Election 2022: Catholic Money and Power Support the GOP
“To say the movement to ban abortions in Kansas has been fueled by the Catholic Church is no overstatement,” kansascity.com noted. The Archdiocese of Kansas City gave approximately $2.5 million. The Catholic Diocese of Wichita contributed $550,000. The Kansas Catholic Conference [lobbyists for the bishops] added another $275,000. The Catholic Diocese of Salina and St. Michael the Archangel Parish each contributed $100,000, the Sunflower State Journal reported
The Value Them Both coalition, the primary advocate for an amendment to ensure there is no right to an abortion in the state constitution, raised about $4.7 million this year according to their website. So the donation of more than $3.5 million from the Church was the major contributor to this effort.
This information was available only because the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission requires all who promote or oppose a constitutional ballot question to file a statement of their financial activity in this regard.
There are 194 archdioceses/dioceses in this country according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Because the finances of all religious organizations can remain secret, what the Church spends in other states on Republican election issues or candidates could be staggering.
Additionally, almost every state has a Catholic Conference lobbying for legislation and regulations that affect the bishops’ civil agenda. Regardless of this overtly political function, these organizations share the same exemption from taxes as do religious organizations as well as the secrecy regarding their donors and expenditures.
Make no mistake. For bishops, “abortion” is a political issue for electing Republicans.
October – the month before elections – is designated as Respect Life Month by the USCCB so they can flood Catholics with programs and materials to get-out-the-vote for the GOP.
When Republican governor Mitt Romney instituted Romneycare which provided insurance coverage for abortion, there was no organized opposition from the bishops. In fact, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley said that “Romney was a better friend to the Catholic Church than any other Massachusetts governor in decades,” as noted on the aboutmittromney.com/catholics website.
Like the GOP establishment, the bishops were committed to denying Pres. Obama any success. They tried to block enactment of the Affordable Care Act by falsely asserting that it provided coverage for abortion even though this was barred by the Hyde Amendment. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), who tried but failed to reach an agreement with the USCCB, finally admitted “that people tried to use abortion as a tool to stop health-care reform, even after [unnecessary] protections were added,” as reported by the Daily Beast on May 6, 2010.
REALLY BIG CATHOLIC MONEY
A $1.6 billion donation - described as “the largest political advocacy donation in U.S. history” – was given “tax-free to a new nonprofit run by Federalist Society co-chair Leonard Leo,” reported Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post on Aug. 25.
The current right-wing majority Supreme Court was “built” by the Federalist Society directed by Leonard Leo, according to a report in the Washington Post.
Leo is also a board member of the Catholic Information Center operated by Opus Dei, an official arm of the Church and, at the top, men dedicated to increasing the wealth of the oligarchs.*
“An enormous amount of political spending is now being conducted through the vehicle of nonprofit groups organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code [now] used for influencing elections, including directly advocating for or against candidates. Leo’s new Marble Freedom Trust is one of them,” Marcus wrote. “They do not have to disclose their donors or report much about how the funds were used; hence the term ‘dark money.’”
“Leo sits astride a deliberately opaque and interconnected multimillion - now billion - dollar ideological and political empire. Leo’s original mission was installing conservative Supreme Court justices and federal judges, but in recent years he has stepped aside from his day-to-day role at the Federalist Society and broadened his focus to transforming state courts, pushing for tighter voting restrictions and other conservative causes,” Marcus stated.
POWER FOR A “POLITICAL REVOLUTION”
“The power of that revolution, which is spreading to courtrooms and statehouses around the country, is now on vivid display,” according to the New York Times magazine article “How a Corporate Law Firm Led a Political Revolution” published on Aug. 22. “Over the past two decades, Jones Day has been building a different kind of legal practice, one dedicated not just to helping Republicans win elections but to helping them achieve their political aims once in office.”
“Stephen Brogan took over as managing partner of Jones Day in 2003. Brogan joined the law firm straight out of the University of Notre Dame’s law school in 1977,” the Times reported. “The key to understanding him and his politics was through his faith. ‘Brogan is an extremely conservative, hard-core Catholic, and that is the bedrock of who he is,’ one of his Jones Day confidants said.”
“Brogan brought on a series of high-profile devotees of the Federalist Society [and] also represented a who’s who of other GOP power players: the Republican National Committee, the National Rifle Association, the billionaire Koch brothers,” the Times explained.
Among the law firm’s key clients was Citizens United. The Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. FEC, “opened the gateway to unlimited dark money in our elections … a ‘tsunami of slime’ sloshing through our politics,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) stated.
“In one recent case brought by Jones Day, the court killed the Biden administration’s moratorium on home evictions during the pandemic. In another case Jones Day worked on, the court would severely limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of power-plant emissions,” the Times noted. The court also overturned a New York gun safety law on June 23 that required a license to carry concealed weapons in public places - all decisions made by the right-wing Catholic majority on the court.
“Jones Day raked in billions a year in fees from tobacco, opioid, gun and oil companies, among many other giant corporations in need of a state-of-the-art defense,” the Times stated. It is also the go-to firm for bishops with legal problems even though “the hourly rate [among] lawyers from Jones Day topped out at $1,350,” according to abovethelaw.com.
In 2018, the Pennsylvania grand jury issued a report outlining the sexual abuse of thousands of victims within six dioceses. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the former bishop of Pittsburgh, allegedly failed to remove priests accused of abuse from their ministries. Wuerl hired Jones Day to represent him on matters relating to the grand jury report according to a report by Law.com. “Wuerl spokesman Ed McFadden said that Jones Day had previously represented the cardinal on other matters,” Law.com quoted.
Jones Day worked with the Church on a settlement relating to (Bishop David) Zubik v. Burwell where the Supreme Court decided that coverage for contraception can be denied under the Affordable Care Act even though exemptions for religious organizations had already been provided.
“The Buffalo Diocese, which already is paying six law firms for work in bankruptcy proceedings ….wants to retain the Jones Day firm as ‘special counsel’ for a lawsuit” stated Law.com. The lawsuit, filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, “accused diocese leaders of protecting more than two dozen priests accused of child sexual abuse [and] also accused two bishops ‘of misusing charitable assets by supporting priests who they knew had likely sexually abused minors,’” The Buffalo News reported
QUID PRO QUO: TAX-PAYER FUNDING TO DISCRIMINATE
In return for the bishops’ support of the Republican Party, Catholic schools and hospitals receive government support even when they discriminate.
The Supreme Court’s Carson v. Makin ruling could “expand educational options for Catholic families,” stated Mike Hoey, legislative specialist with the Missouri Catholic conference, as reported by cruxnow.com. After the usual right-wing Catholic majority decision on June 21, “no one will be able to argue that [taxpayer funding of religious schools] is unconstitutional,” Hoey said.
Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey “signed a massive expansion of the state’s private school voucher system,” on July 7 reported the Associate Press. “Every parent can take public money now sent to the K-12 public school system and use it to pay for their children’s private school tuition.” The Arizona bishops issued a joint statement praising the signing of the bill cruxnow.com stated.
The Archdiocese of Omaha is “squarely in the middle of a raging national debate over gender, identity and faith,” The Washington Times noted on Aug. 29. “An official statement said its parochial school students will have to conform to the gender with which they were born or leave school.”
The dioceses of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Arlington, Virginia; Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisconsin; Lafayette, Louisiana; Spokane, Washington “along with those of a number of other dioceses in recent years” have issued similar statements cruxnow.com stated.
With taxpayer funding assured if needed, “the students who may experience gender confusion don’t have to go to our schools” Spokane Bishop Thomas Daly said, reported cruxnow.com on Sept. 3
“To ensure that people nationwide can access health care free from discrimination,” Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra announced a proposed rule to the Affordable Care Act on July 25.
“Chief among the bishops’ concerns are regulations that would mandate healthcare workers to perform transgender surgeries and require health insurance providers to cover the procedures” cruxnow.com stated. The proposed rule “threatens Catholic health care” according to “multiple USCCB chairmen even though, by their own admission [the rule already] ‘refines and strengthens the process for raising conscience and religious freedom objections,’” noted cruxnow.com.
The Franciscan Alliance Inc., a Catholic hospital network in Indiana and Illinois, sued to block enforcement of the ACA provisions. The case, Franciscan Alliance Inc. v. Becerra, was filed in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which covers Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana. The Circuit Justice is the right-wing Catholic Samuel Alito. A three-judge panel decided the case. Judges Elrod and Engelhardt were appointed by Republican Pres. George W. Bush, Judge Willett by Trump.
“While the proposed rule contains a religious exemption, the lawsuit said it does not go far enough,” Reuters reported. On Aug. 26, the court “shielded the Franciscan Alliance Inc. from any enforcement action which they say would violate their religious freedom.”
The judges wrote in their decision: “We have recognized that the loss of freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act all constitute per se irreparable harm.”
“HHS appealed that decision to the 5th Circuit, which has now upheld the injunction,” the National Catholic Register reported on Sept. 2.
There are 654 Catholic hospitals in the U.S. according to cruxnow.com. “Like most hospitals in the U.S., Catholic hospitals make much of their money through government reimbursements and insurance plans like Medicare. Since 2011, revenues from Medicare and Medicaid have risen by 78% for Catholic hospitals and health systems - from $27 billion in 2011 to $48 billion in 2020. This spike in revenue represents a much bigger jump than all hospitals, which in total saw revenue growth of just 25% from Medicare and Medicaid,” Valerie Wexler, an investigative researcher, reported on Nov. 4, 2021.
“Given their history, we must expect Catholic hospitals and health systems will do everything in their power to preserve their license to discriminate,” Wexler predicted.
STOKING CATHOLIC “PERSECUTION” TO GET-OUT-THE-VOTE
“In light of unending political attacks against the rights of faithful Catholic health-care providers … we need to increase our efforts to push back against these unjust government efforts in the new legal actions that are inevitably going to arise,” the National Catholic Register urged its readers on Sept. 2.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced the Pregnancy Resource Center Defense Act on July 14 “to protect these centers and houses of worship from radical pro-abortion activists’ campaign of violence, destruction, and intimidation.” The majority of incidents cited (see https://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF22F17.pdf) involve vandalism and minor property damage. None included injuries to persons.
“The Biden Administration has turned a blind eye while radical leftists attack pregnancy care centers and houses of worship,” Hawley said. “It’s time to put an end to the attacks and get tough on thugs who engage in violence, arson, and other means of destruction.” “Getting tough” includes “imposing a 7-year mandatory minimum when attacks involve arson (up from a 5-year mandatory minimum).”
On Sept. 1, “a group of Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland condemning what they described as the Department of Justice’s inaction over the steady rise of anti-Catholic attacks and hate crimes. The letter, authored by Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI) and co-signed by 19 other GOP members, called out Garland’s failure to respond to the increase in vandalism and other attacks on Catholic churches and institutions since May 2020” the Catholic News Agency reported.
“The letter cites the DOJ’s refusal to acknowledge the ‘blatant acts of violence committed by groups such as Antifa’ and that under Garland’s leadership, the DOJ ‘persecuted Americans for speaking out at school board meetings and harassed peaceful protesters by investigating them for domestic terrorism. [Americans are] wondering why certain criminals seem to always avoid your interest,” the letter adds but, as usual for the GOP, omits any proof or evidence that these assertions are factual as quoted by the Catholic News Agency.
McClain’s letter does “cite a tracker maintained by the USCCB documenting more than 160 attacks against the Catholic Church, a number that has steadily risen since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24. This includes ‘arson, statues beheaded [with] limbs cut, smashed, and painted, gravestones defaced with swastikas and anti-Catholic language and American flags next to them burned, and other destruction and vandalism,’” but included no personal injuries as reported by the Catholic News Agency.
IT’S ABOUT THE CRUELTY
“Anti-abortion violence has included crimes against people, including kidnapping, assault, attempted murder and murder; and crimes affecting both people and property, including arson and terrorism, such as bombings. Anti-abortion extremists are considered a current domestic terrorist threat by the U.S. Department of Justice,” according to Wikipedia.
“The FBI noted 1,051 victims of hate crimes targeted due to their sexual orientation (13.5% of all hate crimes reported) and 236 victims of hate crimes targeted due to their gender identity (3% of all hate crimes reported) in its report of hate crimes in 2020,” according to the GLAAD website.
Boston Children's Hospital has received “a ‘large volume’ of threats of violence from right-wing groups for providing gender-affirming care to trans youths,” reported NBC News on Aug. 31. “Its clinicians and staff have been harassed by phone, email and social media, receiving multiple threats of violence,” CNN stated.
WHAT WE CAN DO
“Stand with communities in need, particularly given increased attacks on women, trans youth, and health care providers,” HSS Secretary Xavier Becerra stated on July 25, 2022.
We can do this most effectively by voting this November.
*See An Opus Dei Supreme Court
My thanks to Emmett Coyne for providing me with the Washington Post and New York Times articles.
Betty Clermont is author of The NeoCatholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America.