Monday, May 8, 2017

The Political Pope: Immune to Johnson Amendment?

An excerpt from George Neumayr’s new book, “The Political Pope.”

The election of a liberal Jesuit to the papacy thrilled Democrats in the United States, whose unholy alliance with the Catholic left goes back many decades. Barack Obama, one of the pope’s most prominent supporters, has long been a beneficiary of that alliance. The faculty at Jesuit Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., ranked as one of the top donors to his campaign.

In a grim irony, Obama, whose presidency substantially eroded religious freedom in America, rose to power not in spite of the Catholic Church but because of it. The archdiocese of Chicago helped bankroll his radicalism in the 1980s. As he recounts in his memoirs, he began his work as a community organizer in the rectory rooms of Holy Rosary parish on Chicago’s South Side. The Alinskyite organization for which he worked — the Developing Communities Project — received tens of thousands of dollars from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Obama was close to the late Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. A proponent of the “Seamless Garment” movement within the Catholic Church in the 1980s, a movement that downplayed abortion and emphasized political liberalism, Bernardin was drawn to the socialism and relativism of the liberal elite. He was so “gay-friendly” that he requested that the “Windy City Gay Chorus” perform at his funeral. He embodied Obama’s conception of a “good” bishop and one can see in his admixture of left-wing politics and relativistic nonjudgmental theology a foreshadowing of the rise of Pope Francis.

Cardinal Bernardin put pressure on his priests to work with Obama and even paid for Obama’s plane fare out to a 1980 training session in Los Angeles organized by Saul Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation. The conference was held at a Catholic college in Southern California, Mount St. Mary’s, which has long been associated with Alinsky’s group.

This alliance between the Catholic left and the Democratic left explains the honorary degree Obama received from Notre Dame in 2009, even as he plotted to persecute the Church under Obamacare’s contraceptive and abortifacient mandate. Notre Dame’s former president, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, who supported honoring Obama, had been close to Monsignor John Egan, the socialist who started the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and sat on Saul Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation board.

The unholy alliance also explains how the Democratic Party, despite its support for abortion and gay marriage, won a majority of the Catholic vote in Obama’s two presidential elections. At the 2012 Democratic convention in Charlotte, nuns such as Sister Simone Campbell shared the stage with abortion activists from Planned Parenthood. A liberal dean of a Catholic university, Sister Marguerite Kloos, even got caught in an act of voter fraud that year, forging the signature of a deceased nun on a ballot. As Thomas Pauken writes in The Thirty Years War, “the radicalization of elements of the Catholic clergy turned out to be one of Saul Alinsky’s most significant accomplishments.”

The election of Pope Francis was seen by Alinskyite activists as a dream come true. “I think that Pope Francis is quite an inspiring figure,” Al Gore said at UC Berkeley in early 2015. The former vice president turned radical environmental activist called Pope Francis a “phenomenon” and laughed at his liberalism: “Is the pope Catholic?” Gore said that he is so “inspiring to me” that “I could become a Catholic.”

Leftists frequently turn up at the Vatican, often invited by one of Pope Francis’s closest advisers, the socialist Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga. Before the pope’s visit to the U.S., a group of left-wing activists and officials from unions and organizations such as the SEIU and PICO (an Alinskyite group founded by the liberal Jesuit Father John Baumann) descended on the Vatican to confer with curial officials about the trip. Around the same time, over 90 members of the U.S. Congress sent Pope Francis a letter, urging him to focus upon politically liberal themes. The leader of this group was Rosa DeLauro, a Catholic who supports abortion rights.

In 2016, it was revealed through disclosures by WikiLeaks that the billionaire socialist George Soros bankrolled much of this lobbying. He spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to shape the pope’s visit to the U.S. According to the leaked documents, Soros’s Open Society Foundation sought to create a “critical mass” of American bishops and lay Catholics supportive of the pope’s priorities. The documents made special mention of Maradiaga, a champion of PICO, as a useful ally for ensuring that the pope’s speeches in the U.S. pushed socialism

The hacked e-mails exposed the depth of the plotting:

Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States in September will include a historic address to Congress, a speech at the United Nations, and a visit to Philadelphia for the “World Meeting of Families.” In order to seize this moment, we (Open Society) will support PICO’s organizing activities to engage the Pope on economic and racial justice issues, including using the influence of Cardinal Rodriguez, the Pope’s senior advisor, and sending a delegation to visit the Vatican in the spring or summer to allow him to hear directly from low-income Catholics in America.

In the e-mails, the Soros operatives make it explicitly clear that they view Pope Francis as a propagandist for their causes:

At the end of the day, our visit affirmed an overall strategy: Pope Francis, as a leader of global stature, will challenge the “idolatry of the marketplace” in the U.S. and offer a clarion call to change the policies that promote exclusion and indifference to those most marginalized. We believe that this generational moment can launch extraordinary organizing that promotes moral choices and helps establish a moral compass. We believe that the papal visit, and the work we are collectively doing around it, can help many in our country move beyond the stale ideological conflicts that dominate our policy debates and embrace new opportunities to advance the common good.
After the meeting, they rejoiced at the success of the meeting, informing John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign:

Our visits were dialogues. We conveyed our view that the Pope is a World leader of historical significance; that his message of exclusion, alarm over rising inequality and concern about globalized indifference is important for the U.S. to hear and see animated during his visit; and that we intend to amplify his remarks so that we have a more profound moral dialogue about policy choices through the election cycle of 2016. In our meetings with relevant officials, we strongly recommended that the Pope emphasize — in words and deeds — the need to confront racism and racial hierarchy in the US…

Conversations that were originally scheduled for thirty minutes stretched into two hour dialogues. As in our breakfast conversation with Cardinal Rodríguez, senior Vatican officials shared profound insights demonstrating an awareness of the moral, economic and political climate in America. We were encouraged to believe that the Pope will confront race through a moral frame.

Further disclosures from WikiLeaks confirmed the plotting of Democratic officials to infiltrate the Catholic Church in order to “foment revolution” beneficial to their radical causes. In 2012, in the midst of Catholic backlash over Obama’s contraceptive mandate, John Podesta received a note from Sandy Newman, president of Voices for Progress.

“There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church,” Newman wrote to Podesta. “I don’t qualify to be involved and I have not thought at all about how one would ‘plant the seeds of revolution,’ or who would plant them.” Podesta replied that the Democrats had set up Catholic front groups to plant those seeds: “We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this. But I think it lacks the leadership to do so now. Likewise Catholics United. Like most Spring moments, I think this one will have to be bottom up.” Podesta was wrong. It would come from the top down, as the following year Francis rose to the papacy and began politicizing the Church in the exact manner that the progressives had envisioned. Indeed, Podesta would later encourage Hillary Clinton to enlist the pope’s leftism in her campaign. In one hacked e-mail, he advised that she send out a tweet to “thank him for pointing out that the people at the bottom will get clobbered the most by climate change.”

Podesta and his aides also discussed how they could exploit Pope Francis’s support for Obama’s Iran deal. Podesta was sent a report in which Christopher Hale of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good proposes getting bishops and cardinals to lean on senators temporizing about the deal.

In another e-mail, which underscores how the media and the Democrats teamed up to enlist Pope Francis in their politics, a liberal columnist, Brent Budowsky, counsels Podesta: “John, HRC should get ahead of the progressive curve before the pope’s trip to the U.S. in September, which will be big deal for a week, saturation coverage, heavy progressive populist, impact after he leaves affecting the trajectory of the campaign. Here’s my take, written more in news analysis style……Brent” In the attached column, Budowsky writes, “The visit of such a popular pope will almost certainly give a lift in principle to Democrats and liberals who cheer Francis and rededicate themselves to the values and visions he stands for.”

Pope Francis has been influenced by The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, a book that sought to spread Marxism among the peasants of Latin America. The Alinskyite left in America regards that book as a classic. The author of the book is the late Paulo Freire and Pope Francis has made a point of visiting with Freire’s widow. The meeting was set up by Cardinal Hummes, the Brazilian whom Francis credits with inspiring him to name himself after St. Francis. Pope Francis “considered the meeting with me because of the writings of Paulo, because of the importance of Paulo for the education of oppressed people, poor people, black people, for women, for minorities,” Ana Freire said.

After Pope Francis early in his papacy decried capitalism as “trickle-down economics” — a polemical phrase coined by the left during the Reagan years that Francis frequently borrows — radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh commented, “This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope.” Talk show host Michael Savage called him “Lenin’s pope.” Pope Francis took such comments as a compliment. “I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended,” he told the Italian press.

Pope Francis grew up in socialist Argentina, an experience that left a deep impression on his thinking. He told the Latin American journalists Javier Camara and Sebastian Pfaffen that as a young man he “read books of the Communist Party that my boss in the laboratory gave me” and that “there was a period where I would wait anxiously for the newspaper La Vanguardia, which was not allowed to be sold with the other newspapers and was brought to us by the socialist militants.”

The “boss” to whom Pope Francis referred is Esther Ballestrino de Careaga. He has described her as a “Paraguayan woman” and a “fervent communist.” He considers her one of his most important mentors. “I owe a huge amount to that great woman,” he has said, saying that she “taught me so much about politics.” (He worked for her as an assistant at Hickethier-Bachmann Laboratory in Buenos Aires.)

“She often read Communist Party texts to me and gave them to me to read. So I also got to know that very materialistic conception. I remember that she also gave me the statement from the American Communists in defense of the Rosenbergs, who had been sentenced to death,” he has said. Learning about communism, he said, “through a courageous and honest person was helpful. I realized a few things, an aspect of the social, which I then found in the social doctrine of the Church.” As the archbishop of Buenos Aires, he took pride in helping her hide the family’s Marxist literature from the authorities who were investigating her. According to the author James Carroll, Bergoglio smuggled her communist books, including Marx’s Das Kapital, into a “Jesuit library.”

“Tragically, Ballestrino herself ‘disappeared’ at the hands of security forces in 1977,” reported Vatican correspondent John Allen. “Almost three decades later, when her remains were discovered and identified, Bergoglio gave permission for her to be buried in the garden of a Buenos Aires church called Santa Cruz, the spot where she had been abducted. Her daughter requested that her mother and several other women be buried there because ‘it was the last place they had been as free people.’ Despite knowing full well that Ballestrino was not a believing Catholic, the future pope readily consented.”

These biographical details throw light on the pope’s ideological instincts. Yet many commentators have ignored them, breezily casting his leftism as a bit confused but basically harmless.

“I must say that communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian,” he said in 2014. Such a comment would have startled his predecessors. They didn’t see communism as a benign exaggeration. They saw it as a grave threat to God-given freedom, as it proposes that governments eliminate large swaths of individual freedom, private property and business in order to produce the “equality” of a society without economic classes.

In the early twentieth century, as Marx’s socialism spread across the world, Pope Pius XI declared the theory anathema. “No one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist,” he said. To hear Pope Francis speak today, one might conclude the reverse: that no can be at the same time a good Catholic and an opponent of socialism.

“Inequality is the root of all evil,” Pope Francis wrote on his Twitter account in 2014. One can imagine Karl Marx blurting that out, but none of Francis’s predecessors would have made such an outrageous claim. According to traditional Catholic theology, the root of all evil came not from inequality but from Satan’s refusal to accept inequality. Out of envy of God’s superiority, Satan rebelled. He could not bear his lesser status.

He was in effect the first revolutionary, which is why the socialist agitator Saul Alinsky — a mentor to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (who did her senior thesis at Wellesley on his thought) — offered an “acknowledgment” in his book, Rules for Radicals, to Satan. Alinsky saw him as the first champion of the “have nots.”

Were the 20th-century English Catholic satirist Evelyn Waugh alive today, he would find the radical left-wing political flirtations of Pope Francis too bitterly farcical even for fiction. Could a satirist like Waugh have imagined a pope happily receiving from a Latin American despot the “gift” of a crucifix shaped in the form of a Marxist hammer and sickle? That surreal scene happened during Pope Francis’s visit to Bolivia in July 2015.

Evo Morales, Bolivia’s proudly Marxist president, offered the pontiff that sacrilegious image of Jesus Christ. Morales described the gift as a copy of a crucifix designed by a late priest, Fr. Luis Espinal, who belonged to the Jesuit order (as does Pope Francis) and had committed his life to melding Marxism with religion. Pope Francis had honored Espinal’s memory upon his arrival in Bolivia.

Had John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI seen such a grotesque cross, they might have broken it over their knees. Not Pope Francis. He accepted the hammer-and-sickle cross warmly, telling the press on the plane ride back to Rome that “I understand this work” and that “for me it wasn’t an offense.” After the visit, Morales gushed, “I feel like now I have a Pope. I didn’t feel that before.”