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Michele Bachmann Should Not 'Get a Pass' on Past Membership in Anti-Catholic Church

By Keith A. Fournier
July 18th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

During the last election, a question was raised about then candidate Barack Obama concerning his membership in a Church body which espoused Anti-Americanism. Will some of those same people ask this candidate, whom they seem to agree with on issues, about her affiliation with a Church body which espoused overt Anti-Catholicism?

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - The news and blogosphere is filled with responses to the July 14, 2011 story by Joshua Green, the Senior Editor of the Atlantic, entitled "Michele Bachmann's Church Says the Pope Is the Antichrist." That is because it raises a serious matter which should not be taken lightly, and one which the candidate must address.

First, let me share some personal context. I am what is often called a "revert" to the Catholic Church, someone who returned to the Church of my childhood after a long search for the truth. I love being a Catholic Christian. I hold an undergraduate degree and a master's degree in Catholic theology. I am a dissertation away from obtaining a PhD in Catholic Moral Theology. I am also a member of the Clergy, a Deacon. However, I write this article as a private and very concerned citizen.

I am a lawyer. I have spent much of my career in Pro-life, Pro-Family and Religious freedom work, forging alliances between Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical and Protestant Christians. My goal has been to effect cultural, social and political change. Like the old country song "I was Country when Country wasn't Cool", I could say "I was ecumenical when ecumenical wasn't cool". I cut my activist teeth on evangelical and Catholic collaboration.

I share all of this in order to establish that I do not have an anti-Protestant bone in my body and that I know this subject well. Among the early responders to his article, some point out that Joshua Green did not treat the subject well due to a lack of theological knowledge of the subject matter. Let's consider that claim first.

I will admit that Mr. Green's story did not address the progress in relationships between some segments of the Lutheran community and the Catholic Church. In fact, an historic accord was signed on (Protestant) Reformation Day, 31 October 1999, All Saints Day eve, which shows the work of the Holy Spirit in healing a significant division between Catholics and Lutherans.

This document is entitled the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" (JDDJ) between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. It can be read in its entirety on the Vatican Website. The dialogue also gave rise to an Annex which addresses implications on the relationship between the Catholic Church and Lutherans which can also be read there.

The Annex contains these promising words "the mutual condemnations of former times do not apply to the Catholic and Lutheran doctrines of justification as they are presented in the Joint Declaration." In other words, not all Lutherans hold the virulently anti-Catholic sentiment endorsed by the Lutheran Church body to which Michele Bachmann formerly belonged.

However, Joshua Greens' story properly addresses the fact that the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, a Church body with which the candidate was connected for many years, does. It was -and still is - Anti-Catholic. In an introduction to their doctrinal statement we read this assertion, "As Martin Luther grew in his appreciation of the gospel; he also grew in his recognition that the Papacy is the Antichrist." They then claim that belief as their own.

Here are a couple of snippets from their "Statement on the Antichrist": "Now, it is manifest that the Roman pontiffs, with their adherents, defend [and practice] godless doctrines and godless services. And the marks [all the vices] of Antichrist plainly agree with the kingdom of the Pope and his adherents.. [A]ll Christians ought to beware of becoming partakers of the godless doctrine, blasphemies, and unjust cruelty of the Pope. On this account they ought to desert and execrate the Pope with his adherents as the kingdom of Antichrist; just as Christ has commanded."

To his credit, Joshua Green of the Atlantic footnoted this document. It is taken directly from the web site of the Lutheran Body to which Michelle Bachmann belonged for many years. She left the Church in the last year, submitting her request in writing. However, these Anti-Catholic positions were and are available to anyone who goes to that site, including Michele Bachmann. To use an old legal term, res ipse loquitor, the thing speaks for itself.

And what it says is not only repugnant to Catholics; it should be repugnant to other Christians, people of other faiths, and all people of good will. It participates in one of the oldest forms of Anti-Catholicism in America's history. It calls back to mind anti-Catholic groups such as the old "Know Nothings" in our Nation's past who drew caricatures of the Pope with horns.

Further consider this; it appears that Michele Bachmann belonged to that Church group while Blessed John Paul II served the Church and the world. Apparently even into the tenure of our current Pope, Benedict XVI. Even this ecumenically motivated Catholic finds that very, very disturbing!

Unfortunately, some of my colleagues in the world of Catholic media, journalism and the Press have attributed the positions of this Church and Bachmanns past membership to just "being a Protestant." As someone who has worked ecumenically for decades I reject that dismissal. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod does not represent many Protestants. It is an Anti-Catholic body.  
 
I have worked with, prayed with and collaborated with MANY Protestant Christians, for over three decades, who would NEVER call the successor of Peter the Antichrist. The colleagues to which I refer go further, they seemingly accept the notion that if Protestant Christians felt otherwise they would no longer be Protestant. That is not only overly simplistic, it fails to recognize the substantial issues which divide the broken Body of Christ. 

Some of the other articles I have read addressing this piece by Joshua Green attempt to dismiss it by pointing to the authors purported political leanings. So, let me speak to that for a moment. I have political leanings. I like Michele Bachmann's positions on the issues which matter most to this Catholic voter. She is pro-Life and defends marriage and the family and society founded upon it.

I appreciate her pledge to reign in the ever expanding size of the Federal government, which I fear threatens the principle of subsidiarity. Finally, I had been impressed with her intelligence, her oratorical skills, her background and her presence. All of this made her my second favorite possible candidate, until now. My first choice is obvious to anyone who reads my ongoing political commentary.

However, her political and policy positions were not the point of Joshua Green's article and focusing upon them may be a form of deflection. Green raised the issue of Michele Bachmann's long standing identification with a Church body which is clearly Anti-Catholic.

One question is of special concern to me. Will she get a pass?  During the last election, a very serious question was raised by people who did not support the candidacy of now President Barack Obama and questioned his membership in a Church body which espoused Anti-Americanism. Some still bring it up.

Will some of those same people ask this candidate, whom they seem to agree with on issues, about her affiliation with a Church which espoused Anti-Catholicism? For example, how will Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly, just to name two high profile media personalities, handle this disturbing fact out of Michele Bachmann's very recent past? I hope the answer is "straight on".

In his article, Joshua Green noted "the statement alarmed prominent Catholics" and gave one example, my friend Bill Donohue. "Clearly, that is anti-Catholic," said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, a national organization devoted to protecting Catholic civil rights. "This kind of hatred is reminiscent of Bob Jones. I believe [Bachmann] has in the past condemned anti-Catholicism. But there's no question -- all you have to do is read it -- that they clearly have anti-Catholic statements up there."

Green continues, "Donohue said he would refrain from making any judgments until he heard from Bachmann, who he said must address the matter promptly. "We never went after Obama for sitting there for 20 years listening to Rev. 'Goddam America' Wright. I don't want to give him a pass, but I saw no bigotry on Obama's part.

"Similarly, I have see(n) none on Bachmann's part. But it's clear that the [synod]'s teachings are noxious and it's important for her to speak to the issue. Obama had to answer for Wright, McCain had to answer for [the Rev. John] Hagee, and this is something that Bachmann has to answer for."

During the last Presidential campaign I commended Bill for his willingness to call Pastor Hagee out for his past Anti-Catholic statements. I also commended him later for his meeting with the Pastor which led to healing and reconciliation. I believe he will be just as dogged in this campaign.

Michele Bachmann should not 'get a pass' on past membership in an Anti-Catholic Church body. It matters deeply to many people, including me. I urge her to respond - quickly, clearly and without any hesitation or obfuscation. Like Bill Donohue, I want to presume that Michele Bachmann, as she said in the past, is not anti-Catholic. Her response to this article is an opportunity for her to, as Bill said, answer for her membership in that Anti-Catholic Church body. 

I have said in many articles that I consider this the most important election of my lifetime, for many reasons. I will never support anyone who is Anti-Catholic, period. I will also continue to ask the questions which should be asked of any candidate. This is serious business and we should deal with it appropriately.

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