Fools for Christ

The latest round of leaked emails from the Clinton campaign captures an email exchange between the Clinton campaign Director of Communications Jennifer Palmieri, John Halpin as senior fellow at the Center for American progress and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta:


Date: 2011-04-11 21:10

Subject: Re: Conservative Catholicism

Excellent point.  They can throw around “Thomistic” thought and “subsidiarity” and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they’re talking about.

Jennifer Palmieri <> wrote:

I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion.  Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelicals.

—– Original Message —–

From: John Halpin

To: John Podesta <>; Jennifer Palmieri

Sent: Mon Apr 11 18:55:59 2011

Subject: Conservative Catholicism

Ken Auletta’s latest piece on Murdoch in the New Yorker starts off with the aside that both Murdoch and Robert Thompson, managing editor of the WSJ, are raising their kids Catholic.  Friggin’ Murdoch baptized his kids in Jordan where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

Many of the most powerful elements of the conservative movement are all Catholic (many converts) from the SC and think tanks to the media and social groups.

It’s an amazing bastardization of the faith.  They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.

In an age of over-sensitivity, the response has not been surprising; Catholics are “offended” at the “bigotry” of the Clinton campaign.  The latter is most certainly true, but the speed at which Catholics found themselves “offended” shows that something is missing within the American Catholic vision.

During his third missionary journey, St. Paul found that a similar issue was facing the Corinthian Church.  The Church was under constant pressure from the surrounding pagan environment and was experiencing division because of it.  But rather than advising them to “take offense,” he gives them a very important reminder, one that we would do well to heed as well: “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).

In other words, a Christian should not be surprised when the world views them as foolish.  Only a fool would believe that a man who died a fool’s death is God.  Only a fool would believe that rather than coming as a mighty conqueror, God would come as a baby.  Only a fool would believe that God could be this foolish.  And the world would be right except for one thing—the Fool overcame death validating all that He said and did.  This same Divine Fool is gathering those interested in joining His band of fools.  We need reminders such as these because we are made in the image of a Fool and thus must be comfortable being foolish too.  There is a grace of becoming “fools for Christ.”

What these emails also reveal is the difficulty “those who are perishing” have in imagining someone acting for anything but political motivation.  Everything is framed in terms of politics—“Christian democracy” and “the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion.”  They “are perishing” not in the sense that they are going to hell per se, but that they put all of their hope in the State.  They will go the way of their redeemer, just as the fools will go the way of their Foolish Redeemer.

This, by the way, is why the same group consistently associates terrorists with “radical” Islam.  It is entirely inconceivable in their view for someone to act out of religious motivation.  It is also why the Church will always come into conflict with the unbridled secular state.  The Church claims a law above all human law, the secular state admits no law above the Constitution (as a challenge find a single mention of natural law in a Supreme Court decision in the past 50 years).  We should also then not be surprised when they plot to infiltrate the Church to destroy her from within.


This problem is nothing new in the life of the Church.  As the Roman Empire was crumbling around him, St. Augustine wrote what has become the best explanation of the Christian world view, The City of God.  The Doctor of Grace distinguishes sharply between two cities—the City of Man and the City of God.  This is not meant to be a distinction between the Church and State, but between a society founded on the love of God and a society founded by a group of thieves based on self-love.  Given that one of the two large party candidates has to win, it should be obvious which City the United States has become.

Rather than lobbing charges of bigotry or being offended our response ought to be Augustinian.  Anyone who reads City of God is instantly struck on how uncompromising he is to dialogue with Rome.  At the risk of being seen as foolish, he is confident that in all ways the Christian way of being is superior.  He doesn’t look for ways in which Christianity can be fit into the Roman system but instead takes it to task for its inherent injustice.

This is not to suggest that Catholics renounce their citizenship and move to Vatican City if either Trump or Clinton win the election.  Instead a solution can be found by applying one of those Catholic words —subsidiarity.

Our country has been plagued by two tendencies in the last 50 years, individualism and a strong centralizing tendency in government.  They really are two sides of the same coin.  As we grow more and more atomistic, the only thing that can hold us together is a stronger State presence.  As the State tries to maintain social cohesion, it will seek to eliminate smaller institutions like the family, civic associations and Church because they do not conform to the social norm they are imposing from above.  As inherently divisive, these groups are accused of “discrimination” or “severely backward gender relations.”  The groups can either dissolve, conform or risk being redefined from above.

Just so we know “what the hell” it is, subsidiarity is the principle by which “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good” (CC1883).  Why it matters is because it is a protection against the State that Clinton ( and all evidence suggests Trump seems to have no problem with it either) wants to form.  Yuval Levin in his book Fractured Republic says that nothing short of an effort to re-form mediating institutions based on the principle of subsidiarity will save our country.  As the largest “mediating institution” in the Country, the Catholic Church obviously plays a prominent role.

What we need is, not a Church that whines about being attacked, but fights back.  We are not defending ourselves, but defending the Truth.  We are not just defending the Church, but fight knowing that those “who are perishing” have a right to hear the Good News.  This comes from below, not from above.  Why haven’t Jennifer Palmeiri and John Podesta heard the real truths of Catholicism?  It isn’t because some Bishop didn’t tell them, but because those Catholics whom they encounter on a regular basis didn’t tell them.

What we need is, not so much a Church guided by strong Bishops who do not fear being foolish, but a Church filled with foolish laity.  What if Bishops started calling the laity out the way we have grown so accustomed to doing to them?  Subsidiarity applies within the Church as well as without.   The Church is a clerical domain, the world is ours.   It is time we took back our domain.  There is no clericalism within the City of God.

What we need most of all is, not a Church that is divided along liberal/conservative lines, but a Church that evangelizes from within and is Conservative in doctrine and liberal in love.  That is a Church that cannot be infiltrated.

May we all have the courage today to be fools!

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