How the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops supports Trump

By Betty Clermont | 30 December 2023
The Open Tabernacle

(Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

Contraception was not a “moral value” worth mentioning for even the Catholic Religious Right until it was needed to obstruct the Affordable Care Act. As of October 2015, over 100 lawsuits had been filed in federal courts at enormous taxpayer expense challenging the ACA’s birth control benefit. The vast majority were brought by Catholic bishops and their affiliated institutions.

During his 2016 campaign, Trump said, “I mean, religious liberty in this country is in tremendous trouble. Whether it’s the Little Sisters of the Poor or, you know, these private businesses who are religiously motivated, they feel this Obamacare mandate, which demands contraceptive and abortifacient services, as part of insurance is intrusive ….”

Also during the same interview on Oct. 27 2016, on EWTN television – the largest religious media network in the world -Trump promised to appoint “pro-life” Supreme Court justices.

In the final days of the campaign, Trump gave another interview on EWTN. He again sympathized with the Little Sisters of the Poor. “People who are faith-based are not being accepted in our country anymore,” he told his audience. “Religious liberty” was in “tremendous trouble” and that “the biggest issue right now is the Supreme Court judges,” Trump said.

Trump’s opponent in the 2016 campaign was Hillary Clinton who had challenged Pope John Paul II about his grievous denial of women’s rights. In 1994, at the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Vatican delegation head Mary Ann Glendon said promoting women’s aspirations should not come at the expense of “undermining their roles within the family.”

“Human rights took center stage [however] with an impassioned speech by Hillary Rodham Clinton, while the Vatican complained that the conference platform doesn’t give due credit to marriage and motherhood. “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” is the name of the speech given by Clinton and the phrase has continued to be used by the feminist movement. “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all … The great challenge of this conference is to give voice to women everywhere whose experiences go unnoticed, whose words go unheard,”  Clinton told the assembled dignitaries.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops maintained the prohibition of not endorsing candidates by name in order to maintain their tax-free status, but it was clear who the bishops were rooting for. Their video, “The Right to Religious Freedom,” released “in the lead-up to the 2016 elections” showed a clip of Hillary Clinton while a voice-over intoned that “the government is stopping us from practicing our faith.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput, at the time the eminence grise of the U.S. episcopate and other right-wing Catholics, stated in an Oct. 20 speech: “Even many people who despise what Mr. Trump stands for seem to enjoy his gift for twisting the knife in America’s leadership elite and their spirit of entitlement, embodied in the person of Hillary Clinton.” The archbishop continued that the “price of entry” into the “leadership elite” for Catholics “like Nancy Pelosi, Anthony Kennedy, Joe Biden and Tim Kaine [Clinton’s running mate]” has been the transfer “of real loyalties and convictions from the old Church of our baptism to the new ‘Church’ of our ambitions and appetites.”

The 2016 Election

“Evangelicals helped Trump in states he was mostly going to win anyway. Catholics? Now we’re talking about Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. And that was the election.”

White Catholics voted 60% for Trump while he received only 46% of the national popular vote. Overall, Trump won the Catholic vote 52% to Hillary Clinton’s 45%.

The second highest Vatican official, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, congratulated Trump the day after the election, noting that the election “was characterized by a large turnout at the polls.” (See “Voter turnout at 20-year low in 2016.”) He praised the president-elect: “The future leader has already spoken like a leader.”

Parolin said the first issue on which the Vatican would “collaborate” with Trump was peace. The cardinal also said that “points of dialogue” between the Vatican and Trump will include “internal [domestic] subjects such as religious freedom and Catholics’ commitment and attention to the most vulnerable bands of society.”

Martin R. Castro, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, stated: “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”

“Most vulnerable” was a common phrase used in anti-abortion rhetoric.

Responding to Trump’s victory, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement that they “look forward to working with President-elect Trump to protect human life from its most vulnerable beginning, [a] commitment to domestic religious liberty, ensuring people of faith remain free to proclaim the truth about man and woman [anti-transgender dogwhistle], and the unique bond of marriage that they can form [anti-same sex marriage dogwhistle].”

In an article titled “Trump and the Vatican, a relationship to be built,” trusted  Vatican reporter Andrea Tornielli wrote that, in addition to anti-abortion policies, “There could be other possible agreements with the Holy See in the less exclusionary approach with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”

“Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had not only refused to criticize Putin, but was even friendly and accommodating in his remarks …. President Trump has also surrounded himself with people who do business with and are sympathetic to Russia,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) reported.

In a statement from the USCCB’s semi-annual meeting on Nov. 14, 2016, they wrote that their pro-immigration efforts would “honor and respect the laws of this nation,” even though candidate Trump had made immigration “his signature campaign issue,” Reuters reported. “Trump pledged to ramp up arrests of those living and working illegally in the country.”

At this meeting, the bishops elected Cardinal Daniel DiNardo as their president. While chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, DiNardo said that he “found the US government to be ‘coercive’ in restricting religious liberty.” After his election as USCCB president, DiNardo said “he saw opportunities for dealing with a new Trump administration on pro-life issues and ‘religious freedom’ issues, such as the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.”

Continue reading here.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009).

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