In 1958, as John F. Kennedy was preparing to run for president of the United States, polemicist Paul Blanshard published the second edition of his incendiary 1949 book, American Freedom and Catholic Power. This was the bible of anti-Catholicism in American public life. In it, Blanshard called for a “resistance movement” that would oppose the Catholic Church’s “antidemocratic social policies,” and attacked Catholic schools as “the most important divisive instrument in the life of American Children.” Echoing Blanshard’s bigotry, a February 1960 editorial in Christianity Today asserted that it is “perfectly rational” to oppose the nomination and election of a “Romanist” because “a Catholic presidency would be torn between two loyalties.”
In September 1960, Kennedy, sensitive to the broad public sentiment reflected in these broadsides, gave his famous speech to the Houston Ministerial Association, in which he renounced any claim that his Catholic faith might have on his moral life. Reducing his Catholicism to an accident of birth, Kennedy assured voters that it had no purchase on his political judgment. Sixty years later, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are, respectively, Kennedy’s religious and Blanshard’s polemicist heirs.
One difference between Blanshard and Harris, of course, is that the former possessed only the power of persuasion, whereas the latter possesses the power (and is campaigning for more) to institutionalize her bigotry against Catholics and public organizations whose practices are consistent with Catholic moral life. And she has wielded it vigorously.
For example, Harris is perfectly willing to impose unconstitutional religious tests to nominees to the federal bench. In 2018, when Brian Buescher was nominated as a District Court judge, Harris put this written question to him:
Since 1993, you have been a member of the Knights of Columbus, an all-male society comprised primarily of Catholic men. In 2016, Carl Anderson, leader of the Knights of Columbus, described abortion as “a legal regime that has resulted in more than 40 million deaths.” Mr. Anderson went on to say that “abortion is the killing of the innocent on a massive scale.” Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed a woman’s right to choose when you joined the organization?
She went on to ask Buescher if he had “ever, in any way, assisted with or contributed to advocacy against women’s reproductive rights” and if he “opposed marriage equality,” not so subtly implying that adherence to staples of orthodox Catholic moral life is disqualifying for a federal judgeship. And she has asked similar questions of other nominees to the federal bench.
Harris’s animus toward Catholicism is not limited to inquisition of Catholic nominees for federal courts, but also extends to harassment of public organizations whose missions are consistent with Catholic moral theology. In using her public offices to advocate against such institutions, Harris has earned broad financial support from pro-abortion individuals and groups.
For example, in 2016, when the Center for Medical Progress exposed evidence that Planned Parenthood was illegally trafficking organs and tissues from aborted children, then California attorney general Harris authorized a raid on the home of CMP’s David Daleiden, seizing video footage substantiating the evidence. Subsequently, Harris’s office conspired with Planned Parenthood, one of her generous political supporters, in drafting bill-of-attainder style legislation against CMP.
Similarly, in 2015, Harris was an enthusiastic advocate of California’s so-called Reproductive FACT Act, which forced pro-life pregnancy centers to inform their clients where they could obtain free abortions and to advertise abortion clinics. Claiming to have “co-sponsored” the FACT Act, Harris praised then California governor Jerry Brown for signing it into law. (In 2018, the Supreme Court struck the law under the First Amendment’s speech clause.) And in 2015, she used her power as California attorney general to put six Catholic hospitals out of business on behalf of another of her political patrons, the Service Employees International Union.
As a U.S. senator, Harris introduced the Orwellian “Do No Harm Act,” the purpose of which is to force religious individuals and organizations to engage in activities that directly violate their firmly held religious beliefs. And she is a co-sponsor of the “Equality Act,” which would force Catholic hospitals, for example, to perform gender transition surgeries, open women’s restrooms to men, and force girls and women to compete against boys and men in athletic competitions.
From California attorney general, to U.S. senator, to possible vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris has not attempted to hide her intention to fulfill Blanshard’s program of instituting a movement against the Catholic Church, and against individuals, organizations, and institutions whose beliefs, positions, and policies are consistent with the moral theology of the Church. Together with Joe Biden—John F. Kennedy’s assimilationist heir—never have two people with such open hostility to Catholic faith and practice been so close to the two highest offices in American politics.
Kenneth Craycraft is a licensed attorney and the James J. Gardner Family Chair of Moral Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and School of Theology.
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