On October 21, 2004, President George Bush hit the campaign trail in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Keystone State has 21 critical electoral votes which are in the toss-up category. Bush was pushing a theme which he describes as a “culture of life.” In reality, it is a “culture of death” (http://www.bushwatch.net/), writ large, as U.S. bombs continue to rain down destruction on Iraqi civilians in Fallujah, Samarra, Baghdad and Mosul.
There was nothing unusual about an incumbent president soliciting for votes, with the Nov. 2nd election looming only 12 days away. What was truly objectionable, however, was that Bush also made a campaign stop at Downingtown, PA., where he met, not with GOP officials, but with Cardinal Justin Rigali, the powerful Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia.
Cardinal Rigali is the same conservative cleric, who gave a homily on Oct. 3, 2004, (http://www.archdiocese-phl.org/rigali/cardhom/respectlife.htm), which was distributed throughout the diocese of Philadelphia to its 1.5 million members. It reads like a ringing political endorsement of the candidacy of the hawkish President Bush, who is supposedly pro-life (See, “Politics from the Pulpit: Free Speech or Partisan Danger?,” by Charles C. Haynes, 10/03/04, http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/commentary.aspx?id=14127).
In his homily, Cardinal Rigali said, “As the electorate we have a duty and responsibility to vote for candidates who hold with our ‘Catholic teaching’ that respecting all life from conception to a natural death is inviolable…” The Cardinal did not name Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in his sermon. Nevertheless, the press reported that the homily was “clearly aimed at the pro-choice candidate” and favored Bush’s candidacy (Washington Times, “Bush Pitches for Catholic Vote,” Joseph Curl, 10/22/04),
The cozy confab, a few weeks later, on Oct. 21st, between President Bush and Cardinal Rigali took place in a church rectory, in Downingtown, in which the cleric and the president supposedly had “a good discussion about shared priorities.” Shared priorities? Gee, I wonder what they are?
In a talk a few months ago, on Aug. 3, 2004, Bush “drew standing ovations” for his anti-abortion remarks at a Knights of Columbus convention in Dallas, TX, from Rigali, and other cardinals, bishops and priests. According to Elizabeth Bumiller, of the New York Times, 08/04/04, the president also promised in Dallas, that “Religious organizations would receive part of $188 million in government grants this year for social service programs, the centerpiece of a White House ‘faith-based initiative.'” Did the $188 million federal grant come up in the chat between President Bush and Cardinal Rigali as one of those “priorities?”
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees religious freedom. It also erects a “wall of separation between church and state.” A House of Worship, like a R.C. church, since it is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, religious organization, cannot endorse a candidate for public office or engage in partisan politics, without risking the loss of its IRS tax exemption.
I believe that both President Bush and Cardinal Rigali crossed over that line separating Church and State this week. Rigali contributed by obliquely giving Bush’s candidacy his “blessing” in a public homily. And, Bush did his part by choosing to make a campaign stop at a church rectory to reinforce, via a photo op, the endorsement by the cleric on Oct. 3rd. They both deserve censure for their conduct, which mocks, at the very least, the spirit, if not the letter of our First Amendment. You would also think that the Roman Catholic Church, still reeling from the shocking pedophile/priest/coverup scandal (http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/coverage/jan_02.htm) would be more mindful of its civic responsibilities in this matter. Whether this incident was also a violation of the tax code, I’ll leave to the experts.
I’m sure that neither President Bush or Cardinal Rigali brought up at their parley, the fact that, of the 1,104 U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq, 60 have come from Pennsylvania, including three from the city of Philadelphia (http://icasualties.org/oif/ByState.aspx). I will bet, too, that neither man mentioned that an estimated 15,377 Iraqi civilians have died in that conflict, which was preemptively launched, based on a campaign of massive lies by the Bush-Cheney Gang on March 20, 2003 (http://www.iraqbodycount.net/). They probably avoided that kind of dialogue, since “church teaching” on a “Just War” is regularly ignored anyway, as Rigali’s approval of a warmongering Bush so embarrassingly corroborates.
And, we can be confident that the duo didn’t also talk about the loss of 166,200 manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania to outsourcing, since 2001 (The Express Times, Jonathan Henry, 10/21/04, “Job Loss Blamed on Outsourcing”). The president’s pro-elitist trade policies have encouraged the ongoing destruction of the country’s manufacturing base. As for Cardinal Rigali, his male-dominated church’s view of the world seems totally fixated on only one area: namely – a female’s reproductive organs – to the detriment of all others (http://www.worldrevolution.org/). Job losses for the working class of Pennsylvania don’t show up on the Cardinal’s social/justice/moral calendar, nor do the hundred of billions of taxpayers dollars wasted on this immoral and illegal Iraqi war (http://www.warresisters.org/piechart.htm).
Cardinal Rigali is convinced that President Bush is pro-life. Really? How could anyone responsible for so much unnecessary carnage in Iraq be characterized as pro-life? How? By what ethical, moral or legal standards? Pro-death is more like it. Also, how could a man, like Bush, who while serving as governor of Texas from 1995 to 2001, signed death warrants for 152 inmates, be seen as a respecter of human life? It would seem that Bush prefers death over life (http://www.ccadp.org/serialpresident.htm).
I wonder if Cardinal Rigali was transported to Fallujah, while it was under a U.S. attack, via bombs and missiles, would he, staying true to his one issue theology of moral wrongs, yell out: “Stop the Abortions?” Or might he, instead, witnessing the death and mayhem of this George Bush-Made-Hell-on-Earth demand: “Stop the Bombing!” The day is coming when historians will say that the R.C. Church’s embracing of the candidacy of the arch militarist Bush was a bigger stain on its reputation than the pedophile/priest scandal itself, which sent Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law into exile to Rome with a reported $12,000 a month stipend (“The Return of Cardinal Bernard Law,” Christopher Brauchli, 06/03/04, Counterpunch). As for the humanity-loving spiritual teachings of Christ, they have been so distorted by Church Fathers over the years, that I dare say, the original 12 Apostles wouldn’t recognize them today.
In any event, Roman Catholics make up 40 percent of the electorate in Pennsylvania. Cardinal Rigali’s boosting of Bush’s candidacy is also a gross insult to the independence of the Laity. Let’s hope Catholics in Pennsylvania will not give their political power away to him, or any other cleric, and will make their choice for president on Nov. 2nd based on what is best for themselves, their families and, in particular, for the future of our shaky Republic.