One Nation under God

By Swomley, John M. | The Humanist, May-June 1998 | Go to article overview

One Nation under God


Swomley, John M., The Humanist


A massive political campaign is underway in an effort to achieve religious and political control of crucial American policies and institutions, an effort which the popular press and television have virtually ignored. It was inspired by the Vatican and has been carried out over a period of years under the supervision of the National Council of Catholic Bishops. The bishops have created the impression that they speak for 59 million Catholics, which makes them a formidable political force, able to influence or intimidate presidents and other public officials.

For example, they had an important and close relationship with President George Bush. Within a month after Bush took office, he included all five of the U.S. cardinals in meetings at the White House and, thereafter, Cardinals Bernard Law of Boston and John O'Connor of New York spent overnights at the White House as guests of the president.

Doug Wead, a special assistant to the president, was quoted in the December 29, 1989, National Catholic Reporter as saying that Bush "has been more sensitive and accessible to the needs of the Catholic Church than any president I know of in American history... We want the Church to feel loved and wanted, and we want them to have input." That relationship and input was maintained through the cardinals. Wead also boasted that "this administration has appointed more Catholic cabinet officers than any other in American history." There were, however, a number in the Reagan administration, as well.

The bishops organized their political campaign in 1975 and outlined it in an internal pastoral letter for Catholic officials and organizations. It is an ambitious campaign aimed at controlling judicial appointments, Congress, and other national and state political offices. In his book Catholic Bishops in American Politics, Catholic writer Timothy A. Byrnes calls the bishops' plan the "most focused and aggressive political leadership" ever exerted by the American Catholic hierarchy.

This political campaign, which has been organized around the issues of abortion and certain forms of birth control, has wider implications. The ability to control political and judicial offices on one doctrinal issue can and will be used on other matters, such as aid to parochial schools to the neglect of public schools and use of welfare legislation to provide funds for the charitable activities of churches, among others.

In their plans, the bishops list twenty major Catholic organizations--such as the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Press Association, the Catholic Physicians' Guild, and the Catholic Lawyers Association--then begin to "explain political strategy and discuss how each group may participate." This involves getting "the National Organizations ... to inventory their internal political capabilities systematically by means of their own government relations" and to "establish a communications structure from Washington to the national office of each organization to activate support for the political program."

A primary focus of the bishops' campaign is judicial appointment, so as to reverse Supreme Court decisions that legalize abortion. "Efforts should be made to reverse the decision, to restrain lower courts from interpreting and applying [Supreme Court decisions] more aggressively and more absolutely than the Supreme Court," the plans dictate. The bishops also "urge appointment of judges" who can be counted on to oppose abortion.

They have already been successful in that only anti-abortion judges were appointed during the Reagan and Bush years--not one single pro-choice judge was named to the bench. Today, over 70 percent of our federal judges are basically anti-abortion, as are at least four Supreme Court justices.

In order to influence the appointment of judges, it was necessary for the bishops to influence or control other branches of government. So a threefold strategy was "directed toward the legislative, judicial, and administrative areas. …

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