MILWAUKEE (CNS) — Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki called anti-Catholicism “an equal opportunity prejudice” evident in the presidential election.
Quoting historian Arthur Schlesinger Sr., he noted the campaigns of Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton have engaged in “the deepest held bias in the history of the American people.”
Writing in his “Herald of Hope” column in the Oct. 20 Catholic Herald, a publication serving the Catholic community in southeastern Wisconsin, the archbishop said Trump’s criticism of Pope Francis last February “smacked of ‘nativism’ and a demeaning of the Catholic faith.”
The candidate’s comments were a response to the pope saying, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”
Regarding the Clinton campaign, Archbishop Listecki said emails released by WikiLeaks and allegedly hacked from the server of a top aide to Clinton “indicate how high-ranking members of the Clinton campaign view the Catholic Church. These are close advisers who think that Catholics are unthinking and backward.”
In particular, he noted the email exchange between Sandy Newman, president of Voices for Progress, writing to John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton campaign, calling for “a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a Middle Ages dictatorship.”
The archbishop wrote, “The subtlety is that Catholic leadership is out of touch and keeping its flock back from embracing this new social reconstruction.”
While leaders in the Clinton campaign said they were Catholic, Archbishop Listecki asked if they were “committed Catholics or just Catholics in name only, picking and choosing what they decided to accept rather than what the church teaches.”
The archbishop said Catholics are being targeted because they are seen as “a dangerous group in need of drastic suppression and radical change.”
He noted that what some find “dangerous” is that Catholics are working to stem abortions, promote traditional marriage and families, support constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom, respect life from womb to tomb, and champion the rights of parents as the first educators of their children.
“Yes, we Catholics are a dangerous group — dangerous to those who seek social reconstruction at the expense of personal dignity and religious freedom,” Archbishop Listecki wrote.
The archbishop cautioned about secularism — “a subtle religion being established by the political forces.”
“It critiques organized religion by assessing whether or not the church conforms to its social progressive thought,” Archbishop Listecki said. “Its high priests and prophets are the theorists that put forth what they believe — and I emphasize ‘what they believe’ — to be right for the society.”
Despite all the negativity aimed at the Catholic Church, the archbishop said he is not pessimistic.
“Because simply speaking, I am a believer. Jesus is our savior. He established his church to lead us to our salvation. He warned us that his message would be rejected, but we must remain faithful to the end,” the archbishop said.
— Brian T. Olszewski
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Olszewski is executive editor of the Catholic Herald, a publication serving the Catholic community in southeastern Wisconsin.