that Sunday, which is probably a good thing as I would probably have scandalized the choir by walking out.

While all of this goes on, the bishops ignore groups like Voice of the Faithful and the laity shows itself to be more progressive than the bishops and widely rejects the Vatican's views on divorce and remarriage, and use of "artificial" contraception. Meanwhile, the bishops totally ignore the fact that their reputations are shattered to many lay people because of their mishandling the sexual abuse scandals. I have no respect for the bishops as a group. For the most part, with very few exceptions, they have showed themselves to be very much like any risk-averse group of corporate executives caught in misbehavior. The bishops are failing to address the institutional problems that caused the scandals, and I fear it will happen again.


by khughes1963 on Sat Jun 16, 2007 at 04:29:12 PM EST

You speak truth to power.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun Jun 17, 2007 at 07:50:48 PM EST
The associate pastor in my parish had been moved there after serving at a Cincinnati parish and serving as principal of a boys' Catholic high school in Cincinnati, incidentally, it was the high school my father attended, although the associate in question was principal long after my father graduated from there.

What happened is that after the Boston coverups hit the press in 2002, we saw similar coverage in our archdiocese. The associate pastor had been pulled from his position as high school principal after he made a pass at one of his students. He was then sent to serve as pastor at a Cincinnati area parish and left there after another young man alleged improper behavior. He was then sent to our parish with restrictions, and as far as I know, he didn't violate them. The pastors who were there during his tenure evidently enforced them, and the incidents took place back in the early-mid 1980s before the associate's tenure at my parish. I was shocked when our archbishop showed up at our church to announce the associate pastor was being removed from his position, and the Vatican later laicized the associate pastor. The students in question were interviewed for the Cincinnati paper & sued the archdiocese, but the cases were dismissed due to statute of limitations issues. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the dismissals.

The archbishop later pled guilty on behalf of the archdiocese on charges relating to failing to report abuse in the common pleas court in Cincinnati.

There are some cases where the abuse may not have happened. One former teacher of mine in Texas resigned his pastorate after being accused of abuse by a female student who attended the school I attended back in the 1970s. I don't know if this happened at the same time I was there, but I can attest that this former teacher did nothing improper to anyone that I was aware of.


by khughes1963 on Sun Jun 17, 2007 at 08:26:19 PM EST

...I just found this gem over at Crooks and Liars.

Is this the kind of "supporter" Brownback attracts?

by Frank Cocozzelli on Mon Jun 18, 2007 at 07:46:09 AM EST

by marykk on Tue Jun 19, 2007 at 09:03:56 AM EST

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