The Anti-Catholic CatholicVote ?

The Anti-Catholic CatholicVote ? July 14, 2022

Robert Huffstutter: Kennedy For President / flickr

There is a long history of anti-Catholic bigotry being used to attack Catholics in the United States. That history includes evangelicals trying to make sure Catholics could not get in positions of political power and authority. Even Billy Graham tried to use that anti-Catholic bias against John F. Kennedy, suggesting Kennedy should not be president because of his Catholicism. If someone, or some organization, could be shown to specifically target Catholic politicians in order to have them removed from office, targeting them because of their Catholicism (even if other justifications were referenced), would it be wrong to think some element of anti-Catholic bigotry lies behind their actions? Likewise, if that person (or organization) could be shown to be suing the government as a way to attack Catholic workers (including members of religious orders) who follow Catholic teaching to help their neighbor, no matter where they came from, in times of need, would that not further demonstrate anti-Catholic bigotry on their part? If an organization would call itself Catholic, and yet could be shown to be doing these things, it would be difficult not to view them as engaging and embracing anti-Catholic prejudices and using them for the sake of an agenda which is anything but Catholic. This is exactly what CatholicVote is doing, and it is also why Catholics should be concerned with CatholicVote’s influence upon Catholicism in the United States. With the way they target Catholic politicians, and attack Catholic workers who promote social justice and charity, CatholicVote would be better named Anti-CatholicVote, for it is clear, their agenda, despite their claims, is not in accord with Catholicism, but with a right-wing political agenda that often rejects Catholic teaching.

How does CatholicVote justify its attacks on Catholic politicians? Burch, their president, and many of their defenders claim CatholicVote is targeting Catholic politicians because they are not faithful to the church’s moral teachings. However, it is clear, they are only seeking to remove Catholic Democrats from office, not Catholic Republicans who fail to stand with all of the Catholic Church’s teachings (such as social justice issues, among which, lies the church’s concern over climate change). Thus, describing CatholicVote’s 2022 ad campaign, Thomas Phippen said they desire to eliminate the possibility of someone being a Catholic Democrat, showing that their interest lies not in Catholicism, but promoting a political party:

But the overarching goal of the CatholicVote midterm campaign, which will see the campaign will see between $2.5 and $3 million in ad spending and target 10 -15 House races and several key senate races in the midterm election, is to help establish faithful Catholic politicians in government, and Burch sees a political shift happening that could put an end to the Catholic Democrat — typified by politicians who profess the faith, but hold vastly different views on moral issues than the church.[1]

The Catholic Church does not expect or require one to stand with any political party; rather, it expects Catholics to use prudence to engage Catholic teachings the best way they can in service for the common good. To try to suggest one can’t be a Catholic Democrat is wrong. It would also be wrong to say a Catholic can’t be a Republican.  CatholicVote wants people to think one can only be a Republican (or some offshoot of the Republican party which thinks Republicans do not go far enough to the right). The way CatholicVote does this is dishonest. They try to present themselves, and those they promote, as following Catholic moral teaching, but in reality, they have a long history of promoting those who stand against the church’s moral principles. Indeed, CatholicVote has no problem dismissing the church’s concerns over climate change. Yet, Catholic teaching clearly states that climate change is real, and it could be said to be one of the preeminent moral concerns of our age because the future of humanity and indeed all life on earth is threatened by it. Thus, those who would claim to hold a Catholic moral stand would have to promote a responsible climate change policy, but this is not what we find being done by those politicians promoted by CatholicVote:

In the midterms, Burch believes that control of the Senate will come down to key races that feature Catholic politicians. JD Vance, the Republican nominee for Senate in Ohio, converted to Catholicism in 2019. Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters was raised Catholic, Adam Laxalt — who would be the first Catholic senator from Nevada if he defeats Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev. — as was Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has proposed a slate of pro-worker, pro-natalist policies in recent years. [2]

J.D. Vance has made it clear he has no interest in dealing with the threat of climate change. Blake Masters, on twitter, has mocked the concerns around climate change. Adam Laxalt, likewise, when running for the Governor of Nevada in 2018, was opposed by the Sierra Club due to his toxic positions on the environment, and he continues to be recognized as a climate change denier. Marco Rubio has  historically denied climate change.  If CatholicVote is going to promote politicians, saying they promote those who stand with the church’s moral teachings, how can they justify their support for those politicians? Pope Francis made it clear, lawmakers should be dealing with climate change; it is a moral imperative for us to deal with climate change now, and not the future. If CatholicVote truly intended to promote those who stand with the church’s moral teaching, it would not be promoting Vance, Masters, Laxalt, or Rubio. This alone should make Catholics pause and wonder what is up with CatholicVote; if they examine CatholicVote’s history, they would find CatholicVote has a long history of disputing the importance of climate change, trying to use concerns about abortion as an excuse to ignore the existential threat which stands before us with climate change. Should this not be enough to show CatholicVote is not a good arbitrator in determining who is and is not following Catholic moral teaching when they themselves show no care to follow it themselves? It would seem, like so-called Catholics in SCOTUS, they have they have no problem aborting the future.

It should be clear, instead of standing for Catholic teaching, they are trying to subvert Catholic teaching, replacing it with an ideology which does not truly represent the fullness of Catholic teaching (and thus, risks promoting a heresy, as that is what heresies do). And like many who embrace ideologies over the fullness of Catholic teaching, they will do anything to promote and enforce their ideology, an ideology which can be said to be deeply authoritarian and tyrannical, and indeed, lacking compassion, which is why they are actively attacking the work Catholic charities do at the borders of the United States, as Brian Fraga reported:

Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote, said in a mass email on Feb. 9 that his group is suing the Biden administration for communication records between federal agencies and Catholic nonprofits in southern Texas to understand how church-affiliated agencies may be contributing to the “chaos” at the border.[3]

The suit was filed in conjunction with Judicial Watch:

In the lawsuit, CatholicVote and its partner Judicial Watch request that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services provide “all communications between the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol” and five groups or leaders: the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas; Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville; Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley; Sister Norma Pimentel, head of the local Catholic Charities; and the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas. [4]

Indeed, as Jack Jenkins indicated it seems that Sister Norma Pimentel is one of their chief targets:

The lawsuit appears primarily focused on the work of Pimentel, a Catholic nun who formed a respite center for immigrants in 2014 where volunteers at Catholic Charities provide migrants with temporary relief — typically after they are released by Border Patrol and awaiting transportation elsewhere. Pimentel’s work aiding immigrants during the child migrant crisis under former President Barack Obama’s administration has drawn attention and accolades from Democrats and Republicans alike, including immigration hard-liners such as Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Louie Gohmert — both of whom visited the respite center with Glenn Beck in 2014, where the radio personality delivered teddy bears and hot meals to immigrant children.  [5]

Previously, Pope Francis, had praised Sister Pimentel for her work, indicating it as an important representation of the kind of work Christians should be doing to help those in need. Thus, CatholicVote, working with a radical right-wing organization, attacks a Catholic woman who shows the kind of charity Christ said we should give to our neighbor. They show little to no concern of the needs of migrants and refugees, despite the way Scripture, and Catholic tradition, has consistently lifted them up as those who should welcomed by Christians. Acting so contrary to basic Christian ethics, they want us to view them as guardians of Catholic moral teaching Is that not absurd? Obviously, if they didn’t act like they were such an authority, but only a group representing Catholics trying to deal with political matters prudentially, allowing others to come to different conclusions without trying to deny those with other conclusions as being authentically Catholic, they would not be so dangerous. But as they try to enforce their own ideology and only one way of engaging that ideology as Catholicism, they are subverting Catholicism in the  United States. In any other time and place, a group shown to be working to undermine Catholic lawmakers, trying to get them removed from office, while attacking Catholic charities for doing what is expected of them, would be known as an anti-Catholic hate group; it is amazing that now, such a group can claim itself to be Catholic and call themselves CatholicVote and not be repudiated for it. But these two examples are not the only kinds of concerns Catholics should have with them. Catholic should be angered that  CatholicVote is spying on them while they are at church. It certainly seems that they think there is no right to privacy, which of course, should not be surprising, if one has been watching recent events. But what about the promotion of life? CatholicVote’s president has shown little to no concern when Catholics in positions of power, like Bill Barr, promote the death penalty and increase its use in the United States. And finally, it should be telling that CatholicVote has no problem linking themselves with right-wing evangelicals over Catholics, which again, suggests their concern is not truly a Catholic one, but an outside ideology.

Catholics should be troubled by how CatholicVote acts, and the ways it is discounting and dismissing key moral concerns of the Catholic Church. Its attack on Catholics, trying to replace Catholic politicians with others who follow ideologies that do not agree with Catholic moral teaching, should make people realize, they really represent something other than Catholicism and the pluralism and political diversity the Catholic Church accepts from its members. Their actions, the way they target Catholics (and spy on those going to church) should make Catholics wonder if they should not be called Anti-CatholicVote. One thing is for certain; their influence is strong. So many have accepted their claims without question. But their positions and the politicians they promote stand in sharp contrary to what is being taught by the Catholic Church. Hopefully, Catholics will begin to see this, and CatholicVote then will find its influencing waning until, at last, no one pays attention to them.


[1]  Thomas Phippen, “CatholicVote Launches $3 Million Midterm Ad Campaign Aimed At Kicking Catholic Democrats Out Of Office” in Fox News (7-11-2022).

[2]  Thomas Phippen, “CatholicVote Launches $3 Million Midterm Ad Campaign.“

[3] Brian Fraga, “Conservative Group’s Lawsuit Over Catholic Border Ministry Draws Criticism” in National Catholic Reporter (2-11-2022)

[4] Jack Jenkins, “Conservative PAC Sues Biden Administration, Targeting nuns, Liberal Catholics In Records Request” in  RNS (2-10-2022).

[5] Jack Jenkins, “Conservative PAC Sues Biden Administration.”

 

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