The Republican National Committee has formally announced their national Catholic outreach effort for the election year, and the outlines of their strategy are a master stroke of focus group sculpting and psychological manipulation. Chairman Ken Mehlman appointed Leonard Leo and John Kelly to serve as National Co-Chairs for the RNC's Catholic Outreach. He wrote, "These two Catholic leaders will work with my full confidence to solidify the growing relationship between the Republican Party and Catholic voters all across our great nation. We will count on Jack and Leonard to take a leading role as our entire Catholic grassroots effort is advanced by millions of Catholics who share the GOP's compassionate conservative agenda of traditional values, free enterprise and a strong national defense."
The Republicans are fully aware of the contradictions their strategy portends. No serious scholar of Christianity would contend that "free enterprise and a strong national defense" are Christian values. As practiced under the Bush Administration, the pursuit of free enterprise means the enrichment of a few at the expense of the many, which is antithetical to the most frequently repeated invocations of scripture regarding poverty. Self-enrichment, however desireable from an economic standpoint, is not a Christian value.
As importantly, the reference to "strong national defense," in the hands of the Bush Administration, signifies their commitment to preemptive war, the construction of new classes of nuclear weapons, and the weaponization of space. The Bush approach to defense is a profane violation of everything that Christianity stands for, as captured in the single phrase that all Biblical scholars agree can be directly attributed to Jesus: love your enemies. There is no love for our enemies in this Administration, and their combativeness toward enemy and ally alike has made all Americans less safe.
Mr. Kelly was quoted in Mr. Mehlman's press release as saying, "Working through the RNC's Political Division we are committed to an expansive outreach program that will not just maintain but increase the support shown by Catholics in 2004. The Republican principles of a strong commitment to a culture of life and to the economic and national security of our country resonates with active Catholics. Our goal is to let Catholics know they are the key to the future success of the Republican party."
These Republican efforts represent a brilliant self-serving electoral strategy at the expense of American Catholicism, given the huge role that Catholic voters played in serving up the presidency to George Bush in 2004. More than that, however, the attempt to pass off Republican militarism and greed as if they were Catholic values is subversive to Catholicism itself. However one may feel about having a strong military and cutting the tax burden on wealthy Americans, let us agree that these are not Christian values. We will continue working with Catholics across America to advance a simple message: the power of Christ's call to peace, reconciliation, and concern for others must not be used to advance the self-serving political agenda of the radical Republican right.