Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fred Clarkson on Alliance of U.S. Catholic Bishops with Evangelical Christian Right--and Import of This Alliance

At Talk to Action, Fred Clarkson reminds us of the tremendous responsibility the current bishops of the Catholic church in the U.S. bear, under the leadership of outgoing USCCB president Timothy Cardinal Dolan, for the right-wing politicization of American Catholicism in recent years. As I noted on Friday, Sarah Posner has pointed out that the templates being used by one state legislature after another to attack the rights of LGBTI citizens in recent weeks come straight out of the "religious freedom" playbook of the USCCB, as it's being followed by various state Catholic conferences and right-wing Catholic theologian George Weigel at his Ethics and Public Policy Institute.

The leaders of the Catholic church in the U.S. bear a great responsibility for the current attacks on gay citizens that are roiling the nation, and should be held responsible for the bitter fruit their bogus "religious freedom" war on the Obama administration is now bearing. Fred writes,

Last year in The Public Eye I discussed the growing and deepening alliance between the Protestant evangelical Christian Right as we have historically known it and the American Roman Catholic Bishops. In that essay I acknowledged that while there has always been a certain Catholic presence in the uneasy religiopolitical movement we call the Christian Right, it was not until The Manhattan Declaration of 2009, that more than a handful of Catholic prelates would ever stand shoulder to political shoulder with the leaders of evangelicalism and the likes of Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council. But for this, at least 50 Catholic bishops, archbishops and cardinals signed-up, including Archbishop (soon to be Cardinal) Timothy Dolan of New York. It was, I think, a transformational moment in the history of the U.S. and indeed, in the history of Christianity. But like many major shifts, it is not likely to be widely understood until it is so well established that most of us think things were always that way.

As I noted last week, Jerry Slevin's recent open letter to President Obama as the president prepares for his meeting with Pope Francis calls on the president to recognize that the Catholic hierarchy still hopes to influence elections in the U.S. by playing culture-war cards about abortion, contraception, and gay marriage. The decision to target the gay community is a cynical, politically driven decision that's all about trying to nudge just enough right-wing Catholic and evangelical voters to the polls to vote Republican in 2014, that the Senate will be placed in Republican hands (and most political commentators are predicting this will happen), with the goal of giving the GOP the power to control Supreme Court appointments.

Nothing about the partisan politicking of the U.S. bishops in recent years and their willingness to use fellow human beings who happen to be gay as objects in their culture-war battles deserves to be called holy. The bishops and their phony "religious freedom" claims are at the very heart of the battle to pass laws discriminating against gay citizens in one state after another, and need to be held accountable for what they're doing.

The photo of Fred Clarkson is from his Twitter feed.

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