The burgeoning Catholic-Evangelical alliance

It used to be that Protestants and Catholics were at loggerheads over various doctrinal issues. It is hard to imagine that in the early days of the American republic there was deep hostility towards and prejudice against Catholics, with some even arguing against them receiving full citizenship because their allegiance to the pope made their loyalty to the new nation suspect.

That mutual distrust still remains but now there is increasing realization, especially among the evangelical Protestants and Catholics leadership, that they should form a closer alliance since they share deep opposition to social issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and what it considers the alleged ‘threats to religious liberty’.

Paul Rosenberg explores the steps that are being taken to forge a stronger alliance. He drew my attention to an article by Frederick Clarkson, a senior fellow at Political Research Associates and author of the book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy.

Clarkson says that this alliance within the Christian Right should be a cause for concern, that the recent setbacks they have suffered on same-sex marriage has deepened their resolve to fight back as their older leadership gives way to new generation.

But this generational transition is neither as challenging nor as important as the Christian Right’s efforts to overcome a long history of internal sectarian distrust, conflicting religious doctrines, and differing views about whose ideas should prevail in government. Those efforts are succeeding. The movement is guided by a clear strategic vision, and it is displaying a remarkable level of cooperation and capacity to keep pace with rapid social change.

The turning point was the November 2009 publication of a manifesto titled Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience. Originally signed by 150 Christian Right religious and political leaders, its distinct achievement has been to broaden and deepen the emerging alliance between conservative Roman Catholics and right-wing evangelical Protestants. Indeed, the historic convergence of evangelical institutions and activists with the American Roman Catholic Church is underscored by the fact that fully 50 sitting bishops, archbishops and cardinals—not merely a token Catholic prelate or two—signed the Declaration.

The Christian Right, stung by recent losses in the culture war, is publicly doubling down on its antichoice and antigay positions. Evangelicals and Roman Catholics have found common ground—and the motivation to set aside centuries of sectarian conflict—by focusing on these issues while claiming that their “religious liberty” is about to be crushed. The movement is mobilizing its resources, forging new alliances, and girding itself to engage its enemies. It is also giving fair warning about its intentions. It may lose the long-term war, but whatever happens, one thing is certain: It won’t go down without a fight.

In this long but important essay, Clarkson offers us a sobering reminder that the Christian Right is gearing up for a major assault and we should be ready for it.


  1. Seeker says

    On the surface, the fundagelicals say they’re willing to ally themselves with Catholics, but among themselves, they’re still virulently anti-Catholic.

  2. machintelligence says

    Even with the conservative Catholics, they still may not have enough clout. This is an alliance of desperation, since both groups are finding that their numbers are dropping because the younger generation rejects their stands on social issues. In another 20 years, more or less, this alliance will be a noisy but powerless minority except in the Southern US. They may be able to make life miserable for some people on a state and local level but nationally I think they are already history.

  3. Matt G says

    As more and more revelations come out about the Catholic Church’s willingness to protect child raping priests, and their failure to protect children, they continue to lose the moral high ground (not that they ever had that ground to begin with…). It takes a lot of nerve for them to condemn gays and lesbians who are in love and wish to marry, while at the same time shielding child rapists from the law. Isn’t there something in the bible about removing the beam from your own eye before pointing out the splinter in another’s?

  4. says

    Someone needs to make some Tshirts that read “I’m WITH STUPID” on the back, and have some kind of “ecumenical council” logo on the front.

  5. says

    they continue to lose the moral high ground

    They have struck bottom and begun to dig.*

    (* lifted from some British officer who used the phrase in another officer’s fitness report)

  6. One Day Soon I Shall Invent A Funny Login says

    It was not only the early days of the U.S. when Catholics were mistrusted, but as late as 1960 JFK had to work hard to overcome what was widely seen as a political handicap, finally and famously giving a speech in which he asserted, “I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters – and the Church does not speak for me.” At that time — the same year in which the birth control pill was approved for use! — the Catholic church was fighting hard against all birth control(*) and Kennedy’s statement was seen at least in part as meaning he would not as president enter that controversy.
    (*) Except of course, the “rhythm” method. Popular joke from my youth: Q: What do you call people who use the rhythm method? A: Parents.

  7. MNb says

    “It is hard to imagine …”
    Not for an aging Dutchman – it’s only a few decennia ago that catholics and protestants in The Netherlands were hostile to each other. But the Dutch orthodox reformed (aka black stockings churches) also realize that secularization is the bigger peril.

  8. Matt G says

    Woody Allen, in one of his early stand-up routines, talked about friends who were practicing the rhythm method and, apparently, couldn’t keep a beat.

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