Out of the stunned disbelief of the Catholic Left at Donald Trump’s victory comes the serious suggestion that Catholic supporters of Trump’s "America First" should be considered heretics. For all you non-Catholics, I will explain that to be declared a heretic means to become ex-communicated, that is, separated from the Church, God, and salvation.
In other words, all "Trumpists" are going to hell.
Perhaps we should have seen this coming. After all, didn’t Hillary Clinton declare all Trump supporters "deplorable" and "irredeemable"?
Prof. Charlie Camosy, an associate professor of theology at Fordham University, bases his argument upon the premise that "America First" is a form of idolatry, putting the interests of the nation before the demands of "the Gospel." When I questioned Prof. Camosy about this claim on my Facebook page, he answered that the idolatry of this claim was "clearly idolatry." When I asked him whether or not that meant it was true prima facie (at first glance), he answered, "Yes."
Prof. Camosy is, therefore, claiming that his accusation of heresy requires no argument and no evidence, because "America First" is a form of idolatry prima facie. (The reader should bear in mind that between a former professor of philosophy — me — and a present professor of theology — him — terms like prima facie are tools of the trade and have a very specific meaning.)
Prof. Camosy, who describes himself as pro-life, wrote, "Catholic support for Donald Trump in the 2016 election was disturbingly high." The defense of innocent life does not appear as a factor in the professor’s column. "The heresy of Trumpism," he describes, "takes something that is true — the goodness of the United States and of patriotism — and pushes to a place where it crowds out the source of our ultimate concern: the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his Church."
In other words, he argues that Trump supporters are placing America ahead of their Christian faith, making the nation an "ultimate concern" (theologian Paul Tillich’s phrase), rather than subordinating it to "the Gospel of Jesus Christ." Again, "patriotism is a good thing, but it becomes heretical and idolatrous if it comes ‘first.’"
I completely agree with Prof. Camosy, but really am completely baffled by his attempt to extract that kind of theological density out of the president’s use of "America First" as a campaign slogan.
When I asked Prof. Camosy to list some of the policy issues supported by the President that illustrated this idolatry, he answered, "It is less about this or that particular policy, but rather, as I argue in the piece, a "general orientation which makes an idol of the survival and flourishing of the nation-state."
Allow me to summarize what kind of orientation of Trump supports that Prof. Camosy considers "plain for everyone to see." But as I describe this, I ask the reader to consider just how Prof. Camosy actually knows this to be true: Catholics who join President Trump in voicing "America First" are turning from God and making their nation their "ultimate concern" in life. Thus, they are ex-communicated from the Church and their salvation. As I said earlier, but bears repeating, Trump’s Catholic supporters are going to hell.
Prof. Camosy, however, did not follow Hillary Clinton in calling us "irredeemable," so I suppose repentance is still a possibility. For Prof. Camosy I assume our repentance would consist in throwing our support to one of the many Democratic pro-abortion candidates lining up for 2020. In the meantime, I, along with millions of other Catholics, await the stake with mixed anticipation.
Dr. Deal W. Hudson took over Crisis Magazine in 1995, leaving in 2010 to become president of Catholic Advocate. While at Crisis, Hudson led the Catholic voter outreach for President George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and later advised the campaigns of both John McCain and Donald Trump on Catholic outreach. In 2014, he began his weekly two-hour radio show, “Church and Culture,” on the Ave Maria Radio Network, and launched www.thechristianreview.com in 2015. His books include "Happiness and the Limits of Satisfaction" and "Onward Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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