A few years ago I would have thought the title of my piece was too extreme- I bought into the charisma of Barack Obama- never publicly supported him- but I thought he was someone who could bridge some of the serious difficulties that pro-life Democrats faced within my political party. I read his books, I thought he respected the Catholic Church as much as a secular political liberal could be expected to. Around that time I was trying to work from the inside of the Democratic party- running for Florida State House as a pro-life Democrat, and later serving as Vice President for the Florida Democats for Life organization. This was also the time period where I was invited to become part of a national Catholic Democrats listserve which included such notaries as : Vicki Kennedy, Lisa Sowle Cahill of Boston College, Rev. William D’Antonio and Rev. Anthony Pogorel of the Catholic University of America, Peggy Steinfels of Fordham University, Rev. Thomas Reese of Georgetown, Vincent Miller of Georgetown/U. of Dayton, Dan Maguire of Marquette, Doug Kmeic of Pepperdine, Suzanne Morse of NCR, Chris Korzen of Catholics United, Alexia Kelly of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Steve Callahan of the AFL-CIO, and others (Eric LeCompte, Nicholas Carfardi, James Salt, Morna Murray, Fred Rotondaro, Kari Lundgren). I never agreed to keep all that passed before my eyes confidential, but I never publicly revealed the basic content until now.
My reason for going public now is due to the recent event where the Worcester Bishop Robert McManus weighed in to prevent Vicki Kennedy from speaking at the Anna Maria College commencement. The press I read portrayed the Bishop as being overly vindictive and Kennedy milked the rejection, playing innocent, as though she is doing nothing to try to upend the Catholic Church as we know it- as a Hierarchical Institution. It was my experience on the Catholic Dem listserve that Vicki Kennedy was essentially my nemesis. I defended the Church as a Hierarchy, and the official teachings on abortion et al, and she took me to task almost every time I wrote pro-orthodox Catholic commentary- with plenty of Amens from her fellow travelers on the listserve. I did receive a few positive private emails from some on the listserve, but on the whole it was a very discouraging experience trying to defend the Church as a convert, who would be at a total loss if the Catholic Church put no stock in the teaching authority of the Pope and the Bishops, and taught that contraceptives, legal abortion, and gay marriage were just fine and dandy things. So Soon after posting this on the listserve-
“It is deeply troubling to me that this Catholic Democrats listserve membership seems more intent on finding reasons to pull some kind of palace coup against the Catholic Church Magisterium and Hierarchy in general, than to address specific issues related to the Catholic interests in American politics. I am a convert to Catholicism, I knew what I was signing up for in becoming a Catholic, I accepted the teachings and authority lines as prescribed by the latest Catechism. I simply cannot understand why those who seem to relish openly trashing the Apostolic successors retain membership in the Church- that is something that I can only address as an appeal to someone else’s good conscience. Most of my family is of the Protestant variety, I understand that thinking and worldview but reject it, but they are acting in good conscience- they don’t believe what the Catholic Church teaches about her role, so they don’t invest in the Catholic narrative and authority line. Maybe what I’m finding here at Catholic Democrats are many good protestants but not orthodox Catholics as I understand things?
You can remove me from your rolls if it displeases many here that I don’t conform to the groupthink on display here, otherwise I will continue to offer my two bits to challenge the establishment views of liberal, anti-Catholic Hierarchical voices which parallel the hard Catholic Right- in their wrongheadedness- in my humble opinion anyway. One is certainly free to criticize the clerical/Hierarchical handling of sexual abuse cases over the years- but how this all fits in with being a Democratic Party member is something I can’t fathom. Tim Shipe”
My offer to leave was accepted after Vicki Kennedy wrote a smack-down on me; and shortly thereafter I severed my own Democratic party membership and ended my leadership role with Florida Dems for Life- I took Archbishop Chaput route of becoming a political Independent and remain such today.
To come up to speed- back a couple of years ago- I knew that the most powerful and connected Catholic Democrats in our country were interested in more than just getting more traction on Catholic social justice issues in our American political system- I would describe the agenda/mind-set of Vicki Kennedy et al for the most part as the following:
1. Obama embodies the Catholic social tradition- he’s a better guide than the out-of-touch Pope/Bishops 2. Democrats for Life leaders were not welcome – despite my own inclusion for a time- Kennedy seemingly successfully squashed the idea of Kristen Day being invited to be part of the listserve 3. The Bishops who were outspoken for advocating the primacy of the right to life for the unborn were demonized, mocked, ridiculed, and at times the idea of trying to bring on an IRS investigation on these type of Bishops was being encouraged by some ( especially if they dared to consider withholding Communion from Pro-choice Dem leaders) 4. Bishops were described as “self-designated custodians of ‘the tradition’”. 5. Catholic Dems could aptly be self-described for the most part as “intra-Catholic warriors” 6. The Clergy Scandals were to be used to help bring the end of the Bishops line of authority- teaching and otherwise 7. This authority should pass to those who know best- the secular-minded Catholic professors and their liberal political activist friends- since there really can’t be such a thing as a Holy Spirit-guided Catholic Church with Popes and Bishops playing a key role- I suppose they could still hold onto ceremonial roles like the Kings in Europe.
I can see clearly now that President Obama has been very conscious of this war for control within the Church- and his choice of Vice President and HHS Secretary- Biden and Sebelius, respectively, was a conspicuous power move to set in place the acceptability of dissenting Catholic leaders and thought into the mainstream of American societal structures and popular imaginations. The fact that Obama “evolved” on Gay Marriage with help from his Catholic buddy Joe Biden, and his determination to mandate contraception as a must-have “medicine” through the offices of Catholic Kathleen Sebelius- all of this plays right into the larger goals of the Catholic Democratic party elite. There has been no such evolution in his comprehension and compassion for the thousands of unborn humans killed every day in abortions, and the threat to religious liberties is finely focused on the authority of Catholic Bishops and the official teachings of the Catholic Magisterium. I believe the Catholic Dems elite would like to re-make American Catholic Bishops in the image of the Anglican church in England- with Obama playing a kind of King Henry VIII role in forcing power transfers ( counting on public/Catholic lay apathy).
My conclusion is this- I am not in disagreement with the Catholic Dems elite on an across-the-board basis- I am not a conservative ideologue any more than I am a liberal one. There are political issues where I go left and others where I go right or down the middle- I make the honest effort to stay as close to the official social doctrine teachings of principles, and even the prudential judgment application of those principles as the Bishops and Vatican officials advise. I find that the same powers-that-be that are given Holy Spirit assistance to teach firm principles, are also pretty darn good at putting forth ideas for applying those principles into the real world of political legislation and the like- but I acknowledge it’s not an exact science with one formula fits all simplicities, however. That’s how I would describe my own efforts in being a wanna-be orthodox, faithful Catholic on matters of social doctrine. Others may disagree- I have no doubt that the Catholic Dem elites I list above are well-intentioned- but I believe they are threatening great harm to many souls and to the future of our Catholic Church as the Hierarchical Institution – founded by Jesus Christ. Reforms should be taken up in a spirit that respects the obedience of Faith. I don’t abide by clergy abuses and incompetent administrative decisions made by Catholic bishops- but you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater- just as you don’t kill babies in the womb to solve the problems of women and their mates.
For the past few years I have been taking my Catholic school students over to the nearby Mosque, as part of their World Religions research. It has gone well, everyone is on their best behavior, and it gives the students a chance to hear about Islam from devout Muslims, in their own place of worship. I also have visited the Mosque and Islamic community during the time of my run for public office to speak and dialogue about issues where we would find some common ground. It has all been a very positive experience, but there is one large elephant in the room that must be paid attention to.