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Opinion | Margery Eagan

Has anyone told those MAGA-hat teens that Trump contradicts church teachings?

Protestors gathered outside the Catholic Diocese of Covington in Covington, Ky.
Protestors gathered outside the Catholic Diocese of Covington in Covington, Ky. (John Minchillo/AP)

I don’t know what actually happened last weekend in Washington between Covington Catholic High School students and Native American Nathan Phillips.

I do know that Catholic boys in MAGA hats, who are old enough to join D.C.’s national “pro-life” march against women’s rights, are old enough to understand the message of the red caps they wore. Sadly, MAGA hats have become provocative, even scary symbols of President Trump’s animus toward Muslims, African-Americans, desperate refugees, and uppity women everywhere, including more than a dozen who’ve accused Trump of sexual misconduct as well as the four beauty contestants who dared complain that he ogled them, undressed, when they were in high school.

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If not the MAGA boys, didn’t the Covington Catholic school chaperones know any of that?

The disgraced Catholic Church, still far short of cleaning up its sex-abuse mess, has nonetheless been unrelenting in its critiques of numerous Trump policies, particularly immigration.

On Tuesday, the US Conference of Bishops, citing the “anguish” of undocumented immigrants, criticized the president’s latest proposal to reopen the government because Trump offered only temporary, not permanent, relief for so-called Dreamers (immigrants brought to the United States as children).

So often does Pope Francis preach about embracing migrants and refugees (“build bridges, not walls!”) that he’s surely the world’s most powerful, relentless counterpoint to a president who routinely demeans refugees as rapists, sadists, and murderers. Over and over, Francis has said that helping refugees, migrants, and the poor is just as important as opposing abortion.

If not the MAGA boys, didn’t the Covington Catholic chaperones know about that either?

The Catholic MAGA boys surely underscored the complete partisan takeover of Washington’s March for Life. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife spoke. So did Trump, via video, and marchers erupted in cheers just at the sound of his name. MAGA and “Trump 2020” hats were all over the place. So were signs that read, “Make Unborn Babies Great Again,” raising the question: What about the born babies Trump took from mothers at the border?

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Conservative radio host Ben Shapiro, the headline speaker at the march, caused a stir when he said, oddly, that no true “pro-life person on earth would kill baby Hitler” because “baby Hitler was a baby.”

Shapiro is also a well-known pro-gun media crusader, which raises other questions: Why even invite Shapiro? Can the March for Life be “pro-life” when it’s also pro-gun?

Much has been made about the rush-to-judgment vitriol and inexcusable threats of violence made at Nick Sandmann, the MAGA-hatted teen in the video standing in front of Phillips, and at Covington Catholic, which closed this week out of safety concerns. But vitriol went both ways.

Daniel P. Horan, a Franciscan priest, author, and theologian, was on the receiving end of the vitriol (as was his school, Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union) after Brietbart News ran Horan’s tweet trashing the Covington teens and the march itself as “repulsive” and “basically a gathering for many right-wing abortion hard-liners (not consistent ethic of life, i.e. true pro-lifers).”

“We are more than a one-issue community,” Horan told me. “The government shutdown is a pro-life issue. Church opposition to capital punishment, LGBTQ rights — all pro-life issues,” he said. “The MAGA slogan itself is very antithetical to some basic tenets of the Christian faith.”

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It’s also “Christian heresy,” added Jim Wallis, the prominent evangelical who also says Fox News may have confused some Catholics about true church social teaching.

The Catholic MAGA boys, who are old enough to march against women’s rights, are old enough to know some of that too. And this: that the president, vice president, Supreme Court, and much of America’s political power is aligned against women’s freedoms. That women are already being criminally prosecuted for unintended miscarriages and stillbirths. And that young men on a moral high horse about what rights a woman is entitled to look ridiculous when they do it embracing Mr. MAGA himself, who’s bragged about getting away with groping and abusing women because, you know, he is famous.

Women’s freedoms are serious business. And MAGA hats are no teen-boy joke.


Margery Eagan is cohost of WGBH’s “Boston Public Radio.” Her column appears regularly in the Globe.