On February 19, 24 bishops and a cardinal from the Vatican published and signed the "Message from Modesto," which in practical terms amounts to a declaration of activist war on the new administration of President Donald Trump. This is no exaggeration. The document explicitly calls for "Disrupting oppression and dehumanization." And just what do the bishops have in mind? The document quotes Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego:
"We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our communities to deport the undocumented, to destroy our families. We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies. We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men and women as a source of threat rather than children of God. We must disrupt those who would take away healthcare, who would take food from our children."
In short, the bishops and a high-ranking Vatican cardinal have signed a pledge to "disrupt" the Trump administration over immigration, the fight against terrorism, and healthcare. The cardinal who signed, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development is a close adviser to Pope Francis, who is quoted at the beginning of the "Message from Modesto," who descries the "system that causes enormous suffering to the human family, simultaneously assaulting people’s dignity and our Common Home in order to sustain the invisible tyranny of money that only guarantees the privileges of a few."
Cardinal Turkson and the 24 U.S. bishops attending the event consider this an "urgent message to popular movement members, and leaders in the United States and globally, and to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Pope Francis." At the time of this writing, no specific response has been made by any individual bishops, the USCCB, or Pope Francis. But given Turkson’s relation to the Holy Father, it is safe to assume Pope Francis is in full agreement with the strategy to cause disruptions.
In fact, Pope Francis wrote a lengthy letter of congratulation prior to the meeting, which was remarkable for two phrases:
"I know that you have committed yourselves to fight for social justice, to defend our Sister Mother Earth and to stand alongside migrants."
"I feel is important to say it again: no people is criminal and no religion is terrorist. Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist."
As a longtime student of Catholic theology, it has been my assumption that deifying the Earth was the habit of pagan polytheists. And, as someone who reads the news daily, it has also been my observation that Muslim terrorists have cut off the heads off fellow Muslims, at least one Catholic priest, and slaughtered thousands more in acts of violence around the globe, always proclaiming "Allahu Akbar," Allah is the greatest.
The same bewilderment of thought is found throughout the "Message from Modesto." Thus, it comes as no surprise that more and more lay Catholics are growing increasing bewildered themselves by this pontificate.
As I wrote last week, it is my urgent hope that individual bishops and cardinals repudiate the document for what it is: a distorted use of Catholic social teaching to not merely challenge the policies of the new administration but to engage as activists in disruptive protests and, presumably, lawsuits. John Zmirak has written a scathing analysis of Modesto document, but adds his own particular flavor to the argument: "What’s asserted in the Message from Modesto is madness, plain and simple. It is shrill, moralistic nonsense you might expect from an angry teenager who’d been reading Marxist websites and going through hormone surges."
Other signers include Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin (Newark, New Jersey), Bishop Shelton J. Fabre (Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana), Bishop Oscar Cantu (Las Cruces, New Mexico), Bishop David Talley (Alexandria, Louisiana), Bishop Stephen Blaire (Stockton, California), Bishop Armando Ochoa (Fresno, California) and Bishop Jaime Soto (Sacramento, California), and Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles. Archbishop Gomez, however, tried to caution the attendees not to become "just one more partisan voice on this issue." I hope the good Archbishop realizes there’s is absolutely no chance it will turn out any other way. And the Soros-funded Catholic Left is, predictably, thrilled with "Disrupting the Donald."
What I find particularly disheartening are the opening words of the "Message from Modesto," "We believe that every human is sacred…" when a supporter of infanticide, Barack Obama, was elected president in 2008, and again in 2012, there was no outcry from the bishops. When President Obama set out immediately to dismantle all the protections of unborn life put in place by the administration of President George W. Bush, not a single bishop or cardinal talked about "disrupting" the most pro-abortion administration in American history. When Obamacare included federal funding for abortion, the USCCB published a pro forma complaint but supported the legislation behind the scenes.
As a Catholic, I cannot explain or justify the treatment of President Trump, especially when President Obama got a "free ride" from the bishops on his abortion policy and $500,000,000 of funding for Planned Parenthood. It’s nothing less than shameful. The moral authority of our bishops is being lost, and if the "Message from Modesto" is not publicly repudiated that authority will erode even further.
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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