Tuesday, December 13, 2011

In the News: GOP Primary, Catholic Right, Bully Bill Donohue, and NOM

In the news right now:

At Talk to Action, Fred Clarkson reprises former Republican insider Mike Lofgren's Truthout essay from this past September, about which I blogged some time back.  Fred notes that Lofgren's rueful truth-telling about what has gone wrong with the Republican party as it has sold its soul to theocrat zealots intent on dismantling American democracy is now viral, and is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding why the current Republican primary season is playing out as it's playing out.

And Fred's right.

Also at Talk to Action (with a cross-posting to Open Tabernacle), Frank Cocozzelli looks at the influential, incestuous Opus Dei-connected network that rules the roost in American Catholicism right now.  As Frank notes, this is a network of exceedingly powerful (and, in several cases, exceedingly wealthy) men who choose to put religious and political authoritarianism over any other values--including, in their advocacy for Opus Dei bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, the safety and well-being of children.

One of the powerful right-wing Catholic players who looms large in Frank's analysis is Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, who has done everything except stand on his head to try to convince us that we should give Finn a pass for protecting Father Shawn Ratigan and permitting him continued access to children for months after child pornography was found on Ratigan's computer.  Yesterday at National Catholic Reporter, Tom Gallagher summarizes the obnoxious boasts Bully Bill makes in his end-of-year fundraising appeal letter.  

The letter continues Bully Bill's toxic meme that the abuse crisis is all about gay priests abusing pubescent teens--notwithstanding the unambiguous conclusion of the John Jay study that this meme is a red herring and that it misrepresents the evidence we have at our disposal to understand the crisis.  (And how it would explain Ratigan's infatuation with the little girls whose genitals he allegedly photographed is beyond me.)

Bully Bill's fundraising letter also (typically) slams the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP)--and, implicitly, survivors of clerical abuse in general--by claiming that he has proven "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that SNAP is a "well-organized anti-Catholic front group."  Donohue also boasts about his antics in Kansas City, whose newspaper is--you guessed it--"Catholic-hating" because it dares to continue reporting truthfully about Finn, and takes a broad swipe at President Obama, who is, well, anti-Catholic and trying to extinguish Catholics' religious liberty.

Dirty words betokening a dirty agenda from a man whom it's difficult not to see as rather dirty himself for promoting the dirty agenda.  But a well-funded agenda that brings Mr. Donohue a salary of some $400,000 a year for doing his dirty work.

And as we ponder that salary and wonder who's funneling money to this organization whose sole raison d'ĂȘtre appears to be to give the Catholic bishops cover as they consolidate their alliance with the political and religious right in the U.S., wouldn't you also like to know who's funding the National Organization for Marriage?  Which, like the Catholic League, functions as an unofficial arm of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops . . . .

The latest news about NOM's funding: as Sofia Resnick is reporting in the Washington Independent, the vast majority of NOM's funds per its 2010 tax returns come from just two unnamed individuals (or unnamed individual organizations?), who gave more than $6 million to NOM in 2010.  Though NOM claims to be a grassroots organization sustained by donations from people everywhere in the nation, who share NOM's aversion to gays and civil marriage for gay couples, donations less than $5,000 accounted for only 8% of NOM's revenue in 2010.

These data are continuous with what NOM's 2009 returns revealed.  And they ought to be of concern not only to those who work to safeguard the human rights of gay and lesbian persons.  They ought to concern anyone worried about the continued viability of our democratic system of governance, since these figures suggest how one or two powerful and wealthy individuals (or organizations), operating in the shadows and behind the scenes with their identities shielded by the "faith-based" organizations to which they're donating, can radically affect the democratic process.

By producing slick, expensive videos and radio spots disseminating misinformation and purveying hateful stereotypes about vulnerable minority groups.  By bombarding parts of the country debating the rights of these minorities with such media bombs to influence the electoral and law-making process in those parts of the country.  By funding initiatives whose sole purpose is to block and strip rights from marginalized minority groups.  While claiming that they pursue these dirty goals in the name of God.

In short, we ought to be concerned about the funding of groups like NOM by powerful individuals (or organizations) whose identities are concealed because, as these groups target vulnerable minorities seeking to strip those minorities of civil rights, they also callously and cruelly use members of these minority groups in political games designed to secure the control of our democratic process by authoritarian individuals and authoritarian groups.  To the great harm of those targeted in this way, certainly.  But also to the great harm of our whole democratic system.

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