For Newman, a longtime political actor who once hired a young Barack Obama for a voter registration project in Illinois in 1993, the controversy appeared to be a chance to foment revolution within the Church.
“There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church,” Newman suggested to Podesta.
“Even if the idea isn't crazy, I don't qualify to be involved and I have not thought at all about how one would ‘plant the seeds of the revolution,’ or who would plant them,” Newman added. “Just wondering…”
To this email, Podesta responded:
“We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this. But I think it lacks the leadership to do so now. Likewise Catholics United,” Podesta replied, according to the email. “Like most Spring movements, I think this one will have to be bottom up.”
Podesta suggested consultation with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Lt. Governor of Maryland and daughter of Robert F. Kennedy.
In his column, Archbishop Chaput recounted his visit from two young men from Catholics United just weeks before the 2008 presidential election between Barack Obama and John McCain.
The two men “voiced great concern at the manipulative skill of Catholic agents for the Republican Party,” Archbishop Chaput reported. “And they hoped my brother bishops and I would resist identifying the Church with single-issue and partisan (read: abortion) politics.”
“Yet these two young men not only equaled but surpassed their Republican cousins in the talents of servile partisan hustling,” the archbishop charged. “Thanks to their work, and activists like them, American Catholics helped to elect an administration that has been the most stubbornly unfriendly to religious believers, institutions, concerns and liberty in generations.”
“I never saw either young man again. The cultural damage done by the current White House has – apparently — made courting America’s bishops unnecessary,” the archbishop lamented. “But bad can always get worse.”
The archbishop noted other emails in the leak showing staffers at the Center for American Progress insulting Catholics and Catholic converts, claiming they “must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.”
He cited a letter from a nationally prominent non-Catholic attorney experienced in Church-State relations. The attorney declared the emails “some of the worst bigotry by a political machine I have seen… (a) Church has an absolute right to protect itself when under attack as a faith and Church by civil political forces.”
(Story continues below)
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He suggested it would be nice if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repudiated its content: “All of us backward-thinking Catholics who actually believe what Scripture and the Church teach would be so very grateful.”
Yet Archbishop Chaput appeared no friendlier to Clinton’s leading rival. He recounted a friend’s description of the leading political candidates: “A vulgar, boorish lout and disrespecter of women, with a serious impulse control problem; or a scheming, robotic liar with a lifelong appetite for power and an entourage riddled with anti-Catholic bigots.”
The archbishop lamented that in a country where the concept of choice is “the unofficial state religion,” the menu is “remarkably small.”
His unnamed attorney interlocutor also reflected on the state of the country, saying that before the leaks there was been “strong evidence” of the current administration’s hostility to religious organizations.
“Now there is clear proof that this approach is deliberate and will accelerate if these actors have any continuing, let alone louder, say in government,” the attorney said, according to the archbishop’s column.
The attorney charged there is an active strategy to shape Catholicism into the religion the political leaders wish.