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Catholics to Gingrich, Santorum: “Stop perpetuating ugly racial stereotypes”

Details:

More than 40 national Catholic leaders and prominent theologians at universities across the country released a strongly worded open letter today urging “our fellow Catholics Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to stop perpetuating ugly racial stereotypes on the campaign trail.”

In the lead up to Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich has frequently blasted President Obama as a “food stamp president” and implied that some African Americans are more content to collect welfare benefits than work. Rick Santorum attracted scrutiny for telling Iowa voters he doesn’t want “to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”

The open letter reminds the two presidential candidates, vying for Christian conservative voters, that U.S. Catholic bishops have called racism an “intrinsic evil” and consistently defend vital government programs such as food stamps and unemployment benefits that help struggling Americans.

Read the full text and see the signatories.

There’s more background here.

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Comments

  1. vox borealis says:

    Interesting. Gingrich calls Obama the food stamp president because the number of Americans on food stamps has gone up dramatically under his administration—this is a fact. How that perpetuates racial stereotypes is beyond me, unless it is the prominent Catholic theologians who automatically relate food stamps with race. Santorum explicitly denied that he said “making black people’s lives better…”, but that doesn’t fit the narrative.

  2. vox borealis says:

    I am also not sure I would qualify Thomas Reese, SJ as “prominent.” Anyway, the signatories features several of the “usual suspects.”

  3. This is unfortunate political theatre. Neither of these men is racist, but a public letter raises suspicion (and costs votes). Had the signatories wanted to call them to greater sensitivity, that could have been done with a private letter. It appears to me that the objective was, at least in part, to discredit two visionary conservatives, thus paving the way for an Obama reelection. Sad.

  4. “Neither of these men is racist, but a public letter raises suspicion (and costs votes).”

    There is a distinction between being a racist and promoting racist attitudes. Mr Gingrich and Mr Santorum are appealing to the base. I doubt it’s much more than that–these guys are positioning to be elected first, and solving American problems second. But it does not reflect well on their Catholicism. And anybody can call them on that–these guys are public figures.

    “Anyway, the signatories features several of the “usual suspects.””

    As are their critics.

  5. vox borealis says:

    How is it promoting a racist attitude by calling Obama the Foodstamp President to call attention to the undeniable fact that the foodstamp rolls have exploded in the last three years? Now, one may say that it is inaccurate or oversimplistic, or worse yet mere politics or even outright dishonest, to lay the blame for that fact on Obama. But in no way is it racist or promoting a racist attitude.

  6. The poor economy probably has more to do with why the food stamp rolls have increased in the last three years than who is in office. I don’t know the statistics on race as far as who the newest food stamp recipients are. But if I had to guess I would say that there have been more things such as factory closings and outsourcings of jobs out of country in areas such as the older cities which have a lot of African-Americans. So, yes I’d say that it is overly simplistic to call attention to it; and the way it was done by both candidates can be perceived as pandering to racial stereotypes.

  7. I’ll tell you what’s worse than racist is having “Catholic” Obama supporters, many from our “Catholic Universities” no less, debase two good conservative men, Santorum for sure, Gringrich, at least on some issues that many of his “Catholic” fellow politicans throw under the bus to advance their own power and agendas.

    Furthermore, how intrinsically evil is it to debase racism itsef? Maybe one of those elite sages can weigh in.

    FWIW, the biggest user of food stamps are white people, (a little fact checking would have gone a long way before making one more non racist issue, “racist”). As others pointed out, it’s a FACT, Obama used part of the stimulus money to lower the bar for food stamps, now allowing the biggest users, college students to get food stamps, often using them for sushi dinners! But hey, it’s one more group to “entitle” and “keep the vote.”

    As also noted, Santorum did not even say that, I heard exactly what he said. If anything Santorum has been more of a champion for the poor than almost anyone in congress, albeit in ways that actually help them beyond entitlement.

    Isn’t it interesting that none of those “signature” Catholics are putting their voices out there when it comes to what they are really taking about: abortion, marriage, and contraception.

    Racism may well be an intrinsic evil, but it can’t be worse than the hypocrisy of many of our “catholic” leaders.

  8. Melody with all respect, you are factually wrong. Obama greatly increased the monies (from the stimulus) allowed for food stamps. Consequently, the new “biggest users” are “poor” college students and pretty much anyone else who want to “qualify.”

    Of course the bad economy has contributed to more of a need, but not a need for just about anyone who wants on the dole.

  9. I find it sad that on the day when obama has attacked the religious liberty of the catholic church in the form of requiring catholic hospitals and universities to include abortifacients in their health care plan the Bench decides to promote the opinions of egoistic university professors. Who are they to “remind” anyone about Catholic moral teaching? I can feel the water boiling around the frog right now….

  10. ron chandonia says:

    In the prelude to President Obama’s election, we heard a great deal about the need for an honest dialogue on America’s racial divide. The President himself renewed that call in an address to the Urban League in 2010, as USA Today reported:

    Obama said there’s no need to have “a bunch of academic symposia or fancy commissions or panels” on race. Instead, “we should all make more of an effort to discuss with one another, in a truthful and mature and responsible way, the divides that still exist, the discrimination that’s still out there, the prejudices that still hold us back.”

    It is painfully obvious that nothing like that has been happening, and I think responsibility for that failure cuts across partisan lines. One side seems constantly on the lookout for evidence that the shortcomings of African Americans are now given a free pass, while the other side jumps on every unflattering reference to racial inequalities as evidence of racism on the part of whoever points them out. Some recent comments from the GOP candidates seem to me to fit in the first category, while this response (complete with dubious Santorum quote) fits the second. Neither brings us any closer to “mature and reasonable” discussion of racial issues. In fact, I think we are farther from that than we were before the 2008 election.

  11. Jim I didn’t see it that way. No where did Dcn. Greg endorse. He simply put it out there for discussion, and I for one am glad to have the opportunity to expose those hypocritical phonies for what they are.

  12. Ron the reality is, save for maybe a few extenuating circumstances like planned parenthood aborting half of the race with their prominant abortion clinics in poor black neighborhoods, racism for the most part is non existent in America. For heaven’s sake, the country elected a black president, still votes Oprah one of the most influential, mourned for a month over the death of Michael Jackson, and idolizes more black athletes and muscians than any other ethnicity.

    It’s the phoney “black leaders” and politicans who unfortunately still use race as their trump card. Now THAT is racist, simply based on the fact that in all of the years of making the blacks an issue, most remain in poverty and underemployed, in fact TWICE as many as whites, increasing even more under Obama, in addition to black genocide.

    Herman Cain was the one guy who could have finally been a game changer, but of course, he was “disabled” by those in power.

  13. Nothing short of amazed that most of the comments here thus far are in defense of the racist appeals made by Gingrich and Santorum (particularly the former). If you can’t hear the dogwhistle in Gingrich calling Obama, the first African-American president, “the food stamp president,” you must be putting plugs in your ears. Also remember that Newt said he would be willing to go to the NAACP and tell them that African Americans “should not be satisfied with food stamps” and that they should demand jobs instead of food stamps. Why that organization with that message, if there’s not a racist appeal to conservative white voters (racist voters in particular)? Why in hell does Newt assume that it’s an African-American organization that needs to hear that message? And are you willing to argue, really, that Newt did not imply that African Americans ARE “satisfied with food stamps”? Because…well…that’s exactly what he said.

    No, of course Newt isn’t stupid enough to hurl outright racial epithets. But if you doubt that he is trying to play the race card against Obama in South Carolina, and you think the “food stamps” comments are just about statistics over the last three years, rewind back to September 2010 when Gingrich claimed that Obama was unAmerican and dead set on imposing his “Kenyan, anti-colonial” views on the United States.

    Racism is a sin. Defending and enabling racist behavior is a sin. Some on the right might want to prettify it up because they’re in the tank for Newt, but trolling for votes by using racist appeals is a serious, serious sin.

  14. Bill McGeveran says:

    I have nothing against those who signed the petition, but leaving aside the conservative vs. liberal thing,I think there is too much tendency on all sides to demonize opponents. There may be an element of pandering to the base in what Gingrich said, but I think both candidates are basically expressing a free-market, work ethic etc, philosophy. I say argue against it you will, even argue that it is misguided in terms of Catholic principles, but don’t be so quick to the trigger accusing them of perpetuating ugly stereotypes and piously calling for them to retract their statements and learn (as if they do not know) the intrinsic evil of racism.

  15. As someone who works directly with many in poverty on a regular basis – some of you might be very surprised at who shows up in need of of food help. And the dole is not enough – and not so easy to come by.

    The perpetuation of stereotypes is really at the heart of the matter, not just race based, but class based.

    The reality is that both men are not likely racist, but as has been stated already, they are appealing to a base.

    I am reminded of a quote that all Christians, in particular we Catholics should bear in mind. Our own liberation is not tied up in how we help others, but how we are transformed by them. The poor almost invariably help us. It is my own poverty that I am most aware of in my dealings most days.

    That would be a potentially transformative position for either Catholic candidate, any candidate to take. Yet we see very little of it in US politics.

    Who talks about the poor from any standpoint with meaning? Let’s keep talking about boots and bootstraps and how we will show them how to be like us.

  16. Wow, what a story.

    Far left liberal ‘Think Progress’ and Obama supporters like Francis X. Doyle are stating they are opposed to Santorum and Gingriches views.

    Take REV. BRYAN MASSINGALE for instance. Fr. Massingale is a professor in the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana. He defended Obama’s association with Rev. Wright.

    “Over the years, many well-intentioned white parishioners have told me that I remind them of Denzel Washington (though I wish I were that handsome), Clarence Thomas (though I am a polar opposite of his political views) and Jackson (though I could never match his rhetorical riffs).”

    Yet, at the same time, they were strangely silent on Kennedy’s, Cuomos, Kerry’s support for abortion, gay marriage, divorce, etc.

    We get it, liberals hate conservatives.

  17. You don’t have to agree with Father Reese to recognize that, as editor of America magazine ( an influential Catholic publication – circulation 45,000 ) for seven years , as a regular contributor to the Washington Post and a frequent commentator on national news broadcasts, he is prominent.

  18. Deacon GK,

    You are a snake and should be ashamed of yourself. You cowardly rat!

  19. Blacks are often stereotyped as using food stamps instead of working for money.

  20. Thanks, Fran, for this.

    I’m going to add something else. There’s nothing terribly wrong with a Catholic being ignorant about the poor. To paraphrase the Lord, there’s nothing sinful in that. But to claim to have the answers, even borrowed from one’s favorite mainstream media source, and to persist in blindness–this is a serious moral problem. It shows that some self-styled orthodox Catholics have not quite arrived at orthodoxy yet.

    “Who talks about the poor from any standpoint with meaning?”

    Shed of political overtones, a meaningful post about the poor will get nowhere near the commentary or traffic generated by John Corapi, Newt Gingrich, or Tim Tebow. That tells you what you need to know about the depth of saintliness in this corner of the blogosphere.

  21. I have not commented on these pages in a long, long time. And now I remember why. Prayers for all, but I will once again, step away from the keyboard.

    Deacon Greg, I consider you a personal friend and have great affection for you and our friendship, very much based in our shared faith. However, this thread shows very little faith and almost no charity. To each other – let alone the poor!

    It is not your fault, but this is not about conservatives and liberals and an accounting of who hates who. Seriously – enough with the sweeping generalizations. It is about something else entirely and I cannot in good conscience try to discuss it with the majority of voices here.

    I’ve participated in enough bad commenting myself and am trying to stay away from it. You will always have my friendship and readership, but my commenting days are about to be behind me. Time to shake the dust from my sandals. I will close with a few quotations from Blessed John XXIII, which I take to heart myself…

    “We are called brothers. We actually are brothers. We share a common destiny in this life and the next. Why, then, do we act as though we are foes and enemies? Why do we envy one another? Why do we stir up hatred?”

    “All men, then, should turn their attention away from those things that divide and separate us, and should consider how they may be joined in mutual and just regard for one another’s opinions and possessions.”

    And finally this –
    In 1959, Pope John XXIII, in his first encyclical, “On Truth, Unity and Peace,” in a Spirit of Charity, quoted a maxim attributed to St. Augustine, “In essentials, unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity.”

    Off to reflect on what I have done to create this mess. Peace to all.

  22. The percentage of people who use food stamps went up at the same rate for Obama as for Bush. Bush only had a few months of the Great Recession to deal with. Not that this alone means that Newt is being racist, but he is rewriting History again. Couple this rewrite with other of his comments, and the charge of racism looks plausible though.

  23. Vox borealis says:

    Wow, i can’t believe you just called Obama a dog. That’s racist.


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