Jindal, Rising
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jun 07, 2008 at 08:36:18 AM EST
The Catholic Right, Part Fifty-nine
As several of us here at Talk to Action have discussed, reports of the Religious Right's demise are greatly exaggerated. For the moment their movement is stalled.  But stalled is not the same as finished.  But it might mean -- in transition, And as we've seen in the recent past it is a movement that is both resilient and well-funded.

With that thought in mind, it is time to take another look at one of the up-and-coming faces of the Religious Right, Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal -- who may be viewed as the poster-child for Religious Right's new brand of ecumenical politics.

Jindal may get his face on the poster because he is a traditionalist Catholic whose brand sells well to conservative evangelicals, and as The Wall Street Journal recently noted has a "gift for oratory."  

As I noted in Part Thirty-three of this series:

Over the last generation, certain neo-orthodox Catholics have been building bridges to evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants. But this "bridge-building" is increasingly accomplished with roadways to the most rigid forms of Catholicism. And while some Catholics have yielded to fundamentalists opposition on the theory of evolution, socially conservative Protestants seem to be increasingly amenable to Vatican notions of natural law principles that appear in their united opposition to abortion, end of life issues and stem cell research.

Recruiting and grooming a generation of political leaders that fit this bill is an obvious necessity for the long-term viability of the Religious Right. Writing in the August 29, 2007 edition of the Washington Post, former Bush White House speechwriter Michael Gerson observed of then Louisiana gubernatorial candidate Jindal:

Jindal -- a convert to Christianity from a Hindu background -- has none of the politician's typical reticence on religion. "I'm proud of my faith," he told me in a phone interview. "I believe in God, that Jesus died and rose. I can't divide my public and private conscience. I can't stop being a Christian, and wouldn't want to for a moment of the day."

Gerson continued:

And Jindal's chosen tradition is a muscular Roman Catholicism. In an article published in the 1990s, he argued, "The same Catholic Church which infallibly determined the canon of the Bible must be trusted to interpret her handiwork; the alternative is to trust individual Christians, burdened with, as Calvin termed it, their 'utterly depraved' minds, to overcome their tendency to rationalize, their selfish desires, and other effects of original sin." And elsewhere: "The choice is between Catholicism's authoritative Magisterium and subjective interpretation which leads to anarchy and heresy."

Jindal's complete statement can be found in a 1996 article entitled How Catholicism is Different. The young governor is also not adverse to playing the "secular-as-equivalent-to-religious-hostility" card. As Jindal has written in a piece entitled Atheism's Gods:

THE wave of political correctness, which has affected universities at every level, has also infected religious and philosophical thought. Whereas Western universities once existed to train clergymen and educate others in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, modern centers of higher learning are much more secular and skeptical toward anything remotely religious. Faith is a taboo subject among many of the educated elite; indeed, persons with strong religious convictions are often viewed with scorn and disapproval. Equating all religious beliefs with the seemingly intolerant attitude of Fundamentalists, the more ardent critics of religion are so bold as to equate faith with ignorance and disparage any attempt to support faith with reason as naive.

The piece also contains a twisted attack on liberal philosopher John Rawls:

John Rawls, author of A Theory of Justice and a respected political philosopher, has single-handedly done more to retard honest discussion of issues like justice and equality than any recent writer. He has done this through his adoption of normative principles without acknowledging the necessity of underlying justification.

Multiculturalism, with its taboos against positing universally applicable principles; post-Enlightenment rationality, which claims objective transparency for itself; and other popular academic trends have found their ultimate expression in the "liberal neutrality" pioneered by Rawls and evidenced by Ronald Dworkin and other liberals. Rawls answers complicated questions of political obligation and morality with the maxim that society must maximize the advantage of its least attractive position, assessed against his list of "primary social goods."

More dangerous than Rawls's conclusion, which requires individuals to set aside their religious and other interests in the public arena, is his methodology. He refuses to admit that his initial principles are transcendental and objective truths, but instead claims to be presenting a self-evident "neutral" position from which all others must justify their departure. Unwilling to claim, and thus defend, the veracity of his position, Rawls limits his theoretical speculation to liberal Western democracies that have supposedly already accepted his premises.

Besides his blatant dissembling of Rawls(i), it is rather odd that Jindal would go after a contemporary thinker whose thought meshed with Catholic teachings on social justice, particularly an individual's reciprocal relationship between the receipt of benefits and contribution to the common good; that, besides Rawls being so heavily influenced by philosopher Immanuel Kant.

But while there is speculation that Jindal is on McCain's list of possible running mates, there are other factors to consider. He is only 36 and his lack of experience effectively neutralizes a key GOP Obama talking point. A more realistic expectation is that with his oratory skills and Indian heritage he would be a logical choice for the GOP's keynote speaker at this summer's convention in Minneapolis.

But with that in mind, Jindal is force to be reckoned with. He is fervently anti-choice, anti-gay rights and anti-embryonic stem cell research - policy positions while in step with the current Vatican hierarchy but very much out-of-step with the majority of ordinary mainstream American Catholics. Jindal meshes this set of beliefs with a laissez-faire economic outlook.

Now that's a Catholic that conservative evangelicals can get behind!

The New York Times reported:

Hot-button terms and issues are avoided. Cloning will not get state financing but also will not be criminalized, and Mr. Jindal is nowhere to be seen on the Louisiana Science Education Act, which promotes "open and objective discussion" in the schools of "evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning."

A hearing for the bill last week was packed with Christian advocates - it has already passed the State Senate unanimously - and it was proposed to its legislative sponsor by a Louisiana Family Forum member. Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University and a critic of the bill, testified that it was "designed to permit teaching intelligent design creationism in Louisiana public schools," though there was no mention of creationism or intelligent design in the bill.

But while Bobby Jindal may not be overtly arguing for such legislation, he now sits in the governor's chair ready and willing to sign such legislation when it reaches his desk.

And that is why we should be wise and wary about Jindal rising. He epitomizes a new generation of the Religious Right. On the plus side, he is also proof against retrograde punditry that has declared the religious right dead or dying so many times over the past decades you would think that resurrection might be part of their vocabulary. But never mind about that.   If the current liberal resurgence falters, Jindal's rising may well portend an actual, as well as punditcratic, resurrection of the Religious Right.

(i)   As Peter Berkowitz wrote in The Wilson Quarterly:

...at the end of his career of his Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy (2000), Rawls's most searching examination of liberalism's foundations, he provides reasons to believe that far from being the antithesis of freedom, religious faith of a certain sort may be the basis of our respect for freedom, the very thing that renders our respect rational.

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   Part Thirty-two   Part Thirty-three   Part Thirty-four   Part Thirty-five   Part Thirty-six   Part Thirty-seven   Part Thirty-eight   Part Thirty-nine   Part Forty   Part Forty-one   Part Forty-two   Part Forty-three   Part Forty-four   Part Forty-five   Part Forty-six   Part Forty-seven   Part Forty-eight   Part Forty-nine   Part Fifty   Part Fifty-one   Part Fifty-two   Part Fifty-three   Part Fifty-four   Part Fifty-five   Part Fifty-six   Part Fifty-seven   Part Fifty-eight

The grooming of Jindal is absolute proof that the Religious Right is far from defeated. If anything, they're preparing for their next campaign, looking for their next opening. And when they find that opening, they will pounce.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Jun 07, 2008 at 08:39:49 AM EST

Thanks very much for your series on the Catholic Right. I just recently began reading your older posts in the series. I'd like to call your attention to some bad links in your list of the older posts: Your links for parts 21 and 24 go to irrelevant pages, and your link for part 25 goes to the front page of Talk to Action. I hope you'll be able to correct these links in future posts. Thank you for any attention you can give to this matter.

by Diane Vera on Sat Jun 07, 2008 at 12:47:21 PM EST
One more bad link I found: Your link to part 30 of your series goes to an irrelevant page.

by Diane Vera on Sat Jun 07, 2008 at 03:47:45 PM EST
And I'll start working on those hyperlinks this week.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Jun 07, 2008 at 03:52:23 PM EST

I find Jindal's article defending the Catholic Church's authority as an institution sadly ironic in light of the sexual abuse scandals the institutional church concealed. As a Catholic, I think we would be better off viewing ourselves as the People of God than as subjects of a monarchical institution.

by khughes1963 on Sat Jun 07, 2008 at 03:34:41 PM EST
Another neo-Platonist on the way up the ranks.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Jun 07, 2008 at 03:55:21 PM EST

To Frank Cocozzelli:

In your series of posts about the Catholic Right, I notice that you've written quite a few posts about Opus Dei.  There's another, similarly ultra-orthodox Catholic religious order you might want to examine in future posts:  The Legion of Christ, about which I just now wrote up some preliminary information here.

by Diane Vera on Sat Jun 07, 2008 at 10:19:49 PM EST

I've been meaning to write about them. If I remember correctly, not too long ago Garry Wills did a good piece about them in the New York Review of Books. Marciel and his Legion of Christ explode the myth that the pedophile scandal was the result of the aggiornamento of Vatican II.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun Jun 08, 2008 at 01:33:43 PM EST
A few years ago, Jason Berry & his co-author, the late Gerald Renner, published "Vows of Silence," their account of how Maciel got away with sexual abuse for years. Berry & Renner interviewed a number of former students at Legion seminaries. The Legionaries still have a lot of clout in some circles as they own the National Catholic Register and Twin Circle, and they have a number of college prep schools throughout the United States. The Legionaries also tend to engage in divide and conquer tactics when their followers take over parishes. The now-retired bishop of Columbus, OH, James Griffin, and retired archbishop of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Harry Flynn, both banned the Legionaries from operating in their dioceses.

The problem I have with groups like Opus Dei and the Legionaries is they are so secretive and cult-like in their attitudes and activities. Jesus wasn't secretive in his ministry, why should those who profess to follow Jesus be that way?

by khughes1963 on Sun Jun 08, 2008 at 09:09:56 PM EST

You mention that "The Legionaries also tend to engage in divide and conquer tactics when their followers take over parishes."

Hmmm....  I wonder whether, by any chance, there might be some connection between the Legionaries (or Opus Dei?) and a very strange murder trial I took note of two years ago, the trial of Father Gerald Robinson in Toledo, Ohio.  I don't know for sure, but I had a very strong suspicion that Gerald Robinson might have been wrongly convicted and might have been framed for the murder by someone else in the Chicago arch-diocese.  I wonder whether either Father Robinson himself or Jeffrey Grob, who gave a very strange "expert testimony" at Robinson's trial, might happen to have a connection to either the Legionairies or Opus Dei (or possibly some other religious order, for that matter), and, if so, whether the murder and/or the possible framing of Robinson might have something to do with the "divide and conquer" politics you mentioned.

The above is sheer speculation on my part.  However, the trial - and Jeffrey Grob's "expert testimony" - are weird enough that I think it would be worth an investigative reporter's time to look into this matter.

by Diane Vera on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 12:54:29 AM EST

Rev. Gerald Robinson was tried in Toledo, OH (Lucas County,) where the murder occurred. I don't think the Legionaries or Opus Dei were involved in any way in the Robinson case. I do think the police were likely to protect the diocese when the murder originally occurred, although they were not likely to do so at the time Robinson went on trial.

The divide and conquer tactics I was referring to have to do more with tendencies of Legion allies to fan rivalries and encourage division in the congregations in which they install themselves. They try to establish a power base and to drive out anyone who doesn't share their viewpoint. Like Opus Dei members, they tend to conceal their affiliations until they've encouraged a member to join. My information about this comes from an account about how the Legionaries took over a Sacramento, CA parish.  

by khughes1963 on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 01:23:48 PM EST

Thanks for your thoughts on this matter.

But what do you make of Jeffrey Grob's "expert testimony"?  (See my collection of news stories about Father Gerald Robinson in Toledo, Ohio.)

It's certainly possible that Gerald Robinson really was guilty of the murder but was caught only many years later, because the Catholic Church had been unfairly protected back when the murder occurred.  I don't know whether he's innocent or guilty.

But what makes me suspicious is the case's origin in "Satanic ritual abuse" accusations, combined with Jeffrey Grob's very strange "expert testimony."

Certainly, child-abusing and other criminal priests have been unfairly protected for many years.  Nevertheless I wonder whether, in a few cases, the pendulum may have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction.

Along with the many real child sex abuse cases that finally came to light with the end of the mass media blackout on clergy pedophilia, there was also, several years ago, a mini-resurgence of the "Satanic ritual abuse" scare of the 1980's and early 1990's.  The most recent round of SRA accusations included some accusations against priests, with all the pitfalls of the 1980's SRA scare (e.g. "recovered memories" amd alleged events that were physically impossible or at least very difficult).

by Diane Vera on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 03:17:16 PM EST

Note to Diane Vera:

This is not a website for veering off into a variety of conspiracy theories or forms of religious antipathy.

Nor is it a website for those who want to trash religious or spiritual beliefs in general. There is a fine line here, but I ask you politely to re-read the terms of use for this blogsite.

_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 08:54:26 PM EST
You are quite right. This thread is veering off into highly tangential speculations.

The site topic is the religious right and what to do about it.  And while there are some legitimate gray areas, I think we left the gray zone some time ago.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 10:57:19 PM EST

by Frank Cocozzelli on Wed Jun 11, 2008 at 07:31:59 AM EST

Have I said anything here that could be construed as "trashing religious and spiritual beliefs in general"?  I don't think I have.

My comments about the Gerald Robinson case were admittedly speculative.  I'll drop that topic.

But is it okay if, in the future, I write a diary entry about how various Catholic religious right wingers have blamed the clergy pedophilia scandal on an alleged conspiracy of "Satanic pedophiles" (an alleged conspiracy which they also blame for various Vatican II reforms that they oppose, and also for the existence of liberal Catholics)?    The proposed diary entry would not involve any speculation, just citations of what various Catholic religious right wingers have actually said along these lines.  And it seems to me that this would be on-topic, since it deals with an aspect of the way in which various Catholic religious right wingers have tried to scapegoat liberal Catholics, "secular humanists," feminists, gays, etc.  But if, nevertheless, this would NOT be considered on-topic, please let me know.

by Diane Vera on Wed Jun 11, 2008 at 08:24:06 AM EST

to post diaries on this site. Everyone is responsible for themselves and site moderators only step in when things are veering off topic or otherwise away from the site guidelines. On its face, what you suggest does not sound like it will be off topic.

That said, I think I will take a moment to say a word about diaries and comments, since many readers and participants are new to this site and to the blogosphere in general. This site is similar in some ways to such sites as Street Prophets and Daily Kos, but different in others. When in doubt, refer back to the site guidelines (which I acknowledge could use a little updating.)

Diaries are the best way to discuss matters, that merit more tha an off hand remark on a comment thread -- or a comment that runs long and veer off in unrelated directions. As a general rule, when anyone has a lot to say about something, it is probably time to write a diary rather than very long comments. When people fail to be attentive to this, they may be engaging in what is known in online communities as "hijacking" a comment thread. People hijack for many reasons, but whatever the motivation, it is considered bad form, and in some places and circumstances, can put one on the road to getting banned.

Hijacking is not necessarily a matter of length. It is more a matter of how or indeed if, a comment relates to the original post. When a writer has taken the time to post something for our consideration, it is only fair to keep our comments in the thread reasonably on the topic of the post itself, not to mention the  topic of the site itself.  This is not to restrict online conversation, but simply to say that some basic etiquette applies here, and rudely changing the subject is no more acceptable here than anywhere else. Maybe less so.

Back to the matter at hand. I can't speak for Chip, but making a series of unsupported statements and speculations about the Catholic Church involving murder, coverups, police protection and so on is offensive on its face, speculations about the facts aside. That said, there is no one here who is unaware of the priest sex abuse scandals and at least some of the issues of complicty of the heirarchy and such. Frank has led the way in writing about these things in a way that is on topic, including the issue of the Catholic Right's claims that Catholics who question the heirarchy are disloyal or worse.

The material we are grappling with generally tends to generate strong emotions. That is why it is especially important that we try to adhere as closely as we can to facts and avoid baseless speculation -- the kinds of things that easily lead to misunderstandings among people, as well as leading people off in unproductive directions. We all owe it to each other as well as to the serious subjects we are trying to understand and address, to be as rigorous as possible, and avoid unnecessarily inflammatory material and language.

I might add in this connection, that it is important that we assess the validity of our sources before using them, and not to rely on or recommend sketchy sources, online or otherwise. No one is perfect of course, but understand that dubious sources, and any assertions based on them, are likely to be challenged.  

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Jun 11, 2008 at 02:19:55 PM EST

To Frank Cocozzelli:

I just now sent you a private email message at the address given on the following page:


(Hopefully that's you and not another person with the same name.)

by Diane Vera on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 12:18:51 PM EST

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