As we edge ever closer to the Nov. 8 presidential election, it’s hard to believe how much the state of affairs surrounding the two major party candidates continues to deteriorate. Donald Trump, in the aftermath of the release of a “hot mic” recording in which he brags about how his reality stardom gives him the green light to inappropriately touch women, now faces a barrage of accusations of sexual assault. Hillary Clinton, who is facing multiple email scandals, continues to be questioned for her lack of trustworthiness. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia summed up the choice facing American voters by quoting a friend who described one candidate as “a vulgar, boorish lout and disrespecter of women, with a serious impulse control problem” and the other as “a scheming, robotic liar with a lifelong appetite for power and an entourage riddled with anti-Catholic bigots.”
While clearly both candidates present concerns to Catholic voters, it is the unveiling of this final point — the “entourage riddled with anti-Catholic bigots” — via emails released by Wikileaks, that, for the Catholic community, perhaps hits closest to home as we head into November. The emails reportedly reveal a discussion between John Podesta, chairman of Clinton’s presidential campaign, and Sandy Newman of Voices for Progress, in which the latter floats the idea of encouraging a “Catholic Spring” uprising within the Church “in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages [sic] dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church.” Contraception, Newman puts forward, could jump-start such an effort. Podesta responds by saying, “We created [the organization] Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this. … Likewise [the organization] Catholics United.”
Before going any further, it is important to state that the Church has many enemies who work every day to undermine her core teachings and efforts at growth and evangelization. Any group that promotes the counter-cultural values of chastity, dignity of human life from conception to natural death, and traditional family values today will face criticism.
Despite that reality, however, such a perfunctory admission by a prominent member of a major political party that said party has created organizations with a Catholic name in order to infiltrate and undermine Church teaching is shocking and profoundly troubling. What is particularly reprehensible is that, in the days following this revelation, no one in the Clinton camp — even Catholic VP candidate Tim Kaine — has come forward to condemn or even apologize for such an overt attack on the Church for political gain. If we, as Catholics, take our faith seriously, it is imperative that we demand that our elected officials disavow behavior that attempts to manipulate our teachings and undermine the Church’s freedom.
It also is important to acknowledge the reality that disagreements and factions clearly do exist within the Catholic Church. In order to find common ground, Pope Francis has encouraged dialogue and accompaniment. Such is an appropriate strategy when handling divisions within our own community. But when such divisions are planned, sown and financed by outside political forces, with intent solely to inflict harm and lessen the Church’s unity, we begin to see our religious freedoms — a freedom this country was founded on — erode. As Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement in mid-October: “We … expect public officials to respect the rights of people to live their faith without interference from the state. When faith communities lose this right, the very idea of what it means to be an American is lost.”
Editorial Board: Scot Landry, chief mission officer; Greg Willits, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor