Catholic League’s Bill Donohue Continues Partisan Attacks

Posted May 30, 2008

Catholics United executive director Chris Korzen issued the following statement today in response to Catholic League president Bill Donohue’s latest attack on Sen. Barack Obama:

“Today Bill Donohue issued a set of frivolous comments on Rev. Michael Pfleger’s recent inappropriate remarks about Hillary Clinton. Instead of focusing on the nature of Pfleger’s remarks, Mr. Donohue chose the unfortunate path of using the incident to question the character of Sen. Barack Obama. Catholics United is concerned that Donohue’s comments appear part of a systematic campaign to influence the outcome of the upcoming presidential election by maligning Sen. Obama to Catholic voters.”

“This pattern of partisan rhetoric is nothing new to the Catholic League under the leadership of Mr. Donohue. Donohue has targeted Senator Obama and his advisors in recent months over similarly petty issues. Earlier this year, he let John McCain off easy over an endorsement from the anti-catholic John Hagee, while in 2007 he vowed to make John Edwards’ hiring of two anti-catholic junior staffers the central issue of the election. In 2004, Donohue pursued a relentless campaign to challenge the credibility of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry by painting him as a bad Catholic. And we know from Deal Hudson’s book Onward Christian Soldiers that Donohue participated in at least one campaign meeting Karl Rove during the run-up to the 2000 election.”

“Catholics United wholeheartedly supports the Catholic League’s noble mission of ‘defending the right of Catholics – lay and clergy alike – to participate in American public lifeout defamation or discrimination.’ It is difficult, however, to understand how Donohue’s own political activity as Catholic League president is consistent this mission or the organization’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax status.”

“We are also concerned that Donohue’s media profile risks creating an appearance of partisanship on the part of the entire Catholic community. Although he often seems to pretend otherwise, Mr. Donohue has absolutely no authority to speak for Catholics or the Church institution.”


Catholics Urge Sen. Lieberman to Avoid Speaking Appearance with Rev. John Hagee

Posted May 30, 2008

The leaders of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United today urged Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn) todraw his support for Rev. John Hagee and the Texas pastor’s “Christians United for Israel” summit. Sen. Lieberman is scheduled to appear at the event in July. In a letter to Sen. Lieberman, the groups cited Hagee's “long-standing pattern of intolerant behavior” that includes comments offensive to many groups of Americans.

Hagee has stirred controversy in recent months for having referred to the Catholic Church as “the great whore” and claiming that God sent Hurricane Katrina to punish residents of New Orleans for immoral behavior. More recently, revelations surfaced that Hagee believes Adolf Hitler’s persecution of Jews was carried out in fulfillment of God’s will. The pastor has also made comments offensive to Muslims, women, and African-Americans.

“Senator Lieberman must send a strong message to all Americans that Hagee’s bigotry and extremism have no place in our political system,” said Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance. “The best way to do this is to renounce his support of Hagee, anddraw from the ‘Christians United for Israel’ summit.”

“Americans of all political stripes are desperate to move beyond the divisiveness and partisanship that have characterized U.S. politics in recent years,” said Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United. “By participating in Hagee’s summit, Senator Lieberman risks perpetuating the acrimony and intolerance that the pastor has come to represent.”

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Bill Donohue Still Shilling for Karl Rove

Posted May 02, 2008

Today, Bill Donohue, the President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a 501c3 tax exempt organization, issued a press release labeling Obama's Catholic advisors as Catholic dissidents. By issuing this statement, Donohue not only jeopardizes his tax exempt status but also raises larger concerns over the use of his organization for a partisan agenda.

According to the book Onward Christian Soldiers by the Republican operative Deal Hudson, Karl Rove recruited Bill Donohue to participate in Republican organized efforts to court Catholic voters. By attacking the Catholic advisors of a presidential campaign at this moment, Bill Donohue is again engaging in partisan politics.


Chris Korzen Participates on PEW Forum Panel on Religion and Politics

Posted May 01, 2008

Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United, joined Faith and Public Life director Jennifer Butler, Clemson University professor Laura Olsen, and moderator John Green for a discussion on the state of religion and progressive politics in the 2008 elections.

Click Here to watch the panel discussion in full.


Catholics United Calls on John McCain to Reject Offensive Comments about Hurricane Katrina

Posted April 24, 2008

Sen. John McCain today visited storm-ravaged New Orleans and held press events at St. David’s Catholic Church and Xavier University. Despite mounting pressure, however, the senator has yet to reject comments made this week by prominent supporter Pastor John Hagee – who claims God “willed” Hurricane Katrina because the city of New Orleans had been planning a “homosexual rally.” Catholics United is calling on Sen. McCain to reject Hagee’s intolerant statements.

“John McCain has a clear choice. He can stand U.S. Catholics who see Katrina as a tragedy of immeasurable human suffering, or he can stand Pastor John Hagee – who sees Katrina as God’s punishment for hosting a ‘rally,’” said Catholics United communications director James Salt. “But to visit the 9th Ward of New Orleans while simultaneously retaining the support and counsel of Pastor Hagee is simply unacceptable, and a tremendous insult to those directly affected by the Katrina tragedy.”


Catholics United Asks National “Catholic” Prayer Breakfast to Renounce Partisanship

Posted April 18, 2008

As Pope Benedict XVI addressed the United Nations today, calling on the global community to reject violence and strive for a more peaceful world, Republican operatives hosted President George Bush and Senator John McCain at the National “Catholic” Prayer Breakfast (NCPB) in Washington. Although the event is billed as nonpartisan, 4 of 5 members of its board of directors are engaged in Catholic outreach for the GOP and for the McCain campaign.

Catholics United members gathered outside the event at the Hilton Washington today to inform individual Catholics and members of the media about the true nature of the prayer breakfast, and to remind Americans that President Bush and Senator McCain are out of step Catholic teaching on a number of issues – chief among them war and torture.

These members honored the fullness of the Catholic faith and Pope Benedict’s message of peace two giant 64 square foot banners reading “Enough the Slaughter… Violence… Hatred in Iraq! - Pope Benedict XVI Palm Sunday 2008,” and “Thank You, Pope Benedict, for Speaking out against War.” They also delivered more than 1,200 signatures from members across the country, calling on prayer breakfast organizers to “refrain from using our faith to advance a partisan agenda,” and to “support the fullness of Catholic teaching by using this year's prayer breakfast to challenge President Bush and Senator McCain on unjust war and all forms of torture.”

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Catholics United Asks National “Catholic” Prayer Breakfast to Renounce Partisanship

Posted April 18, 2008

Washington, D.C. – As Pope Benedict XVI addressed the United Nations today, calling on the global community to reject violence and strive for a more peaceful world, Republican operatives hosted President George Bush and Senator John McCain at the National “Catholic” Prayer Breakfast (NCPB) in Washington. Although the event is billed as nonpartisan, 4 of 5 members of its board of directors are engaged in Catholic outreach for the GOP and for the McCain campaign.

Catholics United members gathered outside the event at the Hilton Washington today to inform individual Catholics and members of the media about the true nature of the prayer breakfast, and to remind Americans that President Bush and Senator McCain are out of step Catholic teaching on a number of issues – chief among them war and torture.

These members honored the fullness of the Catholic faith and Pope Benedict’s message of peace two giant 64 square foot banners reading “Enough the Slaughter… Violence… Hatred in Iraq! - Pope Benedict XVI Palm Sunday 2008,” and “Thank You, Pope Benedict, for Speaking out against War.” They also delivered more than 1,200 signatures from members across the country, calling on prayer breakfast organizers to “refrain from using our faith to advance a partisan agenda,” and to “support the fullness of Catholic teaching by using this year's prayer breakfast to challenge President Bush and Senator McCain on unjust war and all forms of torture.”

“The National ‘Catholic’ Prayer Breakfast is better described as a Republican strategy session and photo-op,” said Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United. “The decision to invade Iraq and the support for certain forms of torture are the two greatest lapses of moral judgment by a public official in my lifetime. To host President Bush and John McCainout addressing these concerns is offensive to Catholics and to Pope Benedict’s message of peace.”

To avoid the appearance of partisanship at future prayer breakfast events, Catholics United is asking that NCPB organizers speak unequivocally against unjust war and torture and adopt a more politically diverse board of directors.

“The host of Republican activists who comprise the breakfast’s board of directors make its partisan commitments very clear,” said Catholics United organizing director James Salt. “The organization has a long way to go to achieve the nonpartisan requirements of its nonprofit tax status.”

The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast board of directors is comprised of:

  • Joseph Cella, President – currently serves on John McCain’s National Catholic Steering Committee as well as McCain’s Virginia Family Issues Committee. He is former President of the conservative group Fidelis, whose political action committee gave exclusively to Republican candidates in 2006, primarily Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
  • Austin Ruse, Vice President – currently serves on John McCain’s National Catholic Steering Committee as well as McCain’s Virginia Family Issues Committee, and as president of the Culture of Life Foundation and Institute. At the 2006 Prayer Breakfast, he referred to President George W. Bush as “The Second Catholic President.” He told the New York Times after the 2004 election: “Those 25 percent of voters who said moral values were the animating issues in this election, that is us. We understand that President Bush is a very loyal guy, and we believe that President Bush will be loyal to those who put him there.”
  • Jacqueline Halbig, Treasurer – serves on John McCain’s Virginia Family Issues Committee, is the Bush Administration’s appointee to the Department of Labor's Center for Faith and Community Based Initiatives, and is a former employee of both the Christian Coalition and the Family Research Council. Halbig is a Republican National Committee donor.
  • Leonard Leo – currently serves as the Republican National Committee’s national co-chair for Catholic outreach. He formerly served as vice president of the Federalist Society, which bills itself as “a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order.”
  • Bill Saunders – is Family Research Council Human Rights Counsel, and Federalist Society Vice Chair for Religious Liberty.

More information on the National “Catholic” Prayer Breakfast is available at www.catholics-united.org/ncpb.

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Catholics United is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting the message of justice and the common good found at the heart of the Catholic Social Tradition. This is accomplished through online advocacy and educational activities. For more information, visit www.catholics-united.org.


Bush Touts His Antiabortion Record to National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

Posted April 18, 2008

By Katherine Skiba - U.S. News and World Report
April 18, 2008

President George W. Bush this morning attended the fifth annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., and on hand were GOP presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, cochairmen of Catholics for McCain. The event drew criticism from one Catholic group, Catholics United, which called it a "shameful attempt to shoehorn authentic Catholic teaching into a partisan political agenda."

In his remarks, Bush was effusive about the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, who concluded the Washington portion of his trip Friday when he left to address the United Nations General Assembly. The president also touted administration initiatives dealing the sanctity of life, help for Catholic schools, and support for faith-based groups. The president, a Methodist, said the pope's visit made for a "joyous time" for Catholics and that "it wasn't such a bad week for Methodists, either." Talking about Benedict, Bush added: "He is a humble servant of God. He is a brilliant professor. He is a warm and generous soul."


Concern over Cardinal Newman Society's Selective Application of Church Teaching

Posted April 16, 2008

Catholics United has sent a letter to Cardinal Newman Society Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education Director Joseph Esposito expressing concern over the organization’s apparent inconsistent application of Catholic teaching to candidates for public office. Last month, the society challenged Villanova University for hosting Michelle Obama – citing her husband Barack Obama’s support of “Roe v. Wade, partial-birth abortion and embryonic stem cell research,” – but has yet to express similar concerns over a speech Sen. John McCain gave at the same university yesterday.

Senator McCain has not indicated that he opposes all forms of embryonic stem cell research.

In the letter, Catholics United urges Mr. Esposito to “correct this discrepancy immediately, so as to avoid any appearance that your organization is applying Church teaching and its own policies selectively in the service of certain political candidates.”

The full text of the letter is available here.


Crowds of Catholics line Pennsylvania Avenue to welcome Pope

Posted April 16, 2008

By Dennis Sadowski - Catholic News Service
April 16, 2008

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The sounds of guitars, tambourines and drums filled Pennsylvania Avenue just west of the White House early April 16 as thousands of people gathered to welcome Pope Benedict XVI to America.

Led by an estimated 5,000 members of the Neocatechumenal Way from across the country, Catholic pilgrims gathered at sunrise at Lafayette Park before law enforcement officers cleared the square across from the White House for security reasons.