The anti-Catholic Catholics (and the bishops who support them)

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Oct 14, 2016

Yesterday Ross Douthat of the New York Times embarked on a lengthy Tweetstorm —21 tweets in all—questioning whether it’s accurate to refer to the leaked emails from the Clinton campaign as evidence of “anti-Catholic” bigotry. Douthat—who is no friend of the Clintonite perspective—makes a quick, convincing case that the reality is more complicated.

It’s not just that John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chairman at the center of the email exchanges, identifies himself as a Catholic. More important, Douthat notes, “the reality is that his vision is shared within Catholicism.” You will have no problem finding priests, religious, professors at Catholic universities—yes, and bishops—who defend the arguments that Podesta and his allies advance. So the public appearance of these emails offers (Douthat again) “a window into how the Catholic civil war is fought.”

We now know that Podesta helped to set up groups like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, hoping to swing Catholic opinion toward liberal positions, in opposition to clear Church teaching. Frankly that shouldn’t be too surprising; it’s been going on for at least 50 years. What’s more remarkable, really, is how smoothly staff members have moved between the US bishops’ conference and Podesta’s pet groups. Anne Hendershott supplied some details for Catholic World Report. Consider the personnel of one liberal front-group, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG):

  • Alexia Kelley worked for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development before she became founding director of CACG. (She later moved to the Obama White House staff.)
  • John Gehring was assistant media director for the US bishops’ conference, then became media director for CACG, then moved over to Faith in Public Life.
  • Tom Chabolla also worked for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, then joined the advisory board of CACG.
  • Francis X. Doyle, once the associate general secretary of the US bishops’ conference, became the treasurer-secretary of CACG.

Thus the CACG drew much of its leadership from within the staff of the US bishops’ conference. Presumably they held much the same views, and worked toward much the same goals, while they were employed by the American hierarchy. If they are “anti-Catholic,” then it seems “anti-Catholicism” has found sanctuary and support from our bishops. Make of that what you will.


(An early version of this essay mistakenly referred to the liberal group described above as “Catholic for the Common Good.” In fact, the organization of that name is a group of loyal Catholics dedicated to preserving marriage. I regret the error.)

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Bveritas2322 - Oct. 19, 2016 5:44 PM ET USA

    Catholic anti-Catholic bigotry has been on the rise for a hundred years, especially the last fifty. And no, I'm not an anti-VII nut. The more humanity sins, the more sophisticated our denial processes become, including many within the Church making concessions to corrupt anti-wisdom social science that explain evil as socially determined and in need of elite minds to teach and manage out of existence, the exact opposite of a Catholic understanding of a fallen humanity in need of repentance.

  • Posted by: brenda22890 - Oct. 19, 2016 10:12 AM ET USA

    This is straight out of the Saul Alinsky playbook. Enlist ostensibly religious individuals to undermine the Church's teachings, thus confusing the faithful and altering their understanding of what the teachings actually are. Power gained...

  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Oct. 19, 2016 9:55 AM ET USA

    I totally agree with Phil Lawler and believe these anti-Catholic Catholics are a cancer within the faith. There are others, though, who counter them rather effectively, most notably younger priests coming out of cleaned-out seminaries (tip of the biretta to JPII and Vitamin B1). From its founding, Holy Mother Church has been assaulted from within and without, yet she still stands and always will as the primary way to salvation. We have Christ's promise on this.

  • Posted by: WNS3234 - Oct. 18, 2016 8:13 PM ET USA

    I think it might be a case of administrative apathy maybe even dereliction yet I wonder if some of the USCCB staffers are sheep in wolf's clothing. They will lie to the bosses and hide behind human resource regulations to keep their employment. I've found this to be the case regarding Marriage, Family Life, Human Sexuality, Contraception and abortion far more than other justice issues. It seems easier to promote big box and local projects than struggle within.

  • Posted by: MWCooney - Oct. 17, 2016 3:56 PM ET USA

    Even when a good bishop gets through the gauntlet of vitriol and intimidation to become the head of a diocese, the imbedded infrastructure there can easily undermine what he thought he was going to do when appointed.

  • Posted by: feedback - Oct. 16, 2016 12:18 PM ET USA

    I keep thinking that before the Wikileaks this sort of information would be speedily denied, dismissed and ridiculed as another "conspiracy theory." Revealing of the evidence was truly providential.

  • Posted by: dfp3234574 - Oct. 15, 2016 10:54 AM ET USA

    Here's a question: Why was the email address of the late editor-in-chief and publisher of the National Catholic Reporter, Joe Feuerherd, in the email contact list for Sidney Blumenthal, close confidant of the Clintons? (Source: WikiLeaks) (The NCReporter has a long history of dissent against the Church.)

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Oct. 14, 2016 9:31 PM ET USA

    It's nice to have details to back up what you've already known and fought against for the last 30 years, but as you point out, there is no real news here. The U.S. Particular Church would not be where it is today--losing priests, nuns, and laity at record-breaking speed--if the rot was not supported by some (many?) of its pastors. It seems that many (most?) of the U.S. bishops feel constrained to only two choices: (1) to vote for Clinton, or (2) not to vote at all. Can prayer alone be enough?