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Opinion | Eric Fehrnstrom

Clinton’s revolution against the Catholic Church

Globe staff illustration

AFTER KING HENRY VIII broke ties with the Catholic Church because of a dispute over marriage, Catholics were treated very badly. Bishops were locked up. Monasteries were closed. Tens of thousands were executed in the bloody turmoil of the English Reformation.

All of which raises an interesting point: If the church wouldn’t change its doctrine for the king of England, what makes Hillary Clinton think she can change it?

There are few things more chilling than a person in possession of political power, whether a sovereign or a candidate for president, believing they can rid society of religious beliefs they don’t like. Clinton gave us the first hint of her antireligious attitude in a speech last year where she lamented that too many women still don’t have unfettered access to abortion.


“Rights have to exist in practice — not just on paper,” Clinton said. “Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

Too bad, Christians, but your quaint religious beliefs against abortion “have to be changed.”

Newly leaked e-mails show that one of the ways Clinton plans to pressure the Catholic Church to change is through the creation of organizations with “Catholic” in their name that have as their cause the promotion of a progressive ideology in opposition to the bishops.

“There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church,” writes Sandy Newman, president of Voices for Progress, in an e-mail to John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.

After Newman admits he has not thought out who would “plant the seeds of the revolution,” Podesta replied: “We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this. But I think it lacks the leadership to do so now. Likewise Catholics United. Like most Spring movements, I think this one will have to be bottom up.”


Secular countries on the model of the United States are supposed to protect religious organizations from state interference. What the pro-Hillary forces are plotting is worthy of atheist countries hostile to the church. Soviet anti-Catholic campaigns were infamous for trying to limit the influence of the Catholic Church. Out of a desire to suppress its teachings, China brought Catholicism under state control. Cuba’s Fidel Castro exiled priests and dismantled the Catholic educational system.

A second e-mail chain exposes the patronizing superiority that Clinton’s team has for faithful Catholics in the conservative movement.

“They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy,” John Halpin, a scholar at the Center for American Progress, wrote to Podesta and Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director.

Palmieri replied: “I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion. Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelicals.”

Not surprisingly, none of this is going to help Clinton’s faith outreach. In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll released over the weekend, white Catholics continue to support GOP candidate Donald Trump by double digits, 51-38 percent. Among white evangelicals, the gap is even wider: 75 percent are with Trump.

It’s ironic that Clinton’s aides would reference the Arab Spring movement in talking about their “revolution” against religious authority, considering what a disaster it’s been for American foreign policy across the Middle East. One can only hope for the same result in their secret mission to undermine the Catholic Church.


Eric Fehrnstrom is a Republican political analyst and media strategist, and was a senior adviser to Governor Mitt Romney.