The Bishops & Those Emails

Forgive me if I do not join the chorus calling for John Podesta’s resignation or—drum roll—a pro-forma apology from Hillary Clinton for derisive email comments by her staffers about Catholics.

Hillary Clinton is corrupt to the marrow. She is guilty of actual crimes. But our shepherds avert their eyes from the squalor of Hillary Clinton’s behavior in office and her policy proposals. Instead, they take aim at the thought crimes of her campaign team.


Rollin Kirby. Making the Tin Box Boys Look Like Pikers (c.1930).


Like Lewis Carroll’s Caterpillar, our bishops puff away on their—federally funded—hookahs, “taking not the smallest notice of her or of anything else.” Then along come leaked emails circulated privately among high-level members of Clinton’s staff. Suddenly, these bravehearts take the hookah out of their mouths, and rear themselves upright to fume grandly over a red herring.


Arthur Rackham. Illustration for Alice in Wonderland (1907).


It’s all theatre. This burst of ecclesial umbrage is a practical move in public relations terms. It permits otherwise quiescent—and cooperative—shepherds to brandish credentials as spear-carriers for the Church. In reality, however, they are crippled in that role by their management of refugee resettlement programs which garner hundreds of millions of federal dollars. In effect, the USCCB functions as a government contractor. And lobbyist.

Reluctant to jeopardize funding from the State, our bishops go full throttle to endorse mass migration and open borders. This puts them eagerly in Hillary’s camp. At the same time, they are obliged to reject abortion, an inviolable duty that puts them in solid opposition to Hillary. They are caught, like Buridan’s ass, between two equally compelling bales of hay.



So they punt. They clamor for apology from an unscrupulous politician whose concession—if one were to come—would be meaningless. But the gesture will have been made. And the funds will keep flowing.


We know what a Hobson’s Choice is. Morton’s Fork is a dilemma caused by fallacious reasoning that leads to the same unpleasant conclusion by two faulty routes.


At play among the powers and principalities, our bishops know that their umbrage is anticipated, fully expected in the wake of WikiLeak’s disclosures. They also know their complaint has as much impact on political conduct as a wet snowflake that melts as soon as it lands. But making a show of grievance is the proper thing to do, if only for image’s sake. All political animals tolerate the protocols of image maintenance. They have to; they all use them.

Suppose the hustler candidate decides it is in her interest to issue an apology. What then? On what grounds should Catholics give a tinker’s damn? Are Catholic feelings so tender—and Catholics so easily stroked and manipulated—that they will be mollified by a Clintonian mea culpa? And then gladly pull the lever for a militant abortion evangelist?


Nuns at polling station

If that were to happen, our apology-seekers would have much to answer for. Catholics are already leaning heavily toward Hillary in the polls. We can thank our bishops—and their irresponsible sentimentalizing of migration issues—for the tilt.

Did any of our now-incensed bishops go public with denunciations of Clinton’s declared hostility to the Hyde Amendment? Or to the Affordable Care Act’s end run around the amendment via Medicaid? Even now, on the eve of the election, they are unwilling to censure Clinton by name for her catastrophic decision-making and lethal policy preferences.

In the light of the USCCB’s own sympathies and derelictions, there is something oddly comic about these calls for atonement. However much her staffers reflect Clinton’s attitudes, it was still the staff who made the offending remarks. And they made them privately. By contrast, Archbishop Chaput called Clinton “a scheming liar” in public. By the logic at work in this tempest, Clinton is within her rights to demand apology from the archbishop. But she is too smart to do it.

It would have been refreshing if the USCCB had responded more along these lines:

We are grateful to Wikileaks for bringing to light ugly attitudes we have long suspected but were reluctant to acknowledge.

A hearty thank you is due John Podesta and Jennifer Palmieri. Without meaning too, they did us all a mitzvah. Their contempt reminds us of something we tend to forget: federal monies get us by the throat. The Church is most free to be herself when she refuses the shackles of the State. Mr. Podesta and Ms. Palmieri prompt us to remember that the Church is no stranger to anti-Catholic bigotry. It has survived it before and will again. What it cannot survive is a pact with the devil.

Permit us to add: John, Jennifer—you are Catholics, yes? Why don’t you stop by for coffee after Mass one of these Sundays? We’d be delighted to see you. It would be lovely to talk over fresh scones and brioches.

And you, Julian. Sorry you can’t be with us. For this once, we are in your debt. Watch your back, son. Godspeed.

Note: This essay appeared first in The Federalist, October 26, under the heading “Catholics Should Condemn Hillary’s  Real Crimes, Not Her Staffers’ Email Comments.”