Guilt Tripping and Manipulation: A Catholic Campaign Strategy?

Guilt Tripping and Manipulation: A Catholic Campaign Strategy? October 20, 2020

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If someone’s go-to political strategy is to warn people that they are fake Catholics or hell-bound unless they vote for a specific candidate, that tells you they have no real argument.

Unable to persuade you by facts, reason and logic why their candidate deserves your vote, they try to emotionally manipulate or scare you. If anything, they should disqualify themselves from your support and you would be advised to ignore their toxic campaign messages.

I’ve been seeing a lot of this kind of behavior on Twitter from high-profile and “celebrity Catholics” – note, they are not real celebrities – who’ve been playing the “you support the murder of children” card to anyone who they think does not sufficiently support President Donald Trump.

Some examples:

Catharine O’Neill is the executive director of Catholics for Trump, the outreach effort to Catholics for the president’s reelection campaign. If her Twitter activity is indicative of any kind of political strategy, it seems the group is really about rallying Catholics who are already in the president’s base, and demonizing those who may not agree with them, instead of trying to appeal to moderates and those in the center.

Here’s Taylor Marshall, the hardcore traditionalist YouTube personality who is also on the Catholics for Trump Advisory Board:

Meanwhile, Abby Johnson, the pro-life speaker/activist who has taken a hard turn to the political right in the past year and was rewarded with a speaker’s slot at this year’s Republican National Convention, says no “Catholic” case can be made for a Biden/Harris ticket.

Johnson’s tweet intimates the Trump/Pence ticket is the default option for Christians and Catholics, but as has been said elsewhere, neither party nor ticket in this year’s election fully squares with Catholic Social Teaching and its imperatives to not only protect the unborn, but to uphold the innate dignity of the human person from conception to natural death, including efforts to welcome the migrant, condemn racism, protect the environment, and help provide for the poor and needy.

You wouldn’t know that from what some of the president’s surrogates and partisans have been putting out on social media. Here, some priests tell the hardline fringe outlet Lifesite News that no real Catholic can vote for Joe Biden.

Among those quoted in the Lifesite piece is Father Frank Pavone, the longtime executive director of Priests for Life who has become more partisan in recent years and is now effectively a surrogate for the president’s reelection campaign.

Twitter seems to have a politically radicalizing effect on some people, as evidenced by how often I keep seeing this partisan campaign ad disguised as a homily from Father Ed Meeks, who tells his congregation “there is one presidential candidate who stands in very public, very obstinate, opposition to church teaching, namely, former Vice President Joe Biden, along with the Democratic Party.”

And here, we have Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas – who last month endorsed a video by Father James Altman warning viewers that they are going to hell if they are registered Democrats – with a warning for voters:

Abortion is indeed a preeminent issue for Catholic voters. But to tell people that “to vote for a candidate who promotes the killing of unborn children is to support that killing?” That’s misleading. The Church’s guidance on voting for pro-choice politicians – those who support legal abortion – is that it is permitted given that you are not voting for the candidate BECAUSE of their abortion stance and in the face of morally grave or proportionate reasons.

What are those morally grave or proportionate reasons? It is not my place to tell you; that is up to the well-formed conscience of the Catholic voter. But to see the way some people present it, they want to substitute your conscience with their partisan agenda. It’s all so manipulative.

Ignore them all and vote YOUR conscience, whether that’s for Joe Biden, Donald Trump, an Independent candidate, a write-in candidate, or nobody.

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