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Catholic Bishops Cross Church-State Line
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February 10, 2006, 04:00 AM
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Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Writing in the online magazine American Chronicle ("Above the law," Jan. 27), Barbara Anderson points out the strong influence the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has had on immigration policy.

It has caused Catholic pulpits nationwide to urge open borders for legal and illegal aliens alike, she notes. "The Catholic Campaign for Human Development uses money from generous Catholics to train illegals to lobby and agitate for `rights` for illegals," says Anderson.

This is far from new business for this powerful Vatican-directed agency. Despite the new pope`s encyclical disclaimer about trying to influence public policy, Rome and these bishops have been hard at work trying to shape U.S. public policy for decades. And, to a large degree, they have succeeded. Let me illustrate.

We now have five male Catholic justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Most Catholics, particularly women, with whom I talk are highly displeased with this concentration of power and the likely rightward course of women`s rights under the new alignment. Evidence of this came sharply to me when I attended a Jan. 11 reception honoring Kate Michelman, recently retired president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Among those on the dais were her successor, Nancy Keenan, and Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice. All three were raised Catholic and all three are strongly pro-choice.

As the circus of these Alito hearings reminds us, subjective beliefs dominate the political, cultural and social dialogues, even in a nation supposed to be guided by separation of powers, separation of church and state, and the rule of law. No constitution or construct of man can possibly account for the diversity of views on the ultimate questions raised by our limited view of our limitless universe. That this new Supreme Court judge is "conservative" no one disputes, even if defining that word means voting often against the fair and broad exercise of basic human rights, including privacy.

Those who occupy chairs in the citadels of religiosity are naturally covetous of the "true faith" they embrace—not because it represents the truth but because it represents temporal power of the most useful kind. That, for example, the world`s richest institution, the combined resources and property of the Catholic Church, exposes the obvious basis for its biases on contraception, abortion and male-only priests as a means of flock control—particularly over women but also in a much broader sense over the American body politic.

The one question that was not raised at the Alito hearings was whether he felt that the activities of his church were legal under current statutes.

On Nov. 20, 1975, the American Catholic bishops issued their Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities. This plan is a superbly detailed blueprint of the bishops` strategy for infiltrating and manipulating the American democratic process at national, state and local levels. It called for the creation of a national political machine controlled by the bishops. In large measure, this machine has, dragging along its unwitting evangelical brethren, taken over the Republican Party.

Colgate University political science professor Timothy Byrnes calls it the most "focused and aggressive political leadership" ever exerted by the American Catholic hierarchy. So much for respect for the American constitutional principle of separation of church and state.

When the Supreme court decided Roe v. Wade (1973), late Bishop James McHugh was a monsignor and the staff director of the National Catholic Family Life Bureau.

In a March 4, 1987, interview by Byrnes, McHugh observed that "within 24 hours" of the court`s action, the bishops knew they would need to mount a political campaign in favor of a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion. "Indeed," Byrnes observed, "by November 1973 the bishops had explicitly declared that they wished `to make it clear beyond a doubt to our fellow citizens that we consider the passage of a pro-life constitutional amendment a priority of the highest order.`"

States the plan: "It is absolutely necessary to encourage the development in each congressional district of an identifiable, tightly knit and well organized pro-life unit. This unit can be described as a public interest group or a citizen`s lobby."

According to McHugh, some conference members asked if the bishops could credibly claim that these groups were not expressly subordinate to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Says Byrnes, "McHugh, who actually drafted the plan, told me that the NCCB`s (50-member) administrative board (which first passed the plan and authorized its presentation to a plenary session for adoption by the conference as a whole) debated this section of the document for `several hours,` searching for a way to formally distance these politically charged advocacy groups from the tax-exempt church."

Continues Byrnes: "As finally adopted, the Pastoral Plan defined a `congressional district pro-life group` as `an agency of citizens operated, controlled and financed by these same citizens` and added that `it is not an agency of the church, nor is it operated, controlled or financed by the church.`

"Some observers nevertheless pointed out that the actual—as opposed to the formal—independence of the lobby groups was belied by the highly detailed list of objectives and guidelines that directly followed this disclaimer."

In other words, the bishops themselves recognized that the disclaimer was ridiculous. They created an illegal political action machine and dared anyone to complain.

So far they are doing beautifully.

Samuel Alito has been confirmed and installed, and this behind-the-scenes plan should get much of the credit. And if the bishops have their way, real immigration reform as proposed in House Resolution 4437 will not occur. The most recent example of its efforts can be found in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter on migration (Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope ). The pastoral plan can be read in its original text here.

Donald Collins, a board member of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and a freelance writer living in Washington, DC., frequently writes on family planning and immigration reform.

Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.