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The Modesto Statement: playing politics, bishops are conned again

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 23, 2017

The statements adopted by the First US Regional Meeting of Popular Movements are, for the most part, fairly predictable leftist boilerplate: a condemnation of President Trump, a focus on the evils of racism and exploitation, a claim that the few are growing rich on the suffering of the many. Nothing that we haven’t heard before.

What makes the Modesto Statement noteworthy is that it is the product of a meeting organized, promoted, and subsidized by the Catholic Church. Co-sponsored by the Vatican’s new dicastery for Integral Human Development with the US bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), it was run by PICO: a leftist group that has received generous support from the CCHD (that is, from the people in the pews). A few dozen Catholic bishops attended, included Cardinal Peter Turkson, a leading official of the Roman Curia; Pope Francis sent a message of encouragement.

Without all that ecclesiastical support, the Modesto meeting would not have generated—nor deserved—much public attention. The enthusiasm of the hierarchy is the only real reason to pay any attention.

So how did the Modesto conference repay the hierarchy for that support? Let me quote just one passage from the final statement, adding my own emphasis:

Racism and all forms of human hierarchy, whether based on skin color, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, arrest and conviction records, immigration status, religion or ethnicity are immoral.

If hierarchy is immoral, then the Modesto conference was steeped in immorality. But the organizers seem content to have used Church endorsements—talk about exploitation!—for their own political ends. Will the bishops who backed this effort learn anything from their experience? Will they even notice how thoroughly they were used?

Again I’m reminded of the First Rule of Poker Strategy: After 15 minutes at the table, if you haven’t yet identified the sucker, stand up and walk away; you’re the sucker.

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 See full bio.

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