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Another theocracy: the ties that bind. (WATCH ON THE RIGHT).

The greatest danger to democracy in any nation is theocracy. It can occur in any society where a powerful religious group or combination of religious groups is the decisive voice in a ruling political or judicial system. In spite of the constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state in the United States, there is substantial evidence today of theocratic influence and efforts to control the country.

Some of this evidence is the well-documented alliance of the Republican National Committee, under George W. Bush's leadership, with the cardinals and bishops of the Roman Catholic church, as well as the silence or collusion of some largely Protestant organizations. This conclusion is based upon the remarkable investigative reporting by one progressive, democratic Catholic organization of the actions of Bush and the Catholic hierarchy of the United States.

Catholics for a Free Choice published its findings in the summer 2001 issue of its journal, Conscience. On its cover page is a color photograph of five, red-clad, smiling cardinals applauding a grinning George W. Bush in front of the newly dedicated Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. The caption under the picture of March 21 reads: "Together at Last: Conservative Catholics and the GOP." The word conservative should be replaced with right wing, as most dictionaries describe a conservative as one who wants to maintain the status quo or existing system of government. The programs advocated by this new alliance go instead in the direction of extreme or radical change.

According to the Conscience article, the major players in the Republican decision to court influential Catholics were Deal Hudson, a former Baptist minister who converted to Catholicism and subsequently became the publisher of Crisis, a right-wing Catholic magazine; Karl Rove, Bush's political adviser; Richard John Neuhaus, a one-time Lutheran minister who became a Catholic priest and who "reportedly tutored Bush in Catholic social teaching"; and John DiIulio, "a conservative Catholic criminologist who would become the head of Bush's faith-based effort." DiIulio has since resigned from that program.

Back in February 1999, the Republican National Committee--chaired by Jim Nicholson, a Roman Catholic who later was named U.S. ambassador to the Vatican--formed a Catholic task force to work among U.S. Catholics to gain support for Bush for president. Thomas Melady, a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, was named chair of the task force, which included, among others, Alexander Haig, Ronald Reagan's former Secretary of State; John Klink, an adviser to the Vatican's United Nations mission; Peter Flanigan, a trustee of the right-wing John Olin Foundation; and Brian Tierney, a prominent Philadelphia businessman and adviser to Cardinal Bevilaqua. Tierney was later responsible for compiling a list of three million Catholics for a direct-mail and phone campaign.

How did Catholic church leaders respond to the Republican effort to elect Bush? Archbishop Edward Egan of New York issued a pastoral letter to his flock, urging them to vote for candidates "who share our commitment to the fundamental rights of the unborn." Just before the election, Bush visited Archbishop Bevilaqua, and the Philadelphia archdiocese provided its 283 parishes collectively with 250,000 voter guides prepared by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.

During his campaign for the presidency, Bush met with various prominent Catholics, such as Deal Hudson and Father Frank Pavone. Pavone heads the organization Priests for Life, which claims a membership of 6,000 (or 13 percent of) U.S. Catholic priests. Bush's meeting with him was most significant, as Pavone represents the far right in anti-abortion activism. He endorses clinic blockades and has associated with Operation Rescue leader Randall Terry, as well as Joseph Scheidler, who was convicted of violating federal racketeering laws. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's son, Paul, is a priest and a member of Pavone's group.

Only a few days after Bush took the oath of office as president on January 20, he had dinner with Archbishop James Hickey; Theodore McCarrick, the new archbishop of Washington, D.C.; and Bishop Joseph Fiorenza, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bush later met with thirty Catholic church leaders--including various cardinals, an assortment of bishops, Deal Hudson, and layperson Thomas Monaghan of Domino Pizza fame--to press his case for faith-based social services. At that meeting, Bush linked his faith-based initiative to his decision to oppose abortion rights, reportedly saying:
 Take the life issue. This requires a president and an administration
 leading our nation to understand the importance of life. This whole
 faith-based initiative really ties into a larger cultural issue that we're
 working on ... because, when you're talking about welcoming people of faith
 to help people who are disadvantaged and are unable to defend themselves,
 the logical step is also those babies.


Concluding they had successfully achieved their goal of electing a pro-life president, the New Jersey Catholic bishops sent a letter in February to Catholic voters acknowledging their efforts:
 We applaud that the majority of Catholic voters in our state cast their
 ballots for the major party candidate who publicly stated his support for a
 ban on abortions ... opposed Medicaid-funded abortions, opposed the sale of
 the abortion pill RU-486, and voiced his support for parental
 notification/consent legislation and a ban on late term abortions.


Another of Bush's early efforts to maintain a high profile among Catholics and the news media they follow was his speech of March 22 at the dedication of the $50 million Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington. The Washington Times describes the center as "akin to a presidential museum for the Pope" and "part think tank" to interpret the pope's teachings on such issues as abortion. The pope chose the location of Washington for his center, rather than Rome or Jerusalem, presumably because he expects the United States to continue to be the world's most influential nation.

This Republican-Catholic alliance has continued throughout this first year of Bush's presidency. He held a private meeting with Cardinal Law of Boston, who subsequently said on April 17 that "to be more successful in transforming our culture in the United States it is absolutely essential that we be consistently and unambiguously pro-life." Bush also arranged his travels so that he could meet with key Catholic bishops--Rigali in St. Louis, Missouri, and Wuerl in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania--and, of course, Pope John Paul II in Rome in July.

Looking forward to future elections, GOP chair Jim Gilmore announced on April 18 that there would be a new National Catholic Leadership Forum to begin strategic planning for the 2002 congressional elections and the 2004 presidential election. When the forum met on April 25, some 350 Catholics were present. High on the forum's agenda is to have key Catholics participate in a weekly White House conference call on Catholic strategy.

In addition to these and other Republican-Catholic liaisons are Bush's formal appointments to key administration positions. According to Conscience, "Bush has named a slew of Catholics to highly visible roles within the White House and key agencies." One particularly shocking appointment is that of Vatican insider Joseph Klink to head the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration --instead of Secretary of State Colin Powell's choice of a career State Department official.

Klink, who holds dual Irish and U.S. citizenship, represents the Vatican at United Nations conferences on social issues and represented the Vatican on the executive board of the UN International Children's Education Fund (UNICEF) from 1998 to 1999. According to the May 24 New York Times, Klink's resume identifies him as "a member of the Republican National Committee's Catholic Task Force" and "lists his current job as advisor to the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations."

It is highly unusual for any government to let the Vatican determine the choice of a government official, but the Times says that Bush's nomination of Klink came "at a time when the White House is assiduously courting Roman Catholics, a group Bush's political advisors believe may be pivotal in the next election." Right-wing groups are expected to support Klink because, as the Times points out, he is "an advocate for the Vatican's position against family planning and against the use of condoms for protection against HIV infection." Furthermore, he has also opposed "emergency contraceptive pills to some women in refugee camps." (The Vatican even opposes emergency contraception for rape victims. It believes in requiring rape victims to accept the rapists' semen and raise the rapists' children. Vatican dogma always trumps a woman's right to control her own body.)

Klink is a Vatican loyalist, having served as a Vatican delegate to seventeen United Nations conferences on issues dealing with women and social concerns. According to the Times, during the crucial 1994 Cairo conference, Klink served as the delegation's floor manager and "played an active role as the architect of Vatican strategies and issues."

There has been little other questioning by mainstream media of the appropriateness of these dual roles. Catholics for a Free Choice strongly opposes Vatican membership in the United Nations, arguing that the Vatican doesn't actually qualify as a nation. And some opposition was briefly noted following Ronald Reagan's establishment of U.S. diplomatic status for the Vatican. However, virtually nothing has been said by the media about Klink representing the Vatican--nor about his dual citizenship. But it certainly is easy to imagine a conflict of interest should either his Irish or Vatican loyalties be in conflict with existing U.S. population or immigration policies. In any event, it is most inappropriate that a person with loyalties to other than the United States be appointed to a State Department policy position.

In addition to Klink, Bush has surrounded himself with other Catholics --including John Negroponte, ambassador to the United Nations; Father Robert Sirica, Bush's adviser on the Catholic vote; Anthony Prinicipi, Veteran Affairs Secretary; Mel Martinez, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services; and Peter Wehner, White House speech writer.

One might say that the Republican Party has, for all practical purposes, become the Catholic Party in the United States, pursuing the Roman Catholic church's agenda. However, Conscience has also demonstrated that millions of Catholic laity--including members of Congress--don't accept the right-wing political agenda of the Vatican, the U.S. bishops, and some laity on such issues as contraception, birth control, abortion, school vouchers, and embryonic stem cell research, among others. There are, in fact, a number of progressive Catholic groups--including Catholics for a Free Choice and some organizations of nuns--which don't accept the idea of a Catholic political party or candidates who are responsive to Vatican leadership. They are well aware that the Vatican is controlled exclusively by a patriarchy led by the only absolute monarch left in the Western world, assisted by his appointed Curia and his secret order, Opus Dei.

How long will Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, humanists, atheists, and others in the United States tolerate the political drift toward theocracy and slogans such as pro-life--particularly when millions around the world are dying due to Vatican and Republican refusal to permit the use of contraceptives to prevent the spread of AIDS and other family planning services to control unwieldy population growth? In effect, the slogan pro-life is camouflage for a culture of death and patriarchal rule. It shouldn't be permitted to infiltrate U.S. policies, and Bush has no right as an elected representative of the "people" to be instituting policies contrary to their wishes.

John M. Swomley has a Ph.D. in political science and international affairs from the University of Colorado and is professor emeritus of social ethics at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri.
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Author:Swomley, John M.
Publication:The Humanist
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Words:1944
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