Defection of American Catholics from the Church

By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH | 17 May 2012
Church and State


This chapter from our Chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s seminal book, The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (1996) examines why American Catholics are not conforming to papal teachings – with many leaving the Church and becoming Protestants. The book is available at Kindle here and to read for free here.

Chapter 13: Defection of the Faithful

There is conclusive evidence that most American Catholics are ignoring many Church teachings, in particular those related to sex. Many Catholics have assessed information on their own and determined that the Vatican positions on population growth control and immigration are untenable, and have distanced themselves from the Church. They have determined that their personal and national security are threatened by the unprecedented population growth just as many other Americans have. But none has had available to them the extensive information possessed by Father Arthur McCormack, when he wrote a lengthy article for the November 6, 1982 issue of the Catholic newspaper, The Tablet (London).

Father McCormack’s Exposé

Father Arthur McCormack was the Vatican consultant to the UN on population for 23 years until 1979 when he was replaced by Bishop James McHugh of New Jersey. He was probably the most knowledgeable man on the subject of population in the Catholic Church. McCormack’s attack on the Vatican is the sharpest made to date on this topic. Given the forcefulness of his words, one must suspect that the Vatican and McCormack had access to a copy of NSSM 200. In his article for The Tablet, Father McCormack

(1) States that population growth is a serious security threat: “…the population explosion…poses a more immediate threat to human lives and to human life than the possibility of nuclear war, and nuclear explosion.”

(2) Charges that the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church is blatantly intellectually dishonest:

But Norman Borlaug [agricultural scientist and Nobel Laureate] does not fool himself, he does not blind himself to facts or pretend that theories, however plausible and well thought out, will cope with immediate pressing and complex situations. The facts behind the scientists’ alarm are genuine facts, not myths. These should be so well known as to be boring to repeat, but it still seems to me that they are either not absorbed, especially…in the Church, or are deliberately overlooked or ignored.

(3) Condemns the Church for its flagrant irresponsibility in not sounding the alarm on the population explosion while protesting the possession of nuclear arms: “We hear increasingly in the Church, bishops, priests and others protesting, sometimes stridently, against even the possession of nuclear arms or the threat to use them. How many official voices are raised in the Catholic Church to warn about the other explosion—population? Even in the slums of the Third World, where there have been plenty of warnings against “immoral” methods of birth control, there has been no suggestion of a population problem of the magnitude I have indicated, or of realistic efforts to deal with it.”

(4) Demands that the Church boldly state that death rates be allowed to rise if it cannot put its influence behind lowering birth rates: “The Vatican has to take one side or the other. It must put its influence behind lowering the birth rates or, if it feels this is doctrinally not feasible, boldly state that death rates must regrettably be allowed to rise rather than break what it claims is the law of God.”

(5) Concludes that if the Church does not act more responsibly in dealing with overpopulation, it must be prepared to pay heavily: “Otherwise, if the chaos responsibly foreseen by extremely reputable men materializes, the Church will bear a heavy burden of responsibility.”

Fourteen years have passed since McCormack warned the Vatican. Indeed, the Vatican does bear a heavy burden of responsibility, more so than any other institution or group. As the Church’s leader, the pope bears the greatest responsibility for the anarchy and premature death we see everywhere. One billion people have been added to the world’s population since McCormack’s warning to John Paul II and we are all less secure as a result.

Lay Catholic and Vatican Security Interests in Conflict

American Catholics recognize that the Vatican position globally is indefensible. They also recognize that it is not in their best interests as Catholic individuals and families. In the U.S., Catholic laymen exhibit the same family planning behavior as non-Catholics, a fact we will discuss later in this chapter. Obviously, the Vatican fiercely disagrees with American lay Catholic thinking on family planning and abortion. As I noted earlier, Andrew Greeley’s study found that only seven percent of U.S. Catholics support the Vatican position on abortion.[204]

There is a good reason for this. The security-survival interests of Catholic laymen are pitted against the security-survival interests of the Papacy. For many reasons—including economic, medical, and social reasons—family planning, abortion services, good sex education, population education, and the advancement of women’s rights, enhance the security of laymen and their families and increase their odds of survival. But, as discussed at length earlier, the exact opposite is true for the institution of the Papacy.

Open Borders: Another Conflict of Interests

Likewise, Vatican demands for open borders of the U.S. are rejected by a large majority of U.S. Catholic laymen.[205] American Catholic laymen are as opposed to unrestricted immigration into the United States as non-Catholic Americans. However, a recent study by Roy Beck of the positions of religious denominations in the U.S. toward immigration highlighted this fact: “No religious group wields more power on behalf of high immigration to the U.S. than the Catholic Church. Thanks to the 1880-1914 and 1970-present Great Waves of immigration consisting primarily of Catholics, the Church towers over all other American religious groups. Its 59 million members give it immense financial, institutional and political clout, even though polls suggest the majority of its members probably don’t agree with its pro-immigration stances.”[206] Because of its extensive manipulation of U.S. immigration policy, the Catholic Church is mostly responsibile for the chaotic flow of illegal immigrants across our borders today.

A November 8, 1992, National Catholic Register article reveals why the Vatican is taking these stances. In it, Father Richard J. Ryscavage, executive director of the Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Catholic Conference noted that immigration is the “growing edge of Catholicism in the United States…We are in the middle of a huge wave of immigration…and most of them are Catholics…It’s the key to our future and the key to why the Church is going to be very healthy in the 21st century.”

Another recent study by David Simcox[207] reveals Catholic leadership positions which most Americans will find shocking:

  • The U.S. does not have an inherent right to limit migration.
  • Every human has a right to migrate to the U.S. and take up residence there—to seek better living conditions.
  • The Catholic Church rejects the concept of national sovereignty.
  • All immigrants and their offspring have a right to keep their native tongue.
  • Immigration restrictions are immoral.
  • The Catholic Church rejects the U.S. government distinction between political and economic refugees.

These are all official papal positions.

The study’s author, David Simcox, also offers the following comment:

Archbishop Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who presides over the United States’ largest concentration of illegal aliens, put it in these terms: ‘If the question is between the right of a nation to control its borders and the right of a person to emigrate in order to seek safe haven from hunger or violence (or both), we believe that the first right must give way to the second’ (1987).

For obvious reasons, American lay Catholics oppose the Vatican’s view on unrestricted immigration into the U.S. While the security-survival of the Papacy is greatly enhanced by this migration, as described by Ryscavage, the security-survival of the Catholic layman and his/her family are obviously undermined for economic, educational, medical, social and other reasons. Thus, as with family planning and abortion, the security-survival interests of the Catholic layman is pitted against the security-survival interests of the Papacy.

Catholic and American—A Contradiction

It is not possible to owe allegiance to two different political entities that have conflicting security-survival interests. One entity must prevail. Most American Catholics recognize that there are many contradictions when one attempts to be both Catholic and American. The Vatican has recognized this problem for 200 years. In his book, The Unholy Ghost: Anti-Catholicism in the American Experience (1992), Bishop Mark J. Hurley, consultor to the Congregation for Education for the Vatican, states, “…Vatican curial prelates were skeptical that a true believer in the American proposition could be a true believer in Catholicism.”

The Vatican has relied heavily on a principle it created called the primacy of conscience, on the loyalty to God over loyalty to the state[208] to demand and get allegiance. Since the pope is God’s representative on earth and his spokesman, this principle translates to loyalty to the pope over loyalty to the state. Most American Catholics do not share this interpretation. President John F. Kennedy publicly denounced the Vatican’s interpretation repeatedly, seriously weakening the Vatican’s position in the U.S. (More about this later.)

Most American Catholics do not owe their allegiance to the Vatican as the pope would like to claim. It has been evident for decades that the Vatican does not control the Catholic voting population. It can create, finance and control political machines that do have successes but it does not control voting populations as it once did in cities with large Catholic immigrant populations.[209]

According to Bishop Hurley, “The record shows that American Catholics were held suspect both in the halls of government and in the…Vatican.”[210] “While progress of Catholics in the United States is unmatched in history, yet there remains the underlying suspicion that a Catholic cannot be a true believer in the American scheme of things.”[211] “For two centuries Catholics have striven to alleviate the apprehension and doubt of their fellow citizens….While these efforts have in the main been successful, yet a surprisingly significant part of mainstream American society continues to entertain doubts.”[212] Catholics are sensitive to this reality.

However, according to Hurley, the Catholic hierarchy and the Vatican have not accepted what he refers to as “the secularist interpretation of the First Amendment, the theory that it meant absolute separation not merely of the state from the establishment of religion but of religion itself from public life.”[213] The Vatican has its own theory about what our First Amendment means and to the extent possible, uses its own theory to determine its behavior.

For example, Hurley recalls, “During the [Kennedy] primary campaign in Oregon on May 20, 1960, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano declared in Rome that the Catholic hierarchy had the right and duty to intervene in politics and to expect dutiful discipline from Catholics. The hierarchy alone, it said, has the right to judge whether the higher principles of religious and moral order are involved in political issues.”[214] Though the Vatican had to do this story in order to maintain control, it did not endear it to American non-Catholics. Most American Catholics reject the Vatican concept of our first amendment and are well aware of non-Catholic objections to it.

More recently, the Vatican claimed (or repeated) the right to protect itself against harmful laws—even when democratically legislated. The central difficulty here, of course, is that what the Vatican views “harmful” to itself and its authority is just what lay Catholic men and women, as well as non-Catholics, consider beneficial to themselves and their families. In a letter sent to all American bishops by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the most powerful Vatican office, Cardinal Ratzinger reminded them that “The Church has the responsibility to protect herself from the application of harmful laws.” This letter was keep secret from 55 million American Catholics until a brief notice written by Peter Steinfels for The New York Times appeared July 10, 1992. The actual text remained hidden from the public until it was leaked to the press on July 15, 1992.[215]

This had to be a great embarrassment to American Catholics. From Cardinal Ratzinger: we resent the concept of American democracy. No doubt the pope had given his blessing. His message—if we don’t like your democratically legislated laws, we will just ignore them and follow our own dictates. Nothing like a little anarchy for “God’s” benefit, perpetrated by the Vatican against the American people.

Obviously, if an institution has the “responsibility,” it also claims the “right.” The Vatican exercised its “right” to protect herself from the application of harmful laws, in the autocratic way it defines “harmful,” when it blocked U.S. adoption of the Rockefeller Commission recommendations and implementation of the NSSM 200 policies approved by President Ford. “To protect herself,” the Church moved quickly and efficiently to kill the two most important initiatives to control population growth in American history.

In its March 1995 issue, Church & State reports that the Vatican claims a unique role in world politics:

The Roman Catholic Church has the right to intervene in world politics through the United Nations by virtue of its centuries of existence and its possession of the truth, a Vatican official told a Catholic newspaper recently. In an interview with the National Catholic Register, Archbishop Renato Raffaele Martino, the Vatican’s permanent observer at the UN, defended the church’s participation in last year’s international population conference in Cairo. Some delegates had criticized the church for delaying the conference by refusing to approve policies related to abortion and birth control… ‘Our diplomacy is the oldest in the world,’ Martino said…Agreeing with the [National Catholic Reporter] that the church speaks ‘with one voice,’ Martino added, ‘[T]he one voice is a message of salvation, found in the scriptures and lived in the tradition of the church over the centuries. It is an objective truth that remains changeless.’…Pope John Paul II echoed Martino’s views during his annual New Year’s address January 9…[215a]

The National Catholic Register reported in its October 15, 1995 issue: “The U.S. bishops are recognized as one of the most powerful lobbyist groups on Capitol Hill.”[215b] Many long-time observers are convinced that the bishops have no equal in this regard. But if “the Church speaks with one voice,” as Archbishop Martino and the pope claim, then obviously the U.S. bishops are lobbying on behalf of the pope, not American Catholics. These clerics are necessarily protecting Vatican interests, but not those of American Catholics. Why?

The June 30, 1995 issue of the National Catholic Reporter reads: “Approximately 40 U.S. bishops have endorsed a 12-page document that challenges peers to take a less subservient, more proactive stance in relationship to the Vatican.” The implication is that at present the bishops are subservient to the Vatican. The report continues:

Noting that Vatican II laid the foundation for ‘significant changes in our working relationship with the whole church and with the Holy Father,’ the document questioned whether collegiality is a reality or an illusion: ‘When formulating documents in the past, we did not submit them to Rome until we had fully discussed them…and voted. Now they are frequently submitted beforehand by the committee chairperson, and upon receiving the results there is no dialogue. The response from Rome is treated as a directive…There is a widespread feeling that Roman documents of varying authority have for some years been systematically reinterpreting the Vatican II documents to present the minority positions at the council as the true meaning of the council.’

According to the document, the College of Cardinals has emerged as a ‘supracollegial body’ that ‘weakens the role of the bishops’ conferences.’ But open discussion of such matters is often impeded because many bishops cling to ‘strict and undifferentiated application of all Roman norms and the notion of the church as a multinational corporation with headquarters in Rome and branch offices (dioceses) around the world.'[215c]

No one can pretend that U.S. bishops who are lobbying the Congress represent the interests of U.S. Catholics. With their 12-page statement, these 40 bishops make it clear that it is corporate interests in Rome that are protected by Church lobbying efforts in the Congress. These are often at odds with the interests of individual American Catholics, as demonstrated on innumerable occasions by their private decisions on abortion and family planning and attitude toward illegal immigration. For example, a study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute estimated that abortion rates among American Catholic women are 29 percent higher than among Protestants and that 31 percent of women who get abortions are Catholic.[215d] Thus, in 1995 alone, when 1.52 million abortions were performed, Catholic women demonstrated on nearly half a million occasions they believed that their interests were best served by obtaining a safe, legal abortion.

In his article, “A Traitorous Shepherd,” in the June 22, 1995 issue of The Wanderer, A.J. Matt, Jr. labels as disloyal any bishop who would represent American Catholics at the expense of the Vatican, citing the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: “Together with their head, the Supreme Pontiff, and never apart from him, they have supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff.”[215e] This arrangement is written into the Church Constitution. According to Matt, bishops who do not conform are traitors.

China offers a concrete example. In the March 26, 1995 National Catholic Register, the article, “In China, Catholics must choose Pope or Party,” reveals that Catholic bishops in China who stay loyal to the pope must pay a price. There are two kinds of Catholicism in China: the state run Catholic Patriotic Association, which requires Catholics to swear allegiance to China and its people, and other Catholics who maintain their allegiance to Rome and represent the underground Church. The Chinese Government takes this matter very seriously. For example, Roman Catholic Archbishop, Dominic Tang, once the underground bishop of Canton, spent 22 years in prison “because he refused to renounce his allegiance to the Vatican.[215f] The Chinese government considered Tang just as traitorous as Matt labels any bishop who exercises his power without papal consent. In the United States, we do not require Catholic bishops to swear allegiance to our country—despite the fact that our security-survival interests are indisputably in direct conflict with those of the Vatican. Yet the U.S. bishops have emerged as the most powerful lobbying group on Capitol Hill.

Thomas C. Fox, editor of the National Catholic Reporter, in a New York Times article, “Rome’s Lengthening Shadow: U.S. bishops squelched by Vatican,” writes: “Pope John Paul II’s pontificate, long characterized by the strict enforcement of church law, especially on sexual matters, is moving beyond authoritarianism. In dealing with his bishops, the Pope has abandoned the collegial guidelines set down by the second Vatican council in the 1960’s; he treats them not as conferees but as his personal delegates. The bishops shudder at criticizing Rome lest their action be viewed as a sign of disloyalty….For Western Catholics, versed in pluralism and democracy, the way in which Rome is treating their bishops has one redeeming feature: it forces the bishops to share with their people the sense of powerlessness they have felt throughout this pontificate.”[215g] Sadly, even if the U.S. bishops wanted to represent the interests of American Catholics in their lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill, they are powerless to do so.

In his book, The Unholy Ghost, Bishop Hurley admitted: “That non-Catholics had good reason to question their Catholic fellow citizens about their allegiance in the early days of the Republic can scarcely be disputed.”[216] [given the behavior of the Church in Europe]. But since the early days, popes and the hierarchy have committed one hostile act after the other, keeping these suspicions in full bloom. The Church is rabidly anti-democratic and anti-American. After 200 years, nothing has changed.

There is a continuous flow of evidence. Only a few examples can be presented here. At the October 1, 1989 annual Red Mass in Washington, which is dedicated to members of the legal profession, the archbishop of Philadelphia, Anthony J. Bevilaqua, told his audience, “The time has come to restore the vital relationship between religion and law, church and society.” The Washington Times reported that Bevilaqua blasted separation of church and state during his remarks, charging that conflicts between church and state during the past 30 years have excluded religion from public life. Stated Bevilaqua, “This opposition, this impregnable wall…cannot endure much longer.” In attendance were Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and associate justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and William J. Brennan, Cabinet members Louis W. Sullivan and Manuel Lujan, several congressmen and numerous judges and lawyers. Bevilaqua misses the obvious point that if the wall was impregnable, the mass when he spoke would not have taken place.[217]

In a November 1991 speech to a national religious group, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago stated that in some circumstances it is necessary for religious groups to take direct action, rather than rely on persuasion. “While dialogue and persuasion must be religion’s first impulse in the public sector,” the cardinal said, “we cannot automatically exclude the possibility that, at certain moments, religious groups may have to move into the power mode in order to preserve certain basic moral values in a society….The escalating power of the communications media, for example, is a growing cause of concern because of its ever-increasing ability to mold the public ethos in the contemporary world, far more perhaps than either the political or legal realms.”

Bernardin expressed concerns about the media’s ability to set the terms of debate on political issues such as abortion. He was admitting that the Catholic Church must control the terms of the debate if it is to win on the abortion issue and other issues important to the papal agenda for America. The cardinal observed, “we may see a growing number of troubling situations relative to the media which only a well-organized…group of religious leaders can confront. Control of language is an immensely powerful force in any society.”[218] In other words, the cardinal and his Church are now ready to suspend the U.S. Constitution in order to protect papal security interests. Freedom of speech is now clearly a threat.

In July 1993, the National Catholic Register interviewed Msgr. George Kelley, who heads the right-wing Fellowship of Catholic Scholars; “‘When I became a priest [circa 1940], we had a great Church,’ he says, adding that ‘our system was so good I could have played golf five times a week and nobody would have missed me.’ It was a time he recalls, when churches were filled and parishes operated schools which charged little or no tuition thanks to the contributions of religious order teachers. That American Church, he says, ‘was the eighth wonder of the world’ of Catholicism. But it has largely been lost, he says, because ‘a lot of [U.S. Catholics] have become more like the culture. A lot of our people have been trained to be Americans and not to be Catholics.'”[219]

Msgr. Kelley’s phraseology suggests that, in his mind, to be American (and part of the American culture), and to be Catholic, are mutually exclusive. He is also offering further evidence, with his own observations, that the Church is self-destructing as a result of exposure to American culture. Apparently, training in Catholic schools is necessary in order to become a Catholic but even then this training is often not sufficient. He also makes clear that to have a healthy Catholic Church in America, the Church must keep its followers separated from American culture (I’ll touch on this further, in another context in the next Chapter).

These are but three examples of the realization by the Church that it cannot successfully coexist with the American Way. There have been hundreds of others in recent years. American Catholics, of course, witness these examples and, as a result, many have distanced themselves from the Church, preferring to be Americans instead.

Certainly not all Catholics wish to distance themselves from the Church. The Spring 1994 issue of Conscience, published by Catholics for a Free Choice, offers a superb but frightening overview of a long list of right-wing Catholic organizations which owe their allegiance to the pope. This array of organizations provide an estimated total of perhaps 200,000 activists, less than one percent of the U.S. Catholic population.[220] Their purpose: implement Vatican policy in America. This formidable collection of organizations gives new meaning to the old saying, “they are among us but they are not of us.” No doubt, most are products of Catholic schools.

Today’s Anti-Catholics?—The Intellectuals

In The Unholy Ghost, referring to the Twentieth Century, Hurley states, “The most intractable indictment against Catholics was not only that…by Nativists…but more importantly and significantly by well-balanced, intelligent, tolerant, and reasonable Americans…”[221] Hurley also understands where these concerns that Americans have originate: “The repressions, quiet censorship, removal from office, and other actions gave non-Catholics, in particular, grounds for concern as to where the Church stood on basic liberties….Thanks in large measure to the Roman curial actions over the years, two centuries to be exact, those who viewed the American Catholics with distrust were not fighting straw men. There were legitimate doubts and both legitimate and illegitimate reactions. Thoughtful men and women asked fair questions…”[222] Referring to school related political campaigns in California, Hurley goes on to say, “…the campaigns not only in 1958…have revealed anti-Catholicism not primarily among the fringe groups, the marginal population, the dispossessed, but rather within the highest levels of government, of professional and business leaders, the universities, and the media.”[223]

Andrew Greeley has studied the sources of anti-Catholicism in America. His findings: “It does not represent a substantial segment of the American population. It is rather limited to a small group of intellectuals and bureaucrats….But anti-Catholic and anti-religious elites do happen to have certain key positions in the national media, the universities and the federal bureaucracy.”[224] In a 1978 syndicated column Greeley insists that Nativism—favoring the interests of longtime inhabitants over those of immigrants—is found “among the [American] cultural and intellectual elites.”[225] Also, Louis Harris has studied this topic. His polling data give evidence that the more sophisticated were more likely to harbor anti-Catholic attitudes than the poor and less educated.[226]

President Kennedy understood and apparently agreed with the concerns of “well-balanced, intelligent, tolerant, and reasonable Americans” regarding Catholic hierarchy interference in American politics. In 1959, Kennedy offered his position on the principle of separation of Church and State: “Whatever one’s religion in his private life might be, for the office holder nothing takes precedence over his oath to uphold the Constitution and all its parts—including the First Amendment and the strict separation of Church and State.”[227]

On another occasion, Kennedy made an even stronger statement: “But if the time should ever come—and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible—when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office, and I hope any other conscientious public servant would do likewise.”[228] Kennedy’s position on the absolute separation of Church and State prompted Irish columnist for the London Times, Conor Cruise O’Brien, to write: “An American Catholic is a Protestant who goes to Mass. The name of John F. Kennedy comes to mind.”[229] Indeed, O’Brien’s description is applicable to a great many American Catholics.

During his presidential campaign, Look Magazine reported Kennedy as saying that “for the office-holder, nothing takes precedence over his oath to uphold the Constitution.” This statement brought a sharp response from the Catholic Church on the primacy of conscience mentioned earlier, on the loyalty to God over loyalty to the state. It charged that JFK was espousing a totalitarianism with unqualified allegiance to the state, a charge which is absurd.[230] Obviously, Kennedy’s position was very threatening to the influence of the Church in American political affairs.

As Americans, we would like to think that Kennedy’s position on the strict separation of Church and State did not cause the Vatican much anguish. However, says Bishop Hurley, “The implication has been all along that Kennedy’s stance on Church-State relations was somehow acceptable to the Catholic Church….it was not.”[231] The abortion issue has given rise to the question once again: Can a Catholic politician be a full American and fully Catholic? According to Hurley: “Kennedy only muddied the waters…”[232] I think not. Kennedy’s position was clearly anti-Catholic from the Vatican’s perspective. But Kennedy recognized what is reasonable to “well-balanced, intelligent, tolerant and reasonable Americans—Catholic and non-Catholic.

Bishop Hurley identifies Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., close advisor to President Kennedy, and author of the 1991 best-seller, The Disuniting of America, as a leader of the intellectual community critical of the Catholic Bishops for their anti-abortion activities. Schlesinger berated the American Bishops for appearing to verify the fears held by many Americans that the Roman Catholic Church would try to overrule the American democratic process: “They seem to be doing their best to prove the case that Catholic politicians will not be free to act for what a majority regards as the general good.”[233]

According to Hurley, “The liberal establishment led by Schlesinger presented themselves as champions of the First Amendment, specifically of the absolute separation of church and state…suggesting none too subtly that Catholics cannot be trusted, if truly convinced in their faith, fully as Americans; and claiming that Catholics do not really believe in the democratic process.”[234]

Schlesinger is quoted as saying; “For years the bigots have said the Church would not hesitate to impose its will upon the general populace or to tell Catholic politicians how to act….Then Al Smith and John Kennedy said—and showed—that Catholics in politics are as free as any other American citizens to base their judgments on the national interests and the democratic process, and most Americans have come to believe them.” Hurley notes that Schlesinger went on to say that New York’s Cardinal O’Connor and Bishop Vaughan were changing the image of Catholics as true citizens, free to be true politicians in the American tradition. He quotes Schlesinger: “I thank heaven that Bishop Vaughan and Cardinal O’Connor were not holding forth in 1960. If they had spoken then as they speak now, John F. Kennedy would not have been elected President.”[235]

In 1990, another thoughtful observer stepped forward simply to say the obvious. David R. Boldt, senior editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, published an article titled, “The Bishops Return to a Darker Era in U.S. politics.” Referring to the bishops’ failure to respect the American principle of separation of church and state, Boldt said, “The Roman Catholic Church, it needs to be remembered, is quite literally an Un-American institution…not democratic…[and] sharply at odds with those that inform the laws of American secular society. And its principal policies are established by the Vatican in Rome.” Boldt goes on to describe the bishops as “desperate men,” an observation with which it is difficult to reasonably disagree. He concludes, “They [the bishops] intend to show that, as the organized bigots used to say, Catholic officials take orders from Rome.”[236]

There is a continuous flow of examples of Catholic American intellectuals who live by the position taken by President Kennedy on separation of church and state. In Kansas, Judge Patrick Kelley sentenced some of the hundreds of Operation Rescue activists arrested in anti-abortion protests in Wichita in 1991. The New York Times characterized him as “a lifelong Catholic” but “a JFK Catholic,” quoting a lawyer who said that “Pat is a Catholic. But like John F. Kennedy who was a president first and a Catholic second, Pat is a judge first and a Catholic second.”[237]

An article by Mary Meehan appearing in the February 13, 1994 issue of the National Catholic Register titled “Problems of Conscience” describes a very different outcome for a Catholic public servant with a problem of conscience: “Last year Judge Joseph Moylan resigned from a juvenile court in Omaha, Neb., because a parental consent law required him to authorize abortions for minors if he found them mature enough to give informed consent. ‘I simply cannot enter an order authorizing one human life to put to death another totally innocent human life,’ Judge Moylan wrote in his resignation letter. He added that, since he had taken an oath to uphold the laws of Nebraska and cannot comply with this law, I am resigning my position…'” All patriotic Americans—Catholic and non-Cathoics—know that Joseph Moylan did the right thing.

Most American Catholics accept the pledge of loyalty to country necessary to being considered an American. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson addressed an audience of recently naturalized citizens in Philadelphia: “You cannot become thorough Americans if you think of yourselves in groups. America does not consist of groups. A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group in America has not yet become an American.”[238] (In the next Chapter we will examine why the Catholic Church has struggled so violently against this concept.) In 1916, Theodore Roosevelt commented: “We can have no ‘fifty-fifty’ allegiance in this country. Either a man is an American and nothing else, or he is not an American at all.”[239]

Franklin D. Roosevelt said in 1943, “The principle on which this country was founded and by which it has always been governed, is that Americanism is a matter of mind and heart; Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race and ancestry. A good American is one who is loyal to this country and to our creed of liberty and democracy.”[240]

Most American Catholics are aware of these concepts of what it is to be an American, accept them, and live by them. Nothing contributes more to their unwillingness to conform to the demands of their bishops. They are also aware that there has been staunch opposition to Catholic schools from reasonable intellectuals for a long time. Earlier in this century, Dr. James Conant, president of Harvard University, stated: “The greater [the] proportion of our youth who fail to attend public schools and who receive their education elsewhere, the greater the threat to our democratic unity.”[241] In 1875, Ulysses S. Grant campaigned on a plank that Catholic parochial schools would someday lead to another civil war.[242] Given the death of NSSM 200 and how its death came about, Grant’s prediction may yet prove to be correct.

The Vatican agenda that killed NSSM 200 is alive and more aggressive than ever. A June 30, 1994 Associated Press article[243a] reported that Congressman Vic Fazio of California said that religious-right activists used stealth tactics to take over state Republican parties and impose an extreme agenda. Now that Catholics for a Free Choice has published its study of the activities of 28 right-wing Catholic organizations and exploded the myth that the religious right is a fundamentalist and evangelical Protestant movement,[243b-e] the takeover of Republican parties to which Fazio refers is correctly identified as a Vatican takeover. Our long history of tolerance is now suffering a heavy toll.

The death of NSSM 200, the takeover of political parties and numerous other examples of interference in American political life all show that the concerns expressed by President Grant and Dr. Conant regarding Catholic schools were reasonable, as the leadership of the 28 organizations reported on by CFFC were mostly Catholic school educated.

Archbishop John Ireland of St. Paul, Minnesota once said, “Americans are fair to the Catholic Church….Prejudices exist where Catholics give cause for them and seldom elsewhere.”[244] Most American Catholics surely agree or more would be aligned with that tiny group created to counter anti-Catholicism, The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. The vast majority of Catholics want to be and are Americans first and Catholics second—JFK Catholics. The Church representatives shout “bigot” but they are just trying to control the dissemination of information. The survival of their institution is at stake.

Distortion of the Church’s Image

In 1990, the Times Mirror Company, owner of a number of large U.S. newspapers, conducted a national poll, “The People, Press and Politics.” This poll asked interviewees questions that would permit the measure of “favorability.” Eleven political institutions were compared. The Catholic Church ranked number one with an 89 percent favorability rating, handily beating the Supreme Court, Congress and the U.S. military. Evangelical Christians were given a 53 percent rating. Among famous world leaders, including living U.S. Presidents, the pope ranked number one with a favorability rating of 88 percent. Only Vaclav Havel came within 10 points of the pope.[245]

This is either an amazing phenomenon or an impressive accomplishment by the bishops, or both. The Catholic Church in America is in serious decline. As noted earlier, half of all American priests now quit the priesthood before age 60. The average age of nuns in the U.S. is 65 years and only 3 percent are below age 40. Nearly one-third of the Catholic schools and one-fourth of the Catholic hospitals have closed in the past 30 years. Contributions by members have fallen by half in the same period, with Catholics having the lowest contribution rate of any of the major churches. Were it not for the billions of dollars received by the Church in federal, state and local tax funds, the income from corporate gifts made as a result of Catholic influence within public and private corporations, and as a result of influence within major private foundations, the Church could not possibly survive in its current form.

As noted, millions of Catholics have left the Church and become Protestants. The September 1995 New York Times/CBS News Poll revealed that 28 percent of those who had been raised as Catholics no longer considered themselves Catholic. In other words, 17 million individuals whom the bishops claim as Catholics have left the Church. In November 1979, about half of all Americans surveyed regarded the pope as a universal moral leader. By 1995, according to this survey, the proportion had fallen to 31 percent, a 40 percent drop.[245a] A 1994 Los Angeles Times survey found that 43 percent of priests and 51 percent of nuns say that things in the Church are not so good.[246] According to a study conducted by the Alan Guttmacher Institute and reported in USA Today on January 29, 1993, Catholics account for 31 percent of all abortions in the U.S. but are only 22 percent of the U.S. population. A September 1995 Washington Post/ABC News Poll queried: Is the Roman Catholic Church in touch with the views of Catholics in America today, or out of touch? Nearly 60 percent of both Catholics and nonCatholics responded, “out of touch.” To the question, “Do you think someone who is using birth control methods other than the rhythm method can still be a good Catholic,?” Ninety-three percent of Catholics said yes. To the question, “Do you think someone who gets divorced and marries someone else without Church approval can still be a good Catholic,?” 85 percent said yes. To the question, “Do you think a woman who has an abortion for reasons other than her life being in danger can still be a good Catholic?,” 69 percent said yes.[247a] The Catholic Church in the U.S. can only be described as an institution in serious decline.

How can the Church and the pope have such high favorability ratings under these circumstances? This is an important question for all Americans and the American political process. The answers will tell how the Rockefeller Commission recommendations and the NSSM 200 recommendations, and every major initiative taken thus far to control U.S. and world population growth have been killed by the Church without Americans being aware of it. We will return to this question in the next chapter.

The bishops have been permitted to make the rules on how they are reported on. This has been accomplished by using many different tools and devices and only a few will be discussed here. A 1991 study conducted by the Center for Media and Public Affairs and published by the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a study conducted by Catholics for use by Catholic activists, found that in spite of the fact that the Catholic Church is in precipitous decline and that half of its priest and nuns said that things in the Church are not so good, “the ‘Church hierarchy’ is cited more than 50 times as often as ‘identified Church dissidents’!”[247] Given the state of the Church one would expect the opposite to be true. The dissenters obviously have something to talk about, but press reporting on dissension and dissenters has been successfully discouraged by the Church leadership. Given the enormous potential for dissenting opinion, the bishops’ accomplishment in suppressing media coverage of this opinion is truly impressive. A reasonable question is: what other information is the Church successfully suppressing?

As mentioned in Chapter 11, the news outlets that placed the Church in a negative light were virtually all snuffed out or muzzled earlier in this century by the Knights of Columbus; this institution continues to take great pride in its early successes.[248] Its efforts in recent years and the efforts of other Catholic institutions, such as the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, to suppress information that places the Church in a bad light have been mostly successful (the issue of child molestation being the only significant exception but even on this issue they do what they can.)

Any time a report appears in the press placing the Church in a bad light, almost without exception there is an immediate demand for an apology and retraction made to the reporter, editor and publisher by these Catholic thought police. Written responses and demands for publication are immediately forthcoming. These responses are usually published and it is amazing how many apologies are made and published. There are scores of examples each year and they can be found in the publications of these thought police. They eagerly share their successes with their members. But when a negative report appears in one newspaper or magazine it rarely appears in another, regardless of its newsworthiness—Carl Bernstein’s TIME magazine article is a good example.

Economic retribution as a tool to suppress criticism was used more commonly in the last century and earlier in this century than today because it is now largely unnecessary. The long history of its use and the success enjoyed with it makes the mere threat of its use highly effective.

Perhaps far more important than the outright intimidation practiced by many of the right-wing Catholic organizations is the self-censorship practiced by reporters, editors and publishers. All know there is a line that has been drawn by the bishops that they are not to cross—and they rarely do. They are aware of the rules formulated by the bishops regarding how Church matters are to be reported—and nearly always follow them. They know they will be punished if they do not conform.

Indeed, the bishops have had far greater success in intimidating non-Catholics than in retaining their own faithful. This is not limited to the press. With 26 years in the population field, I can say from experience that the fear of retaliation by the Catholic Church has paralyzed the population movement. I have also found that the fear felt by many American politicians aware of the undemocratic activities of the Church has resulted in their silence on this issue.

The Roman Catholic Church is a political entity headquartered in Rome and controlled in Rome. Its teachings and policies are set in Rome. All of its employees work for and represent the interests of the headquarters in Rome. It has awesome political power in the U.S. and the world over. It has inviolable territory, diplomatic representation to governments around the world and its minions sit on international bodies of a purely secular nature. It has political interests, including security-survival interests which are in direct conflict with those of the United States Government and its people. But the image of the Catholic Church presented by the American press does not reflect these realities. We are led to believe that this institution is primarily religious in nature. On the contrary; numerous observers over the years, including scholar Paul Blanchard, have correctly described the Catholic Church as a political institution cloaked in religion.[249] Little has changed. The Church and its Vatican are firstly a political institution, now desperately trying to survive.

Much distortion is possible because relevant information that would limit distortion is not collected in the first place, since the Church has succeeded in blocking its collection. For example, for the bishops to claim “we speak for 59 million Americans” alone gives the Church an enormous amount of political power to manipulate government policy. It is not possible to challenge their present count of 59 million, though the actual number of Catholics who consider themselves adherents of the Catholic faith and who are willing to give the bishops permission to speak for them in the political arena is undoubtedly but a fraction of 59 million. But when politicians hear the number 59 million, they listen intently. The result—a lot of political power.

These are but a few of the reasons Americans have such a distorted view of the Church. However, American priests, nuns and laymen have a much less distorted view; it is amply documented that they are leaving the Church in droves. The test of the image is in the polling. The image of a healthy, robust and expanding American Catholic Church is clearly wrong. American Catholics are not conforming to the extent that our perceptions tell us. We are affording the Church far more deference than it deserves.

Too Much Evidence to Ignore

American Catholics, like the rest of us, cannot ignore the steady barrage of evidence that their church is in an untenable position and that the pope and the Church, as Father McCormack phrased it, “bear a heavy burden of responsibility” for much of the misery, suffering and premature death we see around the world.

There are numerous examples: The cover story of the February 1994 issue of the Atlantic Monthly titled “The Coming Anarchy” by Robert Kaplan links anarchy around the world, including the U.S., to overpopulation.[250] In a follow-up column in the New York Times, Anthony Lewis writes that overpopulation-induced environmental destruction will be “the national security issue of the early 21st century.”[251] A Los Angeles Times News Service article titled, “Massive Famine Predicted Worldwide,” reports on a symposium of international agricultural experts who predict eight times the shortage of food worldwide, as now seen in Africa, by the year 2000.[252]

A recent Reuters dispatch is headed, “U.N. report lists developing countries in danger of collapse,” naming eight.[253] (Rwanda was the first to go.) The New York Times News Service reports: Pontifical Academy of Sciences recommends that couples have only two children to curb world population growth.[254] A USA Today article begins, “The Catholic Church, long outspoken in its opposition to abortion, is engaging in a massive and unprecedented lobbying effort to stop passage of an abortion rights bill in Congress….which would prohibit states from restricting abortion.”[255] (The bishops won—the bill is now dead.) A Los Angeles Times News Service article is titled, “Roman Catholic bishops declare their intent to fight any legislation that provides coverage for abortions” (including the Clinton health care plan, or any alternative covering abortion).[256] A New York Times News Service article reports on a newly released Episcopal Church document that terms the Catholic attitude toward women “so insulting, so retrograde” that women should abandon Catholicism “for the sake of their own humanity.”[257]

The New York Times reports that taxpayers save $4.40 for every public dollar spent to provide family planning (based on costs of baby’s first two years).[258] A Wall Street Journal article reports on a University of California finding that every $1 spent on family planning services saves the state $11.20 later.[259] The results of a Washington Post-ABC News poll in 1993 shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans favor the availability of abortion, and the percentages increased over 1992. A Reader’s Digest article titled, “A Continent’s Slow Suicide,” reports, “Now the African continent is sliding back to a precolonial stage.”[260] The nightly TV news stories on Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia reveal that these conflicts are all related to overpopulation.

These hideous stories seem endless. Of course they have the same effects on Catholics as they do on non-Catholics. “The truth shall make you free” and this steady diet of information countering the Vatican’s position has emancipated Catholics from dogmas which have contributed to papal control. We have a distorted view of what American Catholics think. For decades, the Bishops have been telling us what Catholics think and most Catholics and non-Catholics alike have failed to question this arrangement. How did this arrangement come about and how is it maintained?

More importantly—how has the Vatican managed to subvert all serious efforts to deal with the over population problem without the American public’s awareness of these covert operations? This is the subject of Chapters 14 and 15.


[204] Greeley
[205] Beck
[206] Ibid.
[207] Simcox D. The Catholic Hierarchy and Immigration: Boundless Compassion, Limited Responsibility. The Social Contract 1993; 3:90-95.
[208] Hasler, p. 81.
[209] Byrnes, p. 27.
[210] Hurley MJ. The Unholy Ghost: Anti-Catholicism in the American Experience. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Vistor, 1992. p. 12.
[211] Ibid., p. 10.
[212] Ibid., p. 12.
[213] Ibid., p. 141.
[214] Ibid., p. 143.
[215] Likoudis
[215a] Vatican Claims Unique Role in World Politics. Church & State March 1995. p. 22.
[215b] Mullen PH. Christian Coalition eyes Catholic clout. National Catholic Register October 15, 1995. p. 1.
[215c] 40 bishops say church needs way to dialogue with Rome. National Catholic Reporter June 30, 1995. p. 3.
[215d] Henshaw SK, Host K. Family Planning Perspectives.
[215e] Matt AJ. A Traitorous Shepherd. The Wanderer June 22, 1995 p. 4.
[215f] Mullen PH. In China, Catholics must choose Pope or Party. National Catholic Register March 26, 1995. p. 1.
[215g] Fox TC. Rome’s Lengthening Shadow. New York Times November 14, 1994.
[216] Hurley, p. 269.
[217] Anonymous. Archbishop Calls For Church-State Unity At Red Mass. Church & State, November 1989.
[218] Anonymous. Chicago Cardinal Endorses ‘Power Mode’ For Churches, Advances Opus Dei Movement. Church & State, February 1991, p. 15.
[219] Feuerherd P. Fighting The Good Fight. National Catholic Register, July 27, 1993.p. 3.
[220] Askin S. The Catholic Right. Conscience, Spring 1994. p. 6.
[221] Hurley, p. 44.
[222] Ibid., p. 52.
[223] Ibid., p. 180.
[224] Ibid., p. 158.
[225] Ibid., p. 285.
[226] Ibid., p. 159.
[227] Ibid., p. 143.
[228] Ibid., p. 146.
[229] Ibid.
[230] Ibid., p. 81.
[231] Ibid., p. 141.
[232] Ibid., p. 81.
[233] Ibid., p. 128.
[234] Ibid., p. 129.
[235] Ibid., p. 132.
[236] Ibid., p. 138.
[237] Ibid., p. 146.
[238] Schlesinger AM, Jr. The Disuniting of America. New York: W.W. Norton, 1992. p. 35.
[239] Ibid.
[240] Ibid., p. 37.
[241] Hurley, p. 181.
[242] Ibid., p. 26.
[243a] Lawrence J. Democrats step up attacks against ‘radical right.’ (Raleigh) News and Observer, June 30, 1994, p. 1.
[243b] Kissling F, Shannon D. Who’s Right? Conscience, Spring 1994, p. 2.
[243c] Askin
[243d] Askin S. The US Catholic Hierarchy. Conscience, Spring 1994, p. 8.
[243e] Askin S. Prominent Catholic Organizations. Conscience, Spring 1994, p. 13.
[244] Hurley, p. 45.
[245] Robinson MJ. A Fine Study: But How Much Does It Matter? In: Riley P, Shaw R, eds. Anti-Catholicism in the Media. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 1993. p. 179.
[245a] Niebuhr G. Most Catholics Admire the Pope, but Many Don’t Feel Bound by His Teachings. New York Times October 1, 1995. p. 15.
[245b] Mulligan HA. Excitement builds for papal visit to U.S. News & Observer (Raleigh) October 4, 1995. p. 8A.
[246] Anonymous. Los Angeles Times’ Survey Released. The Wanderer, March 3, 1994. p. 3.
[247] Robinson, p. 176.
[247a] Goodstein L, Morin R. Love the Messenger; Not His Message: American Catholics believe in the pope, but think the church is out of sync. Washington Post (National Weekly Edition) October 9-15, 1995. p. 37.
[248] Kauffman
[249] Blanshard P. American Freedom and Catholic Power. Boston:Beacon Press, 1949.
[250] Kaplan R. The Coming Anarchy. Atlantic Monthly, February 1994, p. 44.
[251] Lewis A. A Bleak Vision of What’s in Store For The World. New York Times News Service, March 11, 1994.
[252] Walters, DKH. Massive Famine Predicted. (Raleigh) News & Observer. January 30, 1993, p. 1.
[253] Anonymous. U.N. Report Lists Developing Countries in Danger of Collapse. (Raleigh) News & Observer, June 2, 1994.
[254] Cowell A. Scientists Associated With Vatican Urge Limits On Population Growth. New York Times News Service, June 16, 1994.
[255] Hall M. Church Mail-In Targets Abortion: Catholics Papering Congress. USA TODAY, January 29, 1993, p. 3A.
[256] Anonymous. Abortion Opposed in Health Reform: Roman Catholic Bishops Declare Their Intent To Fight Any Legislation That Provides Coverage For Abortions. Los Angeles Times News Service, July 14, 1994.
[257] Goldman AL. In Newark, Two Clerics Battle Over Statements On Women. New York Times, January 31, 1991, A16.
[258] Lewin T. Study Shows Taxpayers Save If Public Aids In Birth Control. New York Times, February 26, 1990.
[259] Bacon KH. Bush Backs Away From Birth-Control Program As Congress Braces For a Tough Fight On Issue. The Wall Street Journal, February 2, 1990. P. A12.
[260] Anonymous. A Continent’s Slow Suicide. Reader’s Digest, May 1993. p. 110.

Dr. Stephen Mumford is the founder and President of the North Carolina-based Center for Research on Population and Security. He has his doctorate in Public Health. His principal research interest has been the relationship between world population growth and national and global security. He has been called to provide expert testimony before the U.S. Congress on the implications of world population growth.

Dr. Mumford has decades of international experience in fertility research where he is widely published, and has addressed conferences worldwide on new contraceptive technologies and the stresses to the security of families, societies and nations that are created by continued uncontrolled population growth. Using church policy documents and writings of the Vatican elite, he has introduced research showing the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church as the principal power behind efforts to block the availability of contraceptive services worldwide.

In addition to his books on biomedical and social aspects of family planning, as well as scientific articles in more than a score of journals, Dr. Mumford’s major works include American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (Amherst, New York: Humanist Press, 1984), The Pope and the New Apocalypse: The Holy War Against Family Planning (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1986), and The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1996).

The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy

By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH
Paperback Publisher: Center for Research on Population and Security (October 1996)
Kindle Publisher: Church and State Press (February 6, 2015)
Kindle Store

During the formative years of the World Health Organization (WHO), broad consensus existed among United Nations member countries that overpopulation is a grave public health threat and would be a major cause of preventable death not too far in the future. One of the founding fathers of the WHO, the late Milton P. Siegel, speaks to Dr. Mumford in 1992. He explains how the Vatican successfully stymied the incorporation of family planning and birth control into official WHO policy. This video is available for public viewing for the first time. Read the full transcript of the interview here.

Lester R. Brown interview with Rob Stewart

Professor Paul Ehrlich: Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?

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  1. The US Constitution does not mention God. It says sovereignty comes from "We the People." This is still not acceptable to the Vatican. Although the Vatican has become more discreet about this fundamental opposition that were pope of the past, it still claims the right to be the supreme arbiter of "natural law," which it holds is binding on all nations (as opposed to "Natural Rights," which all are entitled to but must come from the will of each nation. The Pope says natural law denies abortion AND contraception to ALL people, anywhere. Natural Rights sy that all people are entitled by right to abortion and contraception. The pope says natural law forbids gay marraige anywhere. Natural rights say that gays are humans AND citizens and entitled to the same rights as any other citizen. People in the US are ignorant of these contradictions, so they do not understand that the current battle against contraception is a Vatican campaign to impose its view of natural law, based on the sovereignty of God (as creator) and the Vatican as God's spokesperson for natural law, on the US, which was not founded on the sovereignty of God and has historically acted on the basis of natural rights.

  2. Why do you think you have the right to demand people worship the US government? Because that’s what you’re demanding when you demand Catholics be Americans first and Catholics second. We will conform society to the Gospel, not ourselves to society.


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