Is God a Marxist? Top American Catholics and the far left

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By Cliff Kincaid

A top aide to a left-wing American Catholic Cardinal, reportedly in the running for the job of pope, taught a course called “Matthew, Marx, Luke, and John” at a pro-Marxist think tank in Washington, D.C.

The course included a discussion of “the future of the Christian alliance with Marxism” and the “theology of the oppressed.”

The aide, Fr. J. Bryan Hehir, is described in the book, Religious Leaders and Faith-based Politics: Ten Profiles, as “one of the most important and influential voices in U.S. Catholicism.” A professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Hehir spent 20 years working for the Catholic Bishops and crafting policy positions on a wide range of domestic and foreign policy matters.

Fr. J. Bryan Hehir.
Fr. J. Bryan Hehir.

Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of Boston, who hired Hehir as the Archdiocese of Boston’s Secretary for Social Services in 2003, has been “generating buzz in Rome as a possible contender to be the next pope,” says a recent report from NBC News. The story quotes an observer as saying O’Malley “could emerge as the next pope from a brokered conclave where the cardinals from the northern and southern hemispheres square off.” The conclave begins on Tuesday. A USA Today story says, “Papal contender: Cardinal Sean O’Malley.”

If Hehir follows O’Malley to Rome, he could be in a position to exercise considerable power from the Vatican over global affairs, such as by promoting President Obama’s vision of a world free of U.S. nuclear weapons.

But even if O’Malley doesn’t get the nod, Hehir could be a force in the Vatican. He has connections to Cardinal Peter Turkson, another candidate for the papacy, and played a role in formulating a Vatican document calling for creation of a “central world bank.” One of Hehir’s Harvard courses is “The Politics and Ethics of the Use of Force,” reflecting his desire to be taken seriously as a global affairs expert.

Hehir led the bishops in writing the 1983 letter, titled, “The Challenge of Peace — God’s Promise and Our Response,” which called the building of nuclear weapons “a folly which does not provide the security it promises.”

But Cardinal O’Malley is not without controversy himself. He had to personally explain and defend himself after presiding at the funeral Mass for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the liberal Catholic who undermined church teachings on social matters such as abortion and homosexuality and lived a personal life characterized by debauchery.

The emerging controversy over Hehir is another indication that the U.S. Catholic Church is one of the most left-wing branches of the Roman Catholic Church in the world today.

Even New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, usually described as a conservative, has been criticized for campaigning for sainthood for Dorothy Day, a convert to Catholicism who never renounced her pro-Marxist views.

A controversial figure in the American Catholic Church, Hehir has been the subject of fawning coverage in the liberal press. But blogs run by conservative Catholics in Boston have targeted him for years, with the Catholic paper The Wanderer once urging his ouster from church affairs because of his “relentless advocacy of left-wing politics.”

It was the “Bryan Hehir Exposed” blog which noted that his left-wing activities included lecturing for “a Socialist, pro-Communist think-tank back in the 1980’s.”

That think tank, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), is where Hehir taught his course on “Matthew, Marx, Luke, and John.” Hehir was then the director of the Office of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Catholic Conference.

The IPS came under strong criticism in the 1980s, even from a New York Times Magazine article “Think Tank of the Left,” for being a mouthpiece for anti-American and communist regimes from Cuba to North Vietnam. It conducted joint conferences with Moscow entities considered conduits for Russian KGB propaganda.

At the same time IPS was sponsoring the “Matthew, Marx, Luke, and John” course, it was featuring a “Liberation Theology Lecture Series” with Gustavo Gutierrez, author of A Theology of Liberation.

The “Bryan Hehir Exposed” blog was run by a team of conservative Catholics in Boston known by the pen name “Francis Marion” because they feared retribution if their real names were known. A new blog, Boston Catholic Insider, has since emerged, written by “people with close ties to the Archdiocese of Boston who are not identified by name on the blog so they can avoid possible repercussions and threats to their livelihoods.”

This blog suggests that a “gay network” of clergy exists in Boston and that O’Malley, a prominent liberal, has allowed the gay agenda to be advanced within the Boston Archdiocese in parishes and Catholic schools.

It confirms that Hehir has a “history of involvement in Marxist causes” and says that that he wants to suppress the Catholic Church’s moral views on such issues as abortion in order to give more prominence to liberal causes.

Hehir’s history of involvement in Marxist causes includes not only lecturing at the IPS on several occasions but receiving its 7th Annual Letelier-Moffitt Memorial Award in Washington D.C. in 1983. It was named for Orlando Letelier, a Marxist IPS fellow who was assassinated in 1976 in Washington by the Chilean government’s secret police. Letelier was exposed as a Cuban agent in briefcase papers found by law enforcement authorities after his death.

Hehir was known as a critic of U.S. foreign policy in the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan was preventing a Communist takeover of Central America and countering the Soviet Union’s nuclear buildup by deploying U.S. nuclear missiles in Western Europe. The IPS was then the center of much of the opposition to the Reagan agenda.

For example, in Nicaragua, where a Marxist regime that included Catholic advocates of “liberation theology” had seized power, Reagan armed freedom fighters to take back their country. Hehir and the U.S. Catholic Bishops opposed the use of military force to stop the Communists in Central America or anywhere else.

Even without an O’Malley appointment as pope, Hehir has exercised considerable influence in the Vatican and can be expected to do so in the future. He participated in a symposium hosted by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican in October 2010.

This is significant because the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is the arm of the Vatican run by Cardinal Peter Turkson, another possible candidate for pope.

In the 2011 document, “Towards reforming the international financial and monetary systems in the context of global public authority,” Turkson endorsed a “central world bank” that “regulates the flow and system of monetary exchanges, as do the national central banks.” It spoke of “the need for a minimum, shared body of rules to manage the global financial market which has grown much more rapidly than the real economy.”

A “world political authority,” a euphemism for a world government, was endorsed in Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”), a papal encyclical issued by Pope Benedict, who was considered “conservative” by some. The new global structure is supposed to “manage the economy,” bring about “timely disarmament,” and ensure “food, security and peace,” his document said.

The Turkson document expanded on this concept, saying, “In a world on its way to rapid globalization, orientation towards a world Authority becomes the only horizon compatible with the new realities of our time and the needs of humankind. However, it should not be forgotten that this development, given wounded human nature, will not come about without anguish and suffering.”

Hehir and Turkson are scheduled to participate in a major “Catholic peacebuilding” conference in April to commemorate the 50th anniversary of another paper encyclical, Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”) and promote a “just world order.” More than a dozen Catholic universities and agencies are involved in the event.

Pacem in Terris called for world disarmament under the auspices of the United Nations and other global institutions. It said, “Nuclear weapons must be banned. A general agreement must be reached on a suitable disarmament program, with an effective system of mutual control.”

It also declared “Our earnest wish that the United Nations Organization may be able progressively to adapt its structure and methods of operation to the magnitude and nobility of its tasks.”

All of this fits in perfectly with the global approach of the Obama Administration. Obama himself talked of a “world without nuclear weapons,” while his new Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, was involved in the “Global Zero” approach that would eventually dismantle the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

Not surprisingly, another speaker at the upcoming “peacebuilding” conference is Stephen Schneck, the “Catholics for Obama” operative who serves as director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America.

Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the Accuracy In Media Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at [email protected].