Bill Donohue is Back, Showing His True Colors
I used to keep a close eye on Bill Donohue’s buffoonish tactics at the Catholic League, but grew tired of it. Now I read, courtesy of David Gibson, that Donohue is attacking Catholics who support Obama, calling them “dissidents” (in right-wing Catholic circles, this usually means “disagrees with me” rather than deviate for core Church teaching, as the cafeteria often wide open for these people). For here is Donohue’s chief concern:
“there is not one who agrees with the Catholic Church on all three major public policy issues: abortion, embryonic stem cell research and school vouchers.”
This is bogus on so many levels. First, it is a lie (and that is a sin, Bill, a non-negotiable one). He completely ignores the presence of pro-life Democrats like Bob Casey and Tim Roemer on the list– and I find it hard to know how he can sniff out the position of every single non-political member on the abortion issue.
But, of course, it is worse than this. Donohue is actually claiming that these are the three most important issue for Catholics in the public policy sphere. He picks two intrinsically evil acts, and ignores the rest (such as torture). And he elevates school vouchers to the top tier, while playing down issues like health care, the environment, and McCain’s love of war. Donohue, like Rick Santorum, is a Protestantized Catholic, one who picks and chooses Church teachings based on partisanship, and who then has the gall to use this as a bludgeon against his political opponents. It is clear that Donohue is ignoring (and implicitly mocking) the USCCB’s Faithful Citizenship document.
But, really, is any of this a surprise? David Gibson notes that Donohue is not holding McCain’s advisory board to a similar standard. But this is exactly how Donohue operates, and has always operated. I hate to sound like a broken record, but I think we need a refresher on some of his past behavior, and the best example of this is his treatment of Bush vs. Kerry.
Donohue actually entitled a 2003 press release “Is Bush too Holy to be President?” and claim that his opponents “put words in his mouth and then denounce him for saying what he never said.” In 2004, he comes out with the fantastic statement that “most observers, regardless of their political bent, agree that President George W. Bush seems at home with his Christianity”. And after Bush’s 2004 victory, Donohue proclaimed that “most Americans appreciate and admire President George W. Bush for his strong religious convictions”. Elsewhere Donohue quotes approvingly Bob Woodward’s claim that Bush “prayed for the strength to do the Lord’s will” before the Iraq war. Donohue also presented a number of anti-Bush quotes as evidence that “we need to build more asylums”.
In contrast, Bill really did not like John Kerry. For when it comes to religion, Bush is religious, Kerry is a phony. So when Kerry talks about religion (such as when he stated the Catholic belief that both faith and good deeds are required for salvation) he is denounced as a hypocrite, and insincere. Donohue is disgusted by Kerry trying to defend his religiosity, asking “whether Kerry is playing politics with his religion”. To Kerry, “religion is an enigma”. Donohue even feels the need to list friends of Kerry’s who claim he is not religious. Contrast with the fawning treatment of Bush.
And his attack on Obama’s Catholic outreach is nothing new. Special venom was reserved for Kerry’s people in this regard. Donohue claimed that the resume of one (Mara Vanderslice) is “that of a person looking for a job working for Fidel Castro”, while another (Brenda Peterson) is lambasted for opposing “under God” in the pledge of allegiance. Contrast this with his now infamous defense of Bush’s Catholic liaison– following allegations of inappropriate sexual relations with his18-year old student (after getting her drunk), Donohue blamed the victim, decrying the allegations of a “drunken female he met in a bar.” Even by Donohue’s standard, this was low.
And then there is the Bob Jones incident. During the 2000 election, Donohue accepted Bush’s apology for speaking there, claiming that the issue was now settled. He talked about Christian forgiveness. He then went on to accuse John McCain of “demagoguery” and of playing the “politics of fear” for raising Bob Jones’s anti-Catholic and racist background. And others who kept raising the issue were engaging in a “smear tactic” for “political profit”. Later, when John Ashcroft received an honorary degree from Bob Jones, and was criticized, Donohue leaped to his defense, calling it “much ado about nothing” and declaring that Ashcroft was right to attack his opponent for raising the issue. So much for speaking out against anti-Catholicism.
And how about the Justice Sunday incident? Here, Donohue faced allegations that some of his evangelical allies included those who branded Catholicism a false religion. Perfect fodder for the president of the Catholic League? Alas, wrong again. Donohue not only defends his friends, but attacks phantom left-wing critics: it’s the “fat-cat, left-wing bigots like George Soros who concern us” whereas “Dobson is our friend.”
No, on all issues, Donohue is a partisan Republican in a deep alliance with the evangelical right. Just look at the policy issues he focuses on: aside from abortion and gay marriage, he spends an inordinate amount of time discussing such core Catholic issues as the public display of the Ten Commandments, the pledge of allegiance, and school vouchers. Bill also has views on other topics too. How about the allegation that Republicans favor tax cuts for the rich? “The greedy want to keep the money they’ve earned; those who want to take it from us are the altruists”. What about the Iraq war? Here, he claimed, falsely, that Pope John Paul never said that there was “no legal or moral justification for the war”. And he angrily denounced those who “exploited” the pope’s position while not respecting “his teaching on all subjects”.
That’s the history. And we saw a little replay last year when Donohue starting attacking Obama. Donohue claimed Obama’s website listed testimonials of “three controversial clergymen” including a Chicago-area Catholic priest. Among the accusations are that these clergymen condemned zionism, and blamed 9/11 on American foreign policy, received an award from the Nation of Islam, befriended Louis Farrakhan, and demonstrated against a gun store. I guess Donohue can pat himself on the back for demagoguing this non-issue before the national media jumped on the bandwagon.
Ponder these issues for a minute. What exactly is anti-Catholic about condemning Zionism? The Church has never taught that the covenant with the Jewish people includes a land grant to the modern secular state of Israel. Blaming 9/11 on American foreign policy? Only the hyper-nationalist and perpetually self-deluded refuse to admit that American foreign policy has no hand whatsoever in promoting a terrorist backlash. And what about those icons on the evangelical right who did indeed say that Americans brought 9/11 onto themselves– Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell? Donohue was strangely quiet about this one. And the last point: demonstrating against a gun store? Bill would do well to educate himself on the position of the US bishops towards gun control, dating from the 1970s. Something about a culture of life.
Anyway, Donohue’s past may be catching up with him. And his best friend Deal Hudson may be the one to do him in! For Hudson’s book basically claims that Karl Rove recruited Donohue to engage in Catholic outreach for Bush and the Republicans. It explains a lot about how Donohue defended Bush and attacked McCain in South Carolina in 2000. Of course, that could jeopardize his tax-exempt status and his $343,000 salary a year (a man of modest means!)…