my sweet lord

I set out this evening with something really ambitious in mind. I wanted to connect the dots between evangelical Christianity and ultra-orthodox Catholicism and then explain why I felt that both movements threatened to undermine democracy in America. Unfortunately, about three hours into the project, I remembered that I’m not a journalist. And, even more troubling, I realized about a half an hour later that I’m not terribly smart. As a result, what you’re about to be subjected to isn’t so much an expose as it is a collection of loosely gathered links and random notes. I’m just going to toss them out here in hopes that someone with time and talent will stop by, pick up the ball and run with it.

I wouldn’t presume to tell someone else how to begin the story, but if it was me writing this piece, I think I’d start with the Reverend Jerry Falwell and his so-called Moral Majority. Here’s a clip from a recent article on the man, his movement, and the power they now hold in Washington.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell said yesterday that evangelical Christians, after nearly 25 years of increasing political activism, now control the Republican Party and the fate of President Bush in the November election.

“The Republican Party does not have the head count to elect a president without the support of religious conservatives,” Falwell said at an election training conference of the Christian Coalition.

Falwell said evangelical Christians are now “by far the largest constituency” within the Republican Party, their route to dominance beginning in 1979 with his founding of the Moral Majority, a precursor to the Christian Coalition.

And then, after tracing the roots of evangelical belief in America, and sharing a few snapshots taken along this 30-year march toward theocracy, I think I’d step back and focus on the concurrent forces in Catholicism which gave rise to today’s ultra-orthodox sects, the people who, along with the evangelical Christians, recently turned Jesus’ murder into box office gold. In telling that story, I’d suggest working in several mentions of Mel Gibson, former pizza delivery magnate Tom Monaghan, and Bush’s advisor on Catholic outreach, Dean Hutton.

On the subject of Hutton, I feel compelled to share this little clip that I just turned up at the National Catholic Reporter site, explaining why he left Fordham University. (I just can’t turn down an opportunity to expose hypocrisy, even if it messes up the flow of my story. I’m sorry, but it’s my kryptonite.) The quotes in the following clip are from a former student of Hutton’s.

“On the train, he began to feel my breasts outside my sweater and coat. We missed the Fordham stop (I’m not sure whether on purpose or not). We went to his house, he put me in his car, and he went up to tell his wife he was bringing a student back to Fordham.”

Once in the car, said Poppas, “Dr. Hudson told me to lay my head on his lap, suggesting fellatio when he unzipped his zipper. I did both. I sat up and said ‘Hold on a second, wait just a minute…’ He replied ‘Yes, let’s wait till we get to my office.'”

At Fordham, “He took me into his office, laid his long coat down, and laid me down on top of it. He began touching me, unzipping my jeans and pulling up my shirt. I was just glad to be laying down, I could barely feel my body.”

Hudson performed a sexual act on Poppas. He asked her to reciprocate, which she did. “Then he took me to Sesqui, my dorm,” recalled Poppas.

OK, now I’ve gone and completely lost my train of thought. Damn, damn, damn… I think I was going to say something about Tom Monaghan’s role as a financial backer of the campaign a few years ago to remove Ypsilanti’s anti-discrimination legislation that called for the equal treatment of gays and lesbians under the law… But all I can think about is this conservative Catholic professor sneaking into the girl’s dorm.

That, you see, is one of the reasons these things are better left to professional journalists.

Back to Monaghan, I wish I still had the postcard that was sent to my house by his group. It was even more terrible than the “Kerry’s going to ban the Bible” piece that I wrote about last week. Monaghan’s mailer centered around the image of a sadly unattractive man in drag. If I recall correctly, he was leering from beneath a platinum blonde wig, and the accompanying words said something like, “If this bill passes, this is the kind of person that will be sharing the public restroom with your granddaughter.” The legislation, fortunately, was defeated, but the saga isn’t over. Come November, the matter will be before the entire state of Michigan. (This demands a post of its own and it will be coming shortly.)

I know it doesn’t really fit here, but I just wanted to mention to my old readers that this blog will, at least to some degree, return to its old ways after the upcoming election. I know it’s gotten more boring than usual lately, but I’d like to ask that you just bear with me another month or so. Once November 4 rolls around, I swear that we’ll get back to the ball shaving, the monkey taints, and all the other things that brought you here in the first place. Really.

Oh, I also wanted to mention what brought this whole post on. It had its origins in a conversation that I overheard yesterday. I was standing in line somewhere behind two women, when one of them said to the other that her sister had been told at her Catholic church that if one were to vote the wrong way in the upcoming election that he or she would suffer for eternity in hell. They would, of course, lose their 501c3 tax-exempt status if anyone were to find out that they had advocated voting for Bush, but I don’t suppose there’s anything keeping them from saying, “Don’t vote for the one that revels in the murder of the unborn.”

I think I promised a few months ago to never link to that Moonie paper, the Washington Times, again, but I just found an interesting article on Tom Monahan (former owner of Domino’s Pizza) and his efforts to start a conservative Catholic law school here in Michigan, and I want to share it. Here’s a clip:

Increasing numbers of parents among the nation’s 63 million Catholics are turning their backs on the traditional powerhouse Catholic universities. They are gravitating toward a new breed of college that aims to attract students who place God’s truth, moral absolutes and loyalty to Pope John Paul II above parties, sexual hookups and winning football programs…

Indeed, Ave Maria Law School was founded in August 2000 after some of the best Catholic minds in the country gathered in Ann Arbor, Mich., in the spring of 1999. Among them: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Notre Dame criminal law professor Robert Blakey and Princeton University jurisprudence professor Robert George. Their mission: to dream up the perfect law school. …

Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan cashed in his share of the pizza empire in 1998, reaping more than $1 billion. Operating on the premise that it’s easier to realize ideals through a new institution than by reforming an existing one, Mr. Monaghan invested $30 million to open Ave Maria Institute in Ypsilanti, Mich. He followed with Ave Maria Law School, for another $55 million, in nearby Ann Arbor.

Mr. Monaghan proposed in 2000 to move the institute — which became Ave Maria College — closer to the law school. But city and county officials refused to rezone his property for academic use.

Mr. Monaghan then got a phone call from Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who urged him to move the college to the Sunshine State. “It had to do with teaching morals and values,” Mr. Monaghan, 66, says of their conversation….

“You can do so much more with a university,” Mr. Monaghan says. “You can train people to train people. If you have a good principal, you have a good school, just like having a good manager makes for a better pizza shop.”

There’s lots of other stuff that could be said, but I think that’s a nice note to end on… Tom Monaghan and Jeb Bush talking about churning people out to interpret American law based upon a pre-Vatican II Catholic doctrine as though they’re managers going through training to run a pizza shop. (I should add that it’s not just theoretical either. The first graduates of Ave Maria are now out in the world, clerking for conservative judges and trying to lay the groundwork for a society more aligned with their conception of morality. It’s scary, but true – the foundations for an American theocracy are being put in place.)

* This post was brought to you by the good men and women of Wal-Mart, who, even though they were forced to stop selling the infamous anti-Semitic tract “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, are still doing their part by refusing to sell John Stewart’s new Daily Show book that makes fun of the president.

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  1. Alicia Farmer
    Posted September 29, 2004 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    The ONLY good news about Ave Maria law school is that it is not accredited by the American Bar Association, which means (in most if not all states) its graduates cannot become members of the bar and actively practice law. Of course this doesn’t stop them from clerking and working other evil behind the scenes. And it’s only a matter of time before it can apply for accreditation. Then its alumni can start the active work of suing on behalf of unborn children and the like.

    Separately, any thoughts about the prominence this fall of Jews for Jesus in Ann Arbor? They’re out en masse before football games, at noon on the Diag, etc. I wondered whether you could find any links between their organization and the Apocalyptic Christians and the Israeli nationalists. I’m thinking of your earlier entry about Christian fanatics supporting middle east tensions as fulfillment of pre-Rapture conditions.

  2. Posted September 29, 2004 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    I’m Catholic and Catholics like Monaghan make me ashamed to say that. I like the group of inner city Detroit Catholic priests who tell us that we can vote for Kerry because we can take into account all the other evil Bush does, besides advocating against abortion. Of course, I didn’t really care if the church approved or not. I vote my conscience and my conscience tells me that four more years of Bush will kill the environment and my soul.

    I heard a piece on NPR last week on the Jews for Jesus movement. It was quite interesting. I don’t think I realised that they were being evangelical. Scary.

  3. stella
    Posted September 29, 2004 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    And also related very much to Monaghan and of particular local interest is the Word of God community, which my house used to be one of the epicenters of. They have now moved most of the enclave out your way, to Willow Run

  4. Posted September 30, 2004 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    Someone needs to write a book on Monaghan, his investments in these various causes and the agenda that drives him. As I mentioned yesterday, the task of reporting it is a bit beyond my skill-set, but I’m bright enough to know that there’s something big there… A little while ago, I linked to a story about the Republican message machine – if you search the archive for the word “tentacles,” you can probably find it. The piece did a good job of tracking the money going into right wing policy think tanks over the past few decades. The central point was that Republicans have been investing a great amount of their time and effort into planting seeds within the minds of the American public and now they’re reaping the benefits of that work. They essentially own the phrases that we’re using in our

  5. Fred L
    Posted September 30, 2004 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    And don’t forget to mention the new Crusade Against Evolution.

  6. stella
    Posted September 30, 2004 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    And if you watch the televangilists like I do they are now overtly soliciting funds for various “efforts” in Israel.
    I met a young man about 10 years ago who was going off to be trained by his church to be sent to Israel as a weapons “importer” but before he realized he was probably telling the wrong person, he told me all kinds of stuff about his “mission” which ultimately boiled down to helping foster the Apocalypse

  7. Dave Morris
    Posted September 30, 2004 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    I spent a few of my high school years at Detroit Catholic Central, which is run by priests of the Dominican Order. I would say that their emphasis was on teaching us to think critically. We were required to take Theology courses our freshman and sophmore years, with an emphasis on the discernment of good and bad. I think that this was extremely important for making judgements. For example: what is the good of carrying around a cross on wheels? If he has some kind of a goal in mind for the greater good of society, could he have found a more effective way of reaching it? Is his action even effective? Or another example: Is there any greater good coming from Howard Sterns sexually explicit discriptions over public airwaves? Are his arguements against the Bush administration valid? Can the two be considered separte from each other or does the one inadvertently taint the other?

    Our junior year we were required to take a course in morality as well as social justice. The senior year was a class in civics. There was no banning of books or limiting of scientific thought. We were given the tools to make judgements of our own.

    I have a number of friends that are Catholic and I consider myself to be a (non practising) Catholic. We look at the issues in the context of the greater good. I believe a lot of cardinals and bishops do also. The only suppression of critical thought that I see is the problem of the Pope as the vicar of God. If the pope states a position on an issue, it is to be believed that it is the word of God. This presents a problem because it would be difficult to explain why God has suddenly changed his mind on an issue.

    The Dominicans, the Jesuits, and a number of other orders have done an incredible job, in my opinion, of preparing young minds to reason critically while emphasizing the balance of person freedoms with social justice when passing a judgement. They have also done a great job of preserving knowledge in books and in minds.

    I did not walk away from that education feeling that I was indoctrinated into a Catholic dogma. Quite the opposite.

    I feel the problem that a number of Catholics are experiencing is the “respect for life” issue. If the Vatican issues a flat out statement that abortion is wrong, then there are all kinds of questions that are raised that are not satisfactorily answered. What if the mother is a rape victim? What if the mothers life is at stake? Why are we not rethinking the topic of contraceptives and sex education as a way of avoiding this problem in the first place? Maybe the topic of permiscuity, procreation, and accountability should be put back on the table and discussed before we even continue with the abortion debate. The “respect for life” foundation value is a good one, but it needs to be defined more clearly so that an end can be put to this other nonsense once and for all.

    I don’t feel that Tom Monahan and his ilk represents the type of Catholic that I am. I think he has taken the “respect for life” value and painted the world black and white on one issue. They like to say ” the wages of sin is death” as a response to all the other issues surrounding “respect for life”, like human rights violations, nuclear proliferation, environmental degradation, etc. I argue that if we cannot reason clearly in terms of the greater good instead of stubborn personal beliefs as well as in terms of centuries instead of fiscal cycles that we are going to be in a lot of trouble soon. If we impair our ability to sustain life on earth then the arguments about abortion may be cast in a very different light.

    Dave Morris

  8. Posted September 30, 2004 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Point well taken, Dave. I think you and I are of a like mind on this. I didn’t go to the Catholic school, but I grew up taking Latin and reading the “Great Books,” and I think I

  9. Posted April 16, 2005 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    mark, I realize this is a very old post, which I only noticed because it was comment-spammed, but several times in the last month I’ve had unrelated conversations with different people in which the subject of the Monaghan flyer you mentioned came up.

    So, I just went through my tub of “michigan souvenirs” and found the original, scanned it, and uploaded it here if you or anyone else wanted a copy of it.


  10. poppas
    Posted April 16, 2005 at 7:28 pm | Permalink


    Bravo to you!!! keep aborting those babies, come another 30 years or so evolution will take its course and there will be many fewer libs around.

  11. mark
    Posted April 16, 2005 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Finally, a troll that believes in evolution. All might not be lost, my friends.

  12. Heil Mary
    Posted December 12, 2005 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Check out Monaghan’s “pro-life, pro-family, anti-gay” Ave Maria Values Fund that invests in the widow/spinster-maker Northrop Grumman, endrocrine disrupter/polluter (gay fetus maker?) Exxon-Mobile, and democracy buster DIEBOLD!!! Monaghan and his adulterous wife dumping antiabortion buddies, Randall Terry, Deal Hudson, Gingrich, are probably sex tourist pedophiles who despise the longevity and safe sex of Third World women whose “sinfully smaller families” ruin the holy sexcapades of travelling GOP CEOs and priests! My ex boyfriend ran into Neil Bush at Bangkok’s White House “disco” CHILD BROTHEL! Starving girls make great hookers and their brothers are great “altar boys” or cannon fodder.

  13. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted December 13, 2005 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Some very serious accusations, but yet all I can think about is your ex-boyfriend and why he was at a child brothel in Bangkok. Is that maybe why he’s an “ex” boyfriend? Did it just slip out in conversation one day over breakfast? “Hey, Honey, guess who I saw at the child brothel? Doh!!!”

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