Wow. The other day in the New York Daily News New York’s Timothy Cardinal Dolan wrote an astounding piece that was headlined this way:
Nativism rears its big-haired head: Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric is a sad return to a terrible American tradition
Among other things, the Cardinal said this:
During those happy days decades ago when I taught American religious history to university students, I spent a chunk of time in class on the ugly phenomenon called nativism, defined by the scholar and author Ray Allen Billington as, “organized, white, Protestant antagonism toward the Catholic immigrant.”
It flourished in our country during the 1840s and 1850s — actually becoming a popular political party, the Know-Nothings — and appeared again, in the 1870s, as the American Protective Association; in the 1920s, as the KKK; and during post-World War II America, as Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
These nativists believed the immigrant to be dangerous, and that America was better off without them. All these poor degenerates did, according to the nativists, was to dilute the clean, virtuous, upright citizenry of God-fearing true Americans.
(Among other American minorities, it must be said, Catholics like me often drew the ire of nativists.)
From there, the good Cardinal, normally the epitome of sensibility, was off and running in an anti-Trump tirade. Not only was this an anti-Trump ad hominem attack, it was a full-scale rant that in the most wretched style of modern American liberals divide both by race and worse for a Catholic prelate by religion. Sunday morning, Fox and Friends Sunday co-host Tucker Carlson was seated next to Fox religious contributor Father Jonathan Morris and succinctly began this way:
“I found this Op-Ed totally outrageous, it was full of name-calling, suggested Trump was a bigot, suggested Trump didn’t like Catholics, isn’t there a better way to criticize Trump’s ideas without an ad hominem attack.”
I’m with Tucker. The Dolan op-ed was so far beyond the pale it deserves an answer.
To begin, the Cardinal appallingly does what Trump’s most dishonest critics do. They substitute the word “immigrants” for the words — and the subject of Trump’s criticisms — “illegal immigrants.” America is a nation 100% of descendants of immigrants. There are no exceptions. Not even the one the Cardinal tries to slide in — Native Americans. Perhaps the Cardinal is unaware, but as noted here in Discover Magazine last year, “all native peoples of North and South America (are) descended from ancestors who arrived via land bridges from East Asia…” Or in other words, there may be such a thing as “First Americans” but not “Native Americans.” Everybody in America — say again, everybody — is descended from immigrants. (And in the case of Donald Trump, his grandparents are immigrants from Germany. And oh yes, his wife is an immigrant — a legal immigrant — from Slovenia.)
Having thus constructed a straw man argument, the Cardinal goes on, just as Tucker Carlson notes, to do the ad hominem thing and slam Trump and his supporters as “nativists” — the term long ago applied to “organized, white, Protestant antagonism toward the Catholic immigrant.”
I suppose a personal note is in order. While I am your basic Congregationalist (that means today a member of the United Church of Christ, which absorbed the Congregationalists in the late 1950s) my extended family is almost all Catholic, the divide coming when my grandmother left the Church for some reason in the 1920s. And most assuredly, last name not withstanding, I have Irish roots (Drogheda, County Louth), between the two making this Protestant white boy nothing less than highly respectful of the family tie to the Catholic Church and my own Irish heritage.
Trump’s point is as simple as it is universal. All countries have borders, and all countries have rules about how one gains citizenship in their nation. If one does not obey the rules, one should expect to be refused admission.
To underscore the point on this, look no further than Cardinal Dolan’s own St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. In May of 2013 the Christian Post headlined this story:
Gay Activists With Charcoaled Hands Denied Mass at NY’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral
The story begins this way:
A group of gay rights supporters were denied entrance to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on Sunday because they had dirtied their hands with charcoal in support of LGBT rights.
Activist Joseph Amodeo organized the protest on Sunday, where he and a number of supporters dirtied their hands with charcoal and attempted to enter the cathedral. Security officers told them, however, that they would be arrested unless they washed their hands.
In other words? Suddenly when it comes to not obeying the rules of the good Cardinal’s own church, “security officers” are called and those who don’t obey the Church’s rules — in this case LGBT supporters with charcoal on their hands — are not only denied entrance to the Cardinal’s church they are threatened with arrest. In other words? You might call Timothy Cardinal Dolan His Eminence Donald Cardinal Trump.
It is precisely this kind of hypocrisy that is fueling the Trump campaign. Polls from every reputable pollster out there keep pouring in showing Donald Trump leading the GOP presidential field, and by a lot. Frequently with double-digit leads.
One of Trump’s notable supporters has been Jamail Shaw, Sr. whose namesake son was shot dead by an illegal immigrant. Mr. Shaw is an African-American. So much for the Cardinal’s idea that the Trump surge is just a bunch of bigoted white Protestants. The latter position that I would gently suggest to the good Cardinal sounds appallingly bigoted in itself. I can’t possibly believe that the Cardinal is following the left-wing divide-by-race formula, and I would be dumbfounded if in fact His Eminence was in fact pushing a version of some sort of Catholic nativism.
I will say that the Cardinal’s op-ed was unworthy of the Cardinal, and of the Catholic Church. It is unrepresentative of the great good will and good faith of my own many Catholic family members. It is specifically a slight at some like Jamail Shaw, Sr. And yes, it is specifically a grossly unfair attack on concerned Americans who support Donald Trump — every last one of whom are descended from immigrants themselves.
Last but not least? I would respectfully suggest to His Eminence that the supporters of Donald Trump — not to mention Donald Trump himself — are owed a humble apology.
In the course of the 1960 presidential campaign, the Catholic John F. Kennedy sought to make the case to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association why he would be, if elected, not a Catholic president but the American president. Considering Cardinal Dolan’s op-ed, it is worth quoting JFK as the answer to the Cardinal. Said the soon-to-be president, elected by a Protestant and white majority America — a man now one of the most beloved presidents in 20th century American history (bold print for emphasis mine):
But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected president, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured — perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again not what kind of church I believe in — for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in.
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew— or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.
Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; where all men and all churches are treated as equal; where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice; where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind; and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.
That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of presidency in which I believe — a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group, nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”
Note well. In 1960 the target was the Catholic John F. Kennedy, who astutely noted that fall of the presidential campaign that “For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew— or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist.”
Suddenly, of a sudden, a full 55 years, “the finger of suspicion” is pointed at the white, Presbyterian Donald Trump. By no less than a Cardinal in John F. Kennedy’s own Catholic Church. One suspects that somewhere President Kennedy is shaking his head in amazement — and sorrow.
With all due respect to Cardinal Dolan? His Eminence owes Donald Trump and his supporters an apology. As President Kennedy would later say in his 1963 address to the nation on the racial violence in Birmingham, Alabama, “race has no place in American life or law.” And so it doesn’t. America — a nation of immigrants that includes both the Irish Catholic Kennedys and the German Protestant Trumps as well as every legalized person of Mexican or any other heritage — must get on with the discussion about how to resolve the serious problem of illegal immigration.
Illegal immigrants are the immigration equivalent of those LGBT protestors with charcoaled hands who were denied entrance to Cardinal Dolan’s very own St. Patrick’s Cathedral. They have not obeyed the rules of the most generous and free country on earth. And until they do — they must be denied entrance.
Just as, in fact, is the rule at Cardinal Dolan’s church.