I don’t think Hillary Clinton hates Catholics or evangelicals. I think Donald Trump went too far at the Al Smith dinner in New York last week when he said she talked about fighting anti-Catholic bias while in private hating Catholics. His lines were not precise and not delivered properly. Despite all that, I’m glad every time the issue is talked about.
This charge against Mrs. Clinton flows from hacked emails published by WikiLeaks in which John Halpin, one of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s top confidants, mocked wealthy media-mogul conservatives like billionaire Rupert Murdoch and former Wall Street Journal managing editor Robert Thompson for the backward act of raising their children Catholic.
Halpin wrote: “Friggin’ Murdoch baptized his kids in Jordan where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Many of the most powerful elements of the conservative movement are all Catholics from the SC (Supreme Court) and think tanks to the media and social groups. It’s an amazing bastardization of the faith. They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backward gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.”
Halpin was joined in these slurs by Clinton’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri. If Clinton wins, Palmieri may be the White House press secretary. She wrote to Podesta and Halpin, “I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion. Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelicals.”
Mrs. Clinton has not apologized for these slurs, nor has she disciplined any of the people involved. However, she has been barely challenged by the media. Suppose Trump’s people had been involved in a slur-fest like this toward people of the Muslim faith? There rightfully would be wall-to-wall outrage.
The only silver lining out of all of this for me is that it underlined the importance and moral force of Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput. I realize that Chaput’s image is not often warm and fuzzy. However, he is a direct truth teller and someone who does not engage in the flowery, indirect language of many bishops.
In a recent column, he linked these slurs to another issue that cropped up in the Podesta emails. Chaput wrote of his experience in Denver with two men representing a group called Catholics United. He saw them as Obama agents trying to get bishops to ease up on talking about abortion. He concludes in a column that these partisans were very successful and writes, “Thanks to their work, and activists like them, American Catholics helped to elect an administration that has been the most stubbornly unfriendly to religious believers, institutions, concerns and liberty in general.”
For me, Chaput struck a nerve here. It’s the issue of religious liberty. When I see the Obama administration use the full power of the federal government to attack the Little Sisters of the Poor, I know religious freedom is under attack.
Chaput expanded his views on these issues in a recent talk at Notre Dame. He talked about the repellent nature of both presidential candidates and how it allows us to soberly focus on the cultural and political elites. He said: “America’s cultural and political elites talk a lot about equality, opportunity and justice. But they behave like a privileged class with an authority based on their connections and skills. And supported by sympathetic media, they’re remaking the country into something very different from anything most of us remember or the founders imagined. The WikiLeaks email release from the Clinton entourage says a lot about how the merit-class elite views people like those in this room. It’s not friendly.”
It’s clear that Catholics have made it in America. We’re not living in the days of Al Smith and John F. Kennedy. However, Catholics will have to decide if the soft bigotry that Chaput has been out front talking about infects top Clinton people and what impact that would have on their lives. If the issue of life is important to you, then you might be one of those backward Catholics.
If you ignore or dismiss this question out of hand, maybe you are part of the problem.
Dom Giordano is a talk-show host and a special contributor to the Philadelphia Daily News.