THE HUGE PROMOTION given by the National Catholic Register to the affable Kansas Senator Sam Brownback failed to help him in his presidential bid last year, but, apparently, the Register has not stopped its warm support for pro-war, amnesty-supporting Republican candidates.
Despite a few nods toward Huckabee and Thompson, NCR found their man in McCain and quietly began the rehabilitation of his conservative image early this year. An article by Brownback himself praising McCain's "pro-life values" appeared Feb. 9, provoking numerous protests from indignant readers. However, with McCain's clinching of the nomination early last week, the NCR editors have accelerated their attempts to sell the maverick Republican senator to a widespread national Catholic audience.
Indeed, last Thursday's issue would have delighted all open-border-, Iraqi war-supporting Catholic readers. An enthusiastic editorial by Brian Burch, the president of Fidelis, a Catholic advocacy group, is prominently featured, in which Burch unabashedly proclaims John McCain as the "next 'Catholic' president," following the dubious example set by former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who fatuously dubbed our current president "the first Catholic president" at an Opus Dei event in Rome in 2003, patently ignoring JFK's Catholic identity because of Kennedy's pledge that his faith would not influence his political decisions.
Burch, who endorsed McCain February 11, praises McCain as "the most trusted leader on how to end the war---by winning it," and his "leadership" on the immigration issue, an issue which, Burch reassures us, has placed him in the same camp as "many Catholic social advocates." These two issues claim most of his attention in the article, though he takes a quick look at McCain's positions on moral issues, admitting they are "mixed" and "even problematic."
McCain's support of embyronic stem-cell research is dismissed with a feeble reference to anonymous sources who "have suggested" that McCain has in some unspecified way "signaled his willingness to reconsider his vote" on this issue. Burch brightly assures us that "such signals, if true, will further bolster McCain's credibility with faithful Catholics."
Concerning McCain's position on civil unions, Burch claims McCain supported a ban on homosexual marriage that included a ban on civil unions. It is common knowledge, however, that McCain is ambivalent on this issue, and it is not even addressed on his official website.
The McCain-Feingold Federal Election Act, which took away the free speech rights of pro-life activists to run ads against candidates before an election, is, ironically enough, not even mentioned by Burch, despite his being the vice-president of a Catholic legal advocacy group. In an article on Fidelis' website, the organization is described as "hoping to influence the political process by making contributions to federal candidates, buying issue ads, supporting favorable candidates, judicial nominees and legislation, and litigating cases in court," matters which are undoubetedly related to the infamous McCain-Faingold.
McCain's troubling record on moral issues notwithstanding, Burch's main reasons for bestowing the title of "next 'Catholic' president" upon McCain remain his aggressive stance on the war on terror and his much-criticized support of amnesty and open borders, represented in the McCain-Kennedy Amnesty Bill.
The famous iron will of the Arizona senator is particular cause for Burch's admiration. Strangely enough, McCain's fierce determination to stand by the surge in Iraq, and his steadfast support of his amnesty bill in the face of enormous opposition in his own party are typical of McCain and and deserve our praise, as Burch explains, since "Perseverance in a worthy cause despite criticism is a trait we should esteem in a political candidate."
Now Catholic veterans of the conservative movement are used to praising steadfast pro-life heroes like Congr. Henry Hyde and Phyllis Schlafly, and staunch moral leaders like our popes, but asking us Catholics to applaud McCain for his support of a morally questionable war (condemned by the last two pontiffs, by the way) and the opening of our borders to hordes of illegal immigrants is pretty tough to swallow.
Burch does not stop there in his absurd demands of Catholic voters. Lauding McCain's fervent war-mongering as an effort to "preserve our moral integrity," he exhorts Catholic voters to trust McCain simply because of his war experience: "Catholics should welcome McCain's judgment in this area, formed in large part from his own experiences."
In similar fashion, Burch extols McCain's "leadership" on the issue of amnesty for illegal immigrants, which has somehow become a new tenet of Catholic social teaching, based on the statements of a few American Catholic bishops. In his usual fashion, Burch does not bother to elaborate, no doubt because most of his conservative readers are not very sympathetic with McCain's views on this matter. He concedes that, at the very least, McCain's obvious appeal to Hispanic voters will help defeat the Democratic nominee in November.
Burch's rationale for giving McCain the 'Catholic' mantle is shallow, incomplete and misleading. Despite the fact that McCain has defended the unborn on several occasions, has supported some laws protecting traditional marriage, is against torture, and much big-government spending, it cannot be denied that he has also supported globalist, socialist, and anti-life measures, and is, in his personal life, hardly an exemplary Catholic, being divorced and remarried, with many rumors of extramarital affairs.
At best, I'm afraid, McCain is a mediocre conservative and a perfectly ordinary Episcopalian. Let's save the Catholic badge for someone who really deserves it.