After the recent violence here in Virginia, Catholic bishops felt they had to do something. So naturally, in 24 hours, they managed to take both sides.
On the day of the Charlottesville conflict, bishops called for unity and prayer and condemned hatred. Almost immediately the flaks from their DC lobbying arm got to them with a strong message: “It sounds like you’re agreeing with Trump. That will get you nowhere.” So the next day they issued a new statement that added a condemnation of “racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism.”
Of course, these are easy targets. But what about the Left-wing violence perpetrated by Antifa and hundreds of armed, masked anarchists?
Well, in those 24 hours, the usual suspects had directed a barrage of bombast at Trump for blaming both sides. And while the bishops undoubtedly oppose Antifa’s violence, they also happen to be fighting their own battle with Trump, and they desperately need the support of those very same usual suspects to help them win it.
Wait – the bishops are fighting Trump? But hasn’t Trump reversed Obama policies (all of which the bishops also opposed) regarding religious liberty, the HHS mandate, UN abortion funding, Planned Parenthood funding, the Mexico City policy and “transgender” student regulations?
Yes, and bishops support Trump’s actions, because every one of them addresses a morally objective evil. But there are also political issues on which Catholic can disagree, and Trump has reversed Obama policies on several of them, including health care, DACA, welfare spending, Cuba Policy, Global Warming the death penalty, the environment and sanctuary cities.
And on these policies, the bishops support Obama’s views on every one of them.
But the largest issue by far on the bishops’ anti-Trump agenda is immigration policy.
For years, the bishops’ highest priority has been to legalize amnesty for illegal aliens and welcome more of them. Since 2009, bishops celebrated Obama’s sanctuary cities, his unilateral DACA “Dreamer” declaration, and his virtual suspension of immigration law. The bishops’ welfare agencies – Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services – received generous federal funding that increased every year under Obama – and today they amount to little more than secular federal NGO’s with a “Catholic” label.
And that isn’t all. Under Obama, additional funding amounting to hundreds of millions of federal taxpayer dollars a year went to the bishops through various channels for services provided to refugees, illegal minors and aliens, and other immigrants (the bishops’ DC office will not reveal just how much federal funding they receive for those operations).
But then came 2016. Like virtually everyone else on the Left, the bishops fully expected Hillary Clinton to win. Undoubtedly that would have assured that their federal funding would continue.
Trump’s unexpected victory delivered a traumatic shock to the system that threatened the bishops’ entire welfare infrastructure. They quickly realized that, while they were quietly grateful for Trump’s pro-life policies, those policies brought the bishops no funding. The big money came in programs that the president was determined to reduce or eliminate.
Ever since Trump’s victory, the bishops waged a frantic campaign to keep the money flowing.
And then came Charlottesville. What to do?
Put yourself in their shoes. Regarding the funding for aliens and refugees, the bishops are literally on the ropes. While others in Washington might waffle on immigration, Trump is standing fast. If he succeeds, the bishops’ funding ends. If he fails, business as usual returns, and the bishops can breathe a sigh of relief. They can even be quietly grateful for his defense of religious liberty and the unborn.
But first, Trump must fail! So whatever role Antifa played in the violence, the Charlottesville tragedy gives new life to the bishops’ avowed efforts to weaken Trump’s immigration policies – because it weakens Trump himself.
And that’s the bishops’ prime mandate right now. So instead of calling for prayerful reconciliation of both sides, they joined the stampede.
Did they really have any choice?
Had the bishops condemned all the violent factions involved in Charlottesville, they would have invited the same foul barrage of invective that the Left leveled at Donald Trump. So they blinked.
Trump fought the jackals off, but frankly, Catholic bishops lack his mettle.
As one celebrated pastor put it, “at the end of the world, a huge thunderclap will be heard when bishops are reunited with their spines.”
And that hasn’t happened yet.
In fact, it’s getting worse. New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan readily admits that the sex-abuse and cover-up scandals fifteen years ago devastated the bishops’ credibility, and it shows. Moreover, key bishops have privately admitted that voluntary donations from the faithful plummeted after the scandals, making that federal funding all the more critical.
So there never really was an option. Agree with Trump – and the facts? The bishops would have wilted. They’d be branded as traitors. And like Lenin, the Left makes short work of traitors. After all, the Left never considered Trump as anything but an enemy, but – except for the life issues – the bishops have been their friend. And a friend who turns on you in a crisis quickly becomes your worst enemy.
And this is a crisis.
Pity our bishops. What are they to do? They are good men. But they are not strong men. And, lest we forget, they need the money.
[This is the seventh in a series on the role of the Catholic Church in the decline and fall of the Republic Here are the first, the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth, and the sixth. Follow these issues on Twitter @realchrismanion]