Left and Right: Barbarians in the City of God
by Mary Ann Kreitzer
The devil isn’t a little guy with horns wearing red pajamas and carrying a pitchfork. He’s a chameleon who changes clothes to match the audience he’s trying to pervert. He’s a liberal in Birkenstocks or a conservative in an Armani suit, a priest in sandals or wearing cassock and biretta, His forked tongue can lie with the cultured voice of a PhD drinking Perrier or with the down home slang of a beer-packing redneck. We’re all the same to him – leftist liberals, right wing conservatives, or moderates of any stripe. He wants us all and will use whatever he needs to seduce us. And he’s very good at it.
This article will look at some of the barbarians attacking the faith on both sides of the political spectrum. It’s a warning that evil always wears a mask of good and to fight it we need to be ever-vigilant, ever-prayerful, with eyes wide open and minds and hearts formed by the doctrine of the Church.
First let’s look at an assault from the left. Faith in Public Life (FPL) was formed after the 2004 election by a coalition of liberals including Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine, Robert Edgar head of the National Council of Churches and Sr. Catherine Pinkerton of NETWORK, a coalition of liberal nuns who lobby for leftwing causes. Obviously the red state/blue state phenomenon where people of faith overwhelmingly voted against the Democrats’ agenda alarmed them. The founders worried that the “Religious Right continued to dominate public discourse on issues of faith – primarily targeting issues of abortion and homosexuality – and virtually ignoring issues of justice and the common good.” FPL wants to show that “those who use religion as a tool of division and exclusion do not dominate public debate.”1
This statement reveals the not-so-hidden-agenda of FPL and its founders, i.e. neutralizing pro-lifers who have been so effective at garnering grass-roots support of values voters to fight abortion, sodomy, and same-sex marriage. FPL uses fine sounding statements about justice and the common good but ignores the fact that the greatest injustice in our culture is the murder of the innocent and one of the greatest threats to the common good is the promotion of homosexual sodomy with all its deadly diseases.
I’ve had my own personal confrontation with one of FPL’s founders. After the 2004 election Alan Colmes’ scheduler called and invited me to be a guest on Colmes’ radio show because of an article I wrote on the rejection by voters of the party of abortion. The line that got Colmes’ attention was “There’s no reconciliation between good and evil…. Voters rejected the party of gay activists, radical feminists, lesbians, the Hollywood elite, pornographers, death-peddlers, anti-Christian bigots, and apostate Catholics.”2 The article was not pro-Republican, but criticized the Democrats’ evil agenda. I agreed to participate in the show reluctantly knowing how brutal Colmes can be and how flustered I get when I’m attacked. But it was an opportunity, friends assured me, to proclaim the truth. The deck was stacked two to one with me on one side and Alan Colmes and Robert Edgar of the National Council of Churches (and a founder of FPL) on the other. In true FPL style Edgar played the “you’re too divisive card.” Both men hardly let me finish a sentence from Colmes’ opening aggressive salvo of, “Am I evil? Is Dr. Edgar evil?” I wish I’d had the presence of mind to respond, “I don’t know. Do you beat your wives and kill babies?” But abortion was the issue we could not discuss. Whenever I brought it up I was talked down.
This is the strategy of FPL. The “divisive” issues of abortion and homosexuality will not be addressed only the “social justice” issues. It’s a lie, of course, because many of the groups in the FPL network have as their primary agenda promoting abortion and sodomy. However, FPL claims, “We build bridges between faiths; provide common space for discussion; encourage collaboration and the formation of non-traditional alliances. [FPL] aims to build a nationwide infrastructure designed to ensure faith communities are actively engaged and included in public discourse.” What they mean is selective public discourse. Since 2004 FPL has enlisted thousands of organizations across the country in almost every state to promote their agenda. Go to the map on their webpage, click on a state, and you get a list of groups in that area belonging to FPL. And that’s where things get interesting.
Catholic writer, Stephanie Block, wrote three articles recently that are posted on the Catholic Media Coalition website.3 Block reveals the strange bedfellows in FPL.
Nothing strange about those bedfellows. Radical dissenters like Call to Action, feminist groups, and environmental greens fit nicely at the table as well, along with many others who publicly support abortion and homosexual rights. So who are the strange bedfellows in the FPL household? Catholic Conferences, dioceses, Catholic Charities, diocesan offices of peace and justice, catholic relief offices. The list of Catholic groups goes on and on.
In my own state of Virginia the network includes the Virginia Catholic Conference, the Peace and Justice offices of both Virginia dioceses, Call to Action, two gay advocacy groups, at least five Catholic Worker and Pax Christi branches and numerous other liberal groups.
Strange bedfellows indeed. It hearkens back to the Catholic Common Ground Project developed by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin that sought to engage diametrically opposed groups in “dialogue.” During that misguided initiative Cardinal James Hickey of Washington, D.C. was a voice of reason when he said, "True 'common ground' is found in Scripture and Tradition as handed on through the teaching office of the Holy Father and the bishops." He described the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the most reliable expression of common ground.6
FPL makes the Common Ground Project look like small potatoes, and judging from its “Voicing Faith Media Bureau” described on its website, the organizers aren’t really interested in dialogue anyway. Rather, FPL is clearly geared as a press resource to promote liberal causes.
Block examines a number of FPL speakers who are the public face of the organization. Interestingly, while the group claims not to address abortion and homosexuality, many in its media bureau are known for exactly that – and NOT from a pro-life/pro-family perspective:
Kim Bobo…is a Call to Action speaker who founded the Chicago-based Interfaith Worker Justice. She also sees “conservative Christian forces monopolizing the morality-in-politics debate around such issues as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.” To counter this, Bobo helped write the manual How to Win: A Practical Guide for Defeating the Radical Right in Your Community. The manual specifically identifies pro-lifers as “radical right,” naming groups such as the American Life League, and provides materials in support of abortion and gay “rights” and a host of other issues.
Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, current national coordinator for the “Catholic” social justice lobby NETWORK…also has Call to Action ties and a long, sordid history of connections to pro-abortion and homosexual activism.
Then there’s Sr. Joan Chittister, who made headlines in 2001 for delivering the keynote address at the Women’s Ordination Worldwide Conference in direct defiance of a Vatican request….In addition to advocating a Catholic female priesthood and dissent against Church doctrine, Chittister is a Call to Action speaker and supports abortion as a woman’s “right.”7
The thought of Catholic organizations affiliating with FPL reminds me of the children’s song about the smiling lady who rode the crocodile. “At the end of the ride the lady was inside, and the smile was on the crocodile.” Stephanie Block expresses it another way. “Misguided Catholic partners in the Faith in Public Life network say – and in some cases perhaps even mean – they don’t support abortion or homosexual marriage. It doesn’t matter that they say they’re just part of Faith in Public Life because progressive politics will send more government money to the poor.The sad fact is that as members of Faith in Public Life they are working for the very moral evils they claim to oppose.”8
The FPL barbarians who have infiltrated the city of God through the left gate are worrisome, but, like Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputions, they’re pretty easy to spot and fight. But the barbarians coming in through the right gate often resemble orthodox Catholics so they tend to blend in. It’s harder to fight an enemy who looks like you.
If I were to ask the average man in the street to name a Catholic in the major media who is pro-life what do you think they’d say? My guess is Sean Hannity. With his three hour a day radio program he has a bully pulpit and often proclaims himself a devout Catholic. Another response I might hear is Bill O’Reilly. And if I asked serious Catholics what news station they prefer and the one they think gives the most unbiased reporting from a Catholic perspective I’d give you two to one odds they’d say FOX Cable News (FCN). If I’m right, that scares me. Because the “Catholics” on FOX are undermining the faith bigtime. Oh, the poison is delivered in a more palatable medium but that just means more gets swallowed.
It was instructive to watch the recent confrontation between Sean Hannity and Fr. Thomas Euteneuer of Human Life International over contraception. For anyone on Mars who missed the event here is a brief review.
During Lent Hannity mentioned on the air forgetting it was Friday and taking a bite of a chicken salad sandwich. He publicly apologized, although it was apology as entertainment. (Filling up three hours every day takes some creativity.) Fr. Euteneuer wrote a column about the incident saying Sean didn’t need to apologize for his accidental violation of Church law, but for his public dissent from Church teaching on contraception. A few years earlier Fatherwrote and asked to meet with Sean privately; but he never got an answer. Father’s public statement, however, earned him an invite to FCN’s Hannity and ColmesShow where an enraged Hannity went into a tirade. Father maintained his cool though he was barely able to get a word in edgewise. He defended Church teaching calmly and with dignity. He did not attack Hannity (although he’s been accused of it). He simply stated the truth. The show ended this way: Hannity: “Wait, would you deny me Communion?” Fr. Euteneuer: “I would.” Hannity: “Wow, wow.”9 For Hannity being speechless was no doubt a new experience.
The aftermath has been interesting. It was a teaching moment and Fr. Euteneuer took advantage of it to produce a series of short videos clarifying Church doctrine on contraception. They’re excellent and available at HLI.org. Father received over a thousand emails, letters, and phone calls, most of them positive. But the negative emails from practicing Catholics are extremely troubling. M.E. wrote, “[Hannity] is a MAN OF GOD and there should be more of him willing to speak the truth…HE IS A CONVICTED MAN OF FAITH.” (Caps in original.) Another email from someone signing himself “Fr. C.C.” is truly baffling if it was really written by a priest: “I hope you will send this letter to Sean Hannity and ask him for an apology….I believe, like millions of other Catholics today, that contraception is no ‘big deal.’” He goes on to claim that he teaches the Church’s doctrine.
Carmen in San Diego wrote, “While I disagree with Hannity on birth control, I think he is a fine example of a good Catholic. I listen to him every day.” Someone named Kent said, “”I am a conservative Catholic. I thought you were way off mark in this interview with Sean Hannity.” One of the most ridiculous comments came from G.I.: “The assault against conservative Sean Hannity was motivated by liberal Democrat Thomas Euteneuer.” This type of knee-jerk response identifying any critic of Hannity as a liberal was not uncommon. Another comment put things in perspective. “You must know that Sean Hannity supports pro-family and pro-life causes more than anyone I can think of on television” (emphasis added).
And that’s the rub. Hannity (and Bill O’Reilly for that matter) can masquerade as serious Catholics because what we have for comparison are public scandals like Teddy Kennedy, John Kerry, and Nancy Pelosi. Catholics whose opinions stem from an authentically Catholic perspective like Joe Sobran and Pat Buchanan have been so demonized and marginalized they hardly make the radar screen. So who pass for Catholics? Hannity and O’Reilly who, between them, support contraception, gay marriage, torture of prisoners, a preemptive military strike against Iran by Israel, etc. All the positions mentioned violate Church doctrine – on sexuality, just war, and human rights. Hannity and O’Reilly do not think as Catholics with the mind of the Church. And yet, many orthodox, well-meaning people are calling them “good Catholics.”
In my opinion, the barbarians invading the City of God through the right gate are equally dangerous (perhaps more so) than those on the left because their poisonous error is more easy to swallow. I know many solid orthodox Catholics who will make excuses for a Sean Hannity who wouldn’t give one inch to a pro-abortion Democrat. And yet chemical birth control kills millions more babies than clinical abortion. It is not a trivial issue.
Going back to the Hannity – Fr. Euteneuer affair, I found one event most likely to create confusion. It was an open letter from Legionaries of Christ priest Fr. Jonathan Morris apologizing to Hannity for Fr. Euteneuer’s criticism while castigating Fr. Euteneuer. Fr. Morris is employed by FOX to comment on ordinary news events, as well as religion. His letter was not only sanctimonious, but in view of his being employed by FOX seemed like a conflict of interest as well. But what troubles me most about Fr. Morris is the implied connection of the Church with a “conservative” network that often spins the news as effectively as the liberal media. In the mind of the viewer, isn’t a roman collar on a FOX commentator likely to make him think the network stands with the Church?
To sum up, we’re living in very confusing times and the devil loves confusion. It gives him the perfect venue for ensnaring people and tripping them up. The only antidote is to study the doctrine of the Church and pray unceasingly. Many orthodox Catholics know with clarity what the Church teaches about abortion and contraception. They may be less familiar with teachings on the just war, labor and capitalism, etc. Serious Catholics need to study the faith in its entirety to protect the City of God from the barbarians, no matter which gate they use for the invasion.
1 See Faith in Public Life website: http://www.faithinpubliclife.org/about/background.html
2 Press Release, The Election’s Over, Our Work is Just Beginning, Les Femmes website: http://www.lesfemmes-thetruth.org/pr11_04_04.htm
4 Stephanie Block, American Catholics and Faith in Public Life
6 Thomas J. Reese, S.J., Digging into ‘Common Ground’, America Magazine, September 21, 1996.
9 See www.HLI.org to view the video and all other materials discussed relating to Fr. Euteneuer’s appearance on FCN.