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On the Vatican’s influence in American politics: the Murdoch connection



In no other major U.S. newspaper but Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal will you find, right there on the editorial page, a column that could have been written for L’Osservatore Romano, the newspaper of Vatican City and thus of the Roman Catholic Church.

A recent example was last Friday’s “review” of the new movie, Ben Hur. It was written by Charlotte Allen, a Christian writer for the conservative Weekly Standard (whose writers include such unrepentant neocons as Iraq War proponents Elliott Abrams and John Bolton). Allen’s other writings have included attacks on breastfeeding, transgendered people and (shocking, shocking) Hillary Clinton, whom Allen compares to Roswell UFO enthusiasts. (How’s that again?) Allen also is obsessed with quashing tales that Jesus had a wife, a theory that actually is enjoying a certain popularity lately (but why does Allen find it so upsetting?). Allen, in other words, earns her living as a Christian apologist, which makes her the perfect Murdoch doppelganger.

Almost all critics have savaged this latest Ben-Hur flick, but Allen’s contempt for it rests, not on any lack of cinematic virtue—she does not claim to be, and patently is not, a real film critic–but because it is not Christian enough to suit her tastes. The film’s producers, who also created The History Channel’s award-winning series “The Bible,” don’t hammer home any specifically theological aspects of Jesus’s ministry, preferring instead to focus on the literary-historical epic that Ben-Hur’s original author, Lew Wallace, told in his 1880 novel. In fact, in that book, Wallace preferred to dwell on the relationship between Ben-Hur and Jesus; there is very little religion per se. Ben-Hur is an adventure story of a transformative friendship between two men.

That’s not good enough for Allen, though, who wishes the movie were more theological. Well, that’s her right; let’s move along. Why is an overtly Christian column—and a conservative one, at that (there are, after all, other strains of Christianity than rightwing)—given prominence on the editorial page of the supposedly non-sectarian WSJ?

Because the Wall Street Journal is not non-sectarian.

At a normal newspaper, like the New York Times, or any other professionally objective paper, the editors would tread exceedingly lightly in habitually espousing one particular religion on the editorial page. But if you’re the Wall Street Journal, your first and foremost duty is to be the standard-bearer for your owner’s religion. And, while Rupert Murdoch has been cagey about revealing the specifics of his religious beliefs, There is no denying the identification of Murdoch’s media empire,” according to this Adventist blog, “with the rightwing political agenda of the Roman Catholic Church in America.”

America’s Founding Fathers were concerned with Vatican interference in our internal affairs.* To Enlightenment men and women, the Church had hoisted itself on its own petard, through such peculiarities as its murderous anti-semitism, the Inquisition, and the idiocy of condemning Galileo—for which the Church did not apologize for more than 350 years.

Such irrational intransigence would be no more than tiresome, if confined within its own house. But the Church never has been content to remain a stay-at-home religion. And when unreason spills over into the Body Politic, we have reason to be concerned. You need look no further than the U.S. Supreme Court, where—until Antonin Scalia’s death—six of the nine Justices were Murdoch’s fellow co-religionists: the Catholics John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor and, until his demise last February, Scalia.

Kennedy is a swing vote; his reading of the law occasionally outweighs his faith. Sotomayor often votes against the wishes of her Church, being of the noble opinion that religion ought not interfere with an objective interpretation of American law. The others, alas, seldom or never contravened Catholic doctrine. In fact, some of them—Scalia in particular—were so hostile to homosexual rights, despite the obvious march of History in that direction, that they openly incorporated the Church’s labeling of homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered” into their written opinions, as witness, for example, Scalia’s description of homosexuality as “immoral and destructive” and, just to make sure nobody misunderstood, as when he compared same-sex love to “murder, polygamy and cruelty to animals.” (Perhaps some future Pope in the year 2400 will apologize to gay people for persecuting them.)

Can there be any doubt that the Wall Street Journal is the voice of official Catholic doctrine? Rupert Murdoch himself might even admit that it is; he might, however, justify it by claiming that Catholicism is the true religion, and that besides, he, as publisher, owes it to his savior to spread the word and be “a light for the Gentiles…to the end of the Earth.”

So let’s call a spade a spade. The Wall Street Journal is not a real newspaper; it is a voice of the Roman Catholic church, at least on its editorial pages. One might say the same thing about Murdoch’s Fox News television show, whose chief agitators—Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Bo Dietl, Neil Cavuto—all are Catholic, and espouse a virulent form of Catholic reactionary conservatism.

How Murdoch gets away without criticism for being the Vatican’s mouthpiece is a puzzlement. Can you imagine a Muslim-owned newspaper or T.V. news channel in America that routinely reflected the Wahhabist Islam of Sunni mullahs? Fox News and the Wall Street Journal would demand that it be investigated and shut down. What’s the difference here, friends? Let’s just agree to get religion out of journalism—and out of politics, too. If that means sidelining certain American mullahs and their followers, so be it.

And in case you’re wondering why this matters, here’s Thomas Jefferson: “It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. … Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error.

* The Vatican continues to try and influence U.S. politics. They, along with the Mormon Church, were one of the prime backers of California’s anti-gay Proposition 8, which eventually was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court due to a rare moment of lucidity from Justice Roberts. Meanwhile, Pope Francis, ironically, has turned out to be less homophobic than many of his American flock.

  1. Bob Henry says:

    I wrote in a recent comment that I don’t discuss politics.

    I do discuss economics and business. And history.

    Steve, you don’t need to wait to the year 2400 A.D.

    This was historic:

    “Pope Francis says Christians should apologize to gay people”


    “Pope Francis said Sunday that Christians owe apologies to gays and others who have been offended or exploited by the church, remarks that some Catholics hailed as a breakthrough in the church’s tone toward homosexuality.”

  2. I think I enjoy your writings about politics even more than your wine writing. This is very very good. Since I have almost never read the Wall Street Journal except for occasional wine articles, I had no way of knowing whether Murdoch’s ownership changed its nature, although I assumed it didn’t and that it remained simply a free-market moderately conservative voice. But it sounds like Murdoch may have done with it what he’s done with his other media acquisitions, making them outright screeds for his political and religious views.

  3. Dear Bob R, thank you. I hope to build this new “political” blog up in popularity. Please share it with your friends.

  4. Still not commenting on politics.

    “Nope. Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.”

    But I do comment on the media (having worked in it).

    Consider this piece:

    Okay, Roger Ailes has left Fox.

    So where’s the retinue following Ailes out the door?

    Just more grandstanding bluster devoid of commitment.

    [And since I comment on history, let me make this comment.]

    Reminds me of the folks who said they would immigrate to Canada if Barack Obama made history and was elected president.

    Well he was — twice.

    So why didn’t Canada’s population spike?

  5. Aleia Hutcherson says:

    Thank you – I am always interested in how the evil tentacles of the Vatican still reach everywhere & have an enormous impact on our societal & cultural decisions, even in America, where we are supposed to be free of theocracy.

  6. Breaking news . . . 5 minutes ago:

    “Fox Settles Sexual-Harassment Suit With Former Host Gretchen Carlson;
    Settlement’s value is in the $20 million range, a person familiar with the matter said”

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