Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief helped to create campaign groups to press for a “revolution" in the Catholic Church, according to leaked emails.
John Podesta, head of Clinton’s campaign, says he helped to found two Catholic organisations to press for change in the Church.
In emails from 2011 released by Wikileaks and alleged to be by Podesta, he responds to an email from Barack Obama’s friend and former boss, Sandy Newman, about an “opening for a Catholic Spring".
Newman suggests that “Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church." Newman refers to this as planting the “seeds of a revolution".
Podesta replies: “We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this. But I think it lacks the leadership to do so now. Likewise Catholics United. Like most Spring movements, I think this one will have to be bottom up."
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG) was founded by Tom Periello in 2005. Its chairman is Fred Rotondaro. Both Rotondaro and Periello are senior fellows at the Centre for American Progress, founded by Podesta.
Rotondaro has called for the ordination of women, saying: “I have never seen any rational reason why a woman could not be a priest." In the same article he says that “Gay sex comes from God", and asks whether “any practicing Catholic under age 80" agrees with the Church’s teaching on contraception.
Critics have described CACG as a “Trojan Horse" for those who would undermine Church teaching. But its connections to senior figures in the Democrat party, and its intent to change the Church, have not previously been so clear.
Catholics United was also founded in 2005, by Democrat activists Chris Korzen and James Salt.
Catholics United has condemned bishops who deny Communion to politicians who support legal abortion. It describes this as “a shameful attempt to use the Catholic sacrament of Communion as a political weapon".
Catholic writer Thomas Peters tweeted that the revelations showed CACG and other organisations were engaged in “deception" and that it showed Podesta himself had “a very active role".
The revelations are the second significant reference to Catholics which Wikileaks has released so far. Elsewhere, Jennifer Palmieri, now Clinton’s director of communications, and John Halpin, a co-author of Podesta’s and a former Democrat strategist, criticise Catholics who are involved in politics.
In the 2011 emails, Halpin writes: “Many of the most powerful elements of the conservative movement are all Catholic (many converts) from the SC [possibly a reference to the Supreme Court] and think tanks to the media and social groups."
Halpin says the Catholics’ involvement in the American conservative movement means they must have misinterpreted Catholicism’s political tradition. It is, he says, “an amazing bastardization of the faith".
He goes on to speculate: “They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy."
Palmieri replies: “I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion. Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelicals."
Halpin says this is an “Excellent point", and goes on: “They can throw around ‘Thomistic’ thought and ‘subsidiarity’ and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they’re talking about."
The exchange was prompted by a New Yorker piece on Rupert Murdoch which observed that both Murdoch and Robert Thomson, then managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, are Catholic.