To think that God acts in history by the intermediary of the political actions of man, revolutionary or conservative, is the complete opposite of hope. — Jacques Ellul
When the future looks back on this pontificate, Pope Francis might well be credited with having wakened the sleeping bogey of anti-Catholicism. His staged assaults on the immigration policies of a sovereign United States are the tactics of yet another community organizer, this one with a global constituency.
Francis’ Marxoid rhetoric, advancement of deceptive climate change narratives, and cozy photo-ops with anti-democratic—even murderous—regimes, rekindle old suspicions that popery is the enemy of free institutions.
Historian Arthur Schlesinger Sr. called anti-Catholicism “the deepest-held bias in the history of the American people.” Few Catholics today remember the reality of it or the shapes it took either in politics or popular culture outside the bounds of entertainment. Were she still alive, my great-aunt Kitty would be happy to tell you.
She moved to Virginia, a predominantly Protestant state, early in 1942. America had just entered the war. She needed a job; conscripts were leaving theirs. Yet even then, popular anti-Catholic sentiment balked at filling vacancies with papists. Kitty never tired of telling of a common sign in shop windows: “No Catholics Need Apply.” It was the local variant of “No Irish Need Apply.” (Renting a room in a Protestant home, she had to pass as one of them. But that story can wait.)
A Sentiment as Old as America
Kitty faced the rippling effect of a bias fundamental to the culture of the nation. Carried as baggage from England’s anti-Catholic propaganda of the late 1500s and early 1600s, it depicted the Catholic Church as an alien presence poised to undermine the rights of free citizens. John Tracy Ellis chronicled this pattern of thought in his landmark “American Catholicism” (1956). He was blunt: “. . . universal anti-Catholic bias was brought to Jamestown in 1607 and vigorously cultivated in all the thirteen colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia.”
No better evidence of the longevity of that bias was the broad influence of Paul Blanshard’s “American Freedom and Catholic Power” (1949). Blanshard was the premier—if that is the word—anti-Catholic bigot of his day. Trained in both theology and law, he earned his anti-Catholic stripes in the 1950s as associate editor of the Nation. His animus was directed not at Catholic persons but at the clerical class. He saw the hierarchy as its own political machine within the larger—and extravagantly corrupt—machinery of municipal politics:
The most successful machines almost always have an inner group of dependable leaders who are Irish and Catholic. These leaders are not necessarily ‘good’ Catholics, but they must never be ‘bad’ Catholics, i.e., they must never be renegades or critics of clerical policy.
Blanshard charged that Irish Catholic voters could be counted on “to hold together and obey the orders of a boss.” During the 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism was a live issue. The candidate prepared for his address to the Houston Ministers Conference by studying “American Freedom and Catholic Power.” Its chapter “Church, State and Democracy” pivots on one question:
Is this a foreign power? Probably the apologists for the Vatican would say that . . . it is an international rather than a foreign power, drawing its authority from God and its sanction from Catholics of all nations, including the United States. This contention will not stand analysis. The ‘internationalism’ of the Church is quite specious, since the hierarchy does not represent the people . . . nor the government of any nation in the world. Its machinery is completely authoritarian, and the people of the United States do not have any more voting right in controlling it than the Catholic priests of the United States have.
Blanshard went on to ask:
To what extend are the bishops of the hierarchy in the United States agents of the Pope as the sovereign of the Vatican State? Their elaborate oath of allegiance is taken to the Pope; their political, sociological and religious reports are commingled and sent to the same central headquarters. Their instructions to oppose certain types of American legislation come to them in the same type of encyclicals that cover matters of mysticism and ritual. . . . And the money that they raise and send to the Vatican is used for both religious and political activities.
JFK was obligated to dissolve fears that his first allegiance was to his country, not to the pope. But that was a lifetime ago. With five Catholics on the Supreme Court (six, until Antonin Scalia died), and pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage Catholics at the highest levels throughout the political bureaucracy, who now questions the independence of Catholics in governmental decision-making?
Transcendence Descends Into the Muck of Politics
As Francis’ insinuates himself into geopolitics and seeks to influence America’s immigration policies, Blanshard’s long-dormant question—Is this a foreign power?— begins to stir. Catholics themselves recoil from his will to inflate the episcopal jurisdiction of the Chair of Peter into an imperial mandate to determine secular agendas. Catholics and non-Catholics alike wince at the spectacle of Francis grinning delightedly with Iran’s President Rouhani. They shrink from his embrace of Raúl Castro, wonder at his regard for major figures of liberation theology, and resent his effort to undermine American authority over its own borders.
Francis’ populist demagoguery directed at capitalist systems (“slave drivers of our day”) is incendiary and, however couched in religious language, profane. In Chiapas, his homily to the indigenous congregation was intended to foment, not instruct: “Others, intoxicated by power, money and market trends, have stolen your lands or contaminated them.” Tropes of a left-wing agitator, his comments remind us that Catholic organizations are prominent in the open borders/amnesty movement.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is in lock-step with the pope on the consequential issues of immigration and climate control. It is aggressive in promoting the papal stance on both issues, using them as levers for global welfare and for reshaping the nation in conformity with progressive intentions. (It was equally assertive in promoting the Affordable Care Act.)
With one voice, pope and bishops confuse the freedom to emigrate (a responsibility of nations of origin), and the right to immigrate. Nowhere does there exist a right to immigrate to wherever one chooses, whenever, or by whatever means. Mexico itself imposes high penalties on illegal immigrants and those who aid them. But let no shibboleth be violated by reality.
Lust for Power Subverts the Gospel
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the grant-making arm of the USCCB, was founded with help from Saul Alinsky in 1969. It remains true to its founding. Its domestic justice chairman, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, doubles as the president of Catholic Charities—one of only nine voluntary agencies operating in official agreement with the State Department to house, maintain, and place refugees. Working through HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, Catholic Charities helps secure job training, language instruction, and medical and financial services. It assists clients in gaining access to the kaleidoscope of ORR’s benefits, from help in establishing a business to matched savings accounts.
It is worth noting that CCHD partly funded Barack Obama’s time as an Alinsky-style organizer on Chicago’s South Side, and that the USCCB was instrumental in delivering the Catholic vote for Obama in 2008.
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), founded by the USCCB, is dedicated to sandbagging immigration law under the banner of “fair and generous immigration policies.” It assists illegal aliens by fighting deportations and promotes amnesty under the belief that “all goods of the earth belong to all people.” Browse CLINIC’s website for the range of projects espoused in the name of “the Gospel value of welcoming the stranger.”
Francis’ personal popularity is largely a function of public perception of him as a doctrinal liberal. But as Americans recognize in Francis an advance man for “world authority”—the concept of a mega-state cached in Vatican minds through recent pontificates—affection for the man will not stay hostility toward the workings of his church.
What has been called “the last respectable prejudice” is on track to gain enhanced respectability among Americans who blanch at what they see as a shakedown by the refugee resettlement industry. They are dismayed by a pope who would confuse “a nation under God” with a nation under the sway of his own bien pensant ambitions and those of clerical bureaucrats. Power lust, no matter the pious packaging, subverts the Gospel. It does not serve it.
Poised for a comeback, Blanshard’s specter of an alien presence takes on solidity with every act of Francis’ disregard for the ordained limits of papal authority.