Laurence, it’s the same old story. After World War One broke out in Europe, Pope Benedict the Fifteenth worked to bring an early end to the hostilities before they spread. He appointed an American Catholic prelate, Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore, to take his message of peace to President Woodrow Wilson, and keep the U.S. from entering the war.
My father, a student in Washington at the time, led Catholics for Wilson — “We want Wilson, one time more! We want peace, we don’t want war!” But Cardinal Gibbons, aware of the unfortunately widespread anti-Catholic sentiment in the US, feared that Catholic opposition to the war would brand Catholics as “unpatriotic.” As though we loved our country more than our government? No, that we were more loyal to “Rome” than to Wilson.
Cardinal Gibbons met my father on the campus of Catholic University during the winter of 1916–1917. When my father lamented that Wilson might go back on his campaign promise to keep the U.S. out, the good Cardinal gave Dad a little revival, trying to cheer him up and have “great expectations” from the coming war (my father soon left school and became a captain in the Army). Gibbons had bought into Wilson’s War early on, and the two were tight ever since. The Cardinal supported the war and cemented the marriage between the American Catholic Church establishment and the the Democratic party that endures to this day. Even though that party has become the tip of the spear of what Pope John Paul II called “The Culture of Death,” the church bureaucracy still marches in lockstep with Democratic socialism. Of course, Catholic church institutions receive billions in government funds each year. Tit for tat? Who knows.
The Republicans haven’t been much better lately. For a revealing study of Pope Benedict’s opposition to Bush’s wars, see Daniel McCarthy’s landmark piece in the American Conservative from six year ago. Bush-crazed Catholics might try to manipulate the record, but the record is clear: Pope Benedict XV and Pope Benedict XVI both emphatically opposed the wars.
A footnote: Had Cardinal Gibbons carried out the mission of peace assigned to him by Benedict XV, and raised a nationwide moral opposition to U.S. entry, Wilson’s road to war would have encountered a massive roadblock. Would it have been successful? We’ll never know.6:34 pm on August 12, 2011 Email Christopher Manion