Trump’s Catholic Roundtable: Including a Mix of Catholics Against Catholicism? First draft!

Trump’s Catholic Roundtable: Including a Mix of Catholics Against Catholicism? First draft! September 24, 2016

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The Trump campaign announced the creation of an advisory board consisting of men and women who identify as Catholics called the “Catholic Advisory Group”. That’s an awkward sentence. There’s a reason for that. If they’re Catholics, they’re Catholics – so was Ché – but the name “Catholic Advisory Group” should not lead one to believe that it is a group of people advising Trump on Catholic approaches and principles in relation to the political realm. This is the challenge of including the name “Catholic” in groups – such as this one – which can too often be foolish, abusive, and unfaithful to what the Church teaches and lives.

Pro-torture, anti-Palestine, capitalist, pro-death penalty, obsessively pro-guns, anti-immigrant, anti-life (human and/or organic), tough on the poor, etc., etc. Is this the Catholic way? No. Then why have so many people as part of a group called the “Catholic Advisory Group” who support many of these positions?

Nonetheless, let’s consider its members.

Catholic Online published this list. We’ll add some quotes or comments about each “advisor” in situ. What will be most interesting, at least to me, is how several of these Catholics – whether faithful or unfaithful, reverent or irreverent is not the question – clash with our Holy Father, our Hierarchy, and/or the general expression of Catholic Social Teaching and moral theology on political, economic, and social questions. That said, there are some who have been and continue to be champions for life and justice, even if their work seems to focus on individual manifestations of injustice.

This list isn’t complete with notes or links – but it’s a start. I think we’ll continue to add some thoughts on the positions of each member as the days go on. Feel free to share links in the comments’ section on anyone I don’t have information on, or where the information is wrong and needs correcting.

1. Sen. Rick Santorum, Former US Senator and presidential candidate

  • Salon put together a couple of remarks Santorum that seem to go against the Holy Father:
    • Last week, Republican presidential contender and devout Catholic Rick Santorum threw some shade at Pope Francis. Santorum said that he was a “huge fan” of His Holiness, but took issue with Francis aligning himself with 97 percent of climate scientists and speaking out on global warming. The church had “gotten it wrong a few times on science,” Santorum remarked, adding that the pope should stick to “theology and morality” instead of, say, talking about arctic melt.Pope Francis does not equivocate on the death penalty: he opposes it in all circumstances. He is also outspoken on what he says is the cruelty of life imprisonment — which he calls a “hidden death penalty” — and the moral imperative for prison reform:”All Christians and people of goodwill are thus called today to struggle not only for abolition of the death penalty, whether it be legal or illegal and in all its forms, but also to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty. And this, I connect with life imprisonment. Life imprisonment is a hidden death penalty.”Rick Santorum: Supports the death penalty because “when there is certainty [that a person is guilty], that’s the case when capital punishment can be used.”

2. Marjorie Dannenfelser, President, Susan B. Anthony List

  • Signed a statement in February of 2012 suggesting that pro-life issues exclude things like environmental issues – contrary to what the Church teaches – and, as a result, also immigration issues – also contrary to what the Church (and several members of the episcopate) teaches – as “everything is connected” (Laudato si’). The statement notes:
    • The term pro-life originated historically in the struggle to end abortion on demand and continues to be used in public discourse overwhelmingly in that sense. To ignore that is at best sloppy communication and at worst intentional deception. The life in pro-life denotes not quality of life but life itself. The term denotes opposition to a procedure that intentionally results in dead babies.In stark contrast, most environmental causes promoted as pro-life involve little threat to human life itself, and no intent to kill anyone. For example, even if one grants the exaggerated numbers and harms claimed by the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) in its recent quarter-million-dollar advertising campaign that claimed, “being pro-life means protecting the unborn from mercury pollution,” mercury exposure due to power-plant emissions does not kill infants.

3. The Honorable Matt Schlapp, Chairman, American Conservative Union

  • Mercedes Schlapp, wife of Matt Schlapp, has a few quotes included and commented on at where she expresses what seems to be a lack of trust and admiration of our Holy Father:
    • In an editorial for U.S. News & World Report on September 25, 2015, Schlapp criticized a speech that Pope Francis had delivered to a joint session of the U.S. Congress a day before. “The pontiff went on to dedicate a full paragraph [of his speech] to opposing the death penalty and spoke in depth about climate change, poverty and immigration,” Schlapp wrote. “He allocated only…one vague sentence in his entire speech to the unborn. In fact, the pontiff never explicitly mentioned the word abortion or unborn, a huge disappointment.” Schlapp was also critical of the Pope’s recent visit to Cuba, writing, “The pontiff’s visit to Cuba and the United States appears to be less about the Golden Rule and more about a rule of politeness—’Let’s not offend thy leader.’ Maybe the pontiff felt that his holiness and spirituality would simply rub off on dictators and lead them to feel guilty for their oppression of the Cuban people.”
  • Mercedes Schlapp seems to have expressed an openness to torture – which is intrinsically evil and, if you prefer the language, a “non-negotiable – in a tweet earlier this year:
    • #SalahAbdeslam now refusing to cooperate with belgium officials. terrorist in charge. time for enhanced interrogations?

4. Ambassador Francis Rooney, Former US Ambassador to the Holy See

  • From Rooney’s campaign website:
    • “We need to secure the border, stop illegal immigration, and end sanctuary cities. Illegal immigrants who commit crimes in America should be deported. End of story.”
    • “Francis Rooney will be a voice for American strength. He will ensure that our enemies know to fear us and that our friends know they can trust us.”
    • “Francis will protect and defend the Second Amendment rights that are constantly under attack by the anti-gun lobby.”

5. Sean Fieler, President, Chiaroscuro Foundation

  • One need only look at the candidates Fieler has supported, and, without – at least after an initial search – rebuking their approaches on social and political realities.
  • Of course, we know a fan of the Acton Institute is also a fan of using the name “Catholic” without what the Church teaches to discuss economics.
  • Is this an example of #paytoplay? Pence received a nice contribution from Fieler as noted in the link found on the first bullet.

6. Rev. Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life

7. Chris Slattery, Founder & President, Expectant Mother Care
8. Cong. Andrew Harris, US Congressman, Maryland, 1st District

  • Andrew Harris On the Issues page shows some interesting conflicts between the gentleman’s positions and those of the USCCB – that’s putting it kindly. Evaluating this man’s positions, as they are listed, from the lens of Catholic moral thought (which includes catholic social teaching) seems to lead one to conclude that the positions do not flow from the font of justice and mercy.

9. Janet Morana, Co-Founder, Silent No More Campaign
10. John Klink, President Emeritus, International Catholic Migration Commission
11. Marjorie Murphy Campbell, Founder & Publisher, New Feminism

  • Remember when G. Weigel and Prof. R. George appealed to Catholics asking us to reject Trump? Well, M. Murphy Campbell wrote “A Catholic Apology to Trump & His Voters”, where she rebuked Weigel and George for their “hit piece”. She wrote,
    • “With no factual support for their assertion that Trump’s appeal rests upon racism and ethnic prejudice, George and Weigel fashioned a personal, conclusory, name-calling hit piece on this candidate whose voter base constitutes a culture distinct from the more polished, elite world in which the authors live.”
  • Now she’s on the Roundtable of Catholics for Trump.

12. Deacon Keith Fournier, Editor in Chief of Catholic Online
13. Tony Maas, President & CEO of JTM Food Group
14. Patrick Walsh, Former Chief Secretary and Attache, US Embassy, Dublin, Ireland
15. Matt Smith, President, Catholic Advocate, Board Member, American Conservative Union

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16. Austin Ruse, President, Center for Family and Human Rights
17. Richard Viguerie, Chairman, ConservativeHQ
18. Angela Flood, Former Director, Secretariat of Communications, Archdiocese of Washington, DC
19. Lou Murray, New York Life Financial Consultant
20. Lisa Bourne, Journalist, LifeSiteNews
21. Cong. Steve Chabot, US Congressman, Ohio, 1st District
  • Take Catholic Social Teaching, or simply Laudato si’, or where you’ll find the USCCB on various policies, and suffocate it until all you have is GOP talking points. What do you have? Steve Chabot’s policy positions. See On the Issues.

22. Cong. Mike Kelly, US Congressman, Pennsylvania, 3rd District

  • What we said about Cong. Steve Chabot: ditto.

23. Ed Martin, President, Eagle Forum
24. Chuck Mifsud, President, Catholics for Ohio
25. Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas Governor and former Kansas US Senator

  • The elected officials on this list have a lot of positions that I wish could include the disclaimer “I’m Catholic, but I think you should assume my position is not influenced by the USCCB or Catholic principles.” Check out Sam Brownback On the Issues.

26. Tom Monaghan, Founder, Ave Maria University/Ave Maria School of Law
27. Mark Corallo, Founder, Corallo Media Strategies
28. Jay Shepard, RNC National Committeeman, Vermont
29. Joseph Cella, Founder, National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

  • Cafeteria Catholicism at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast” is an interesting read. In the article, John Gehring describes the prayer breakfast as follows:
    • “The annual event, billed as a nonpartisan affair, has over the last decade become a platform for GOP politicians to enjoy a photo-op with a member of the Catholic hierarchy. It’s also a free pass for Republicans to burnish their “pro-life” credentials without the inconvenience of having to explain how their positions on capital punishment, war, the environment and other moral issues clash with traditional church teaching.”
  • Remember that Weigel/George letter against Trump? Cella signed it. Like Cruz, he’s changed his mind, it seems.

30. “The Honorable” Faith Whittlesey, Former US Ambassador to Switzerland and “member of White House senior staff, Reagan Administration”

  • Is this the Faith Whittlesey who helped Reagan ease the public about our anti-democratic action in Latin America?

31. The Honorable R. James Nicholson, Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Ambassador to the Holy See
32. The Honorable Frank Keating, Former Governor of Oklahoma
33. The Honorable Sean Duffy, Congressman, Wisconsin, 7th District

  • We cringe as we recall that vote in favor of the “Ryan budget” that the USCCB rebuked, having described as a moral failure.
  • Here he is On the Issues.

34. Mary Matalin, Former Counselor to the Vice President


So far we can tell that several members have (some or numerous) positions that should lead a Catholic to realize how remarkably non-Catholic something – in our case, (the many positions of several members in) this group – can be, while still identifying itself as Catholic. The smart thing to do would be to follow Bobby George’s approach to Trump and say, ‘no, thanks!

I’m not looking to attack any of these people – I’ve never met any of them – or let any of them off the hook by not commenting on each one. Some names are new to me, but I’ll see what’s note-worthy in the days to come. I can spend only so much time reading pathetic policy positions before focusing on more important, life giving realities.

Side note, I wonder how many of these Trumpista Catholics have bourgeois patriotic rosaries.

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