Today President Trump used the Catholic Church in the United States (in general) and the Saint John Paul II National Shrine (in particular) in a cynical ploy to garner support at the ballot box in November by feigning Christian faith while pandering to conservative Catholics. This is the same strategy that he used the previous day when he appeared outside a Protestant (Episcopal, to be specific) church near the White House and posed with a clearly unread Bible in his hand.
Both incidents were attempts to use devout Christians (both Catholics and Protestants) as "useful idiots" in an increasingly desperate effort to hang on to the Presidency. Moreover, both incidents mirror the strategy used by a more infamous fascist, Adolf Hitler, to co-opt Christianity in the name of Nazism. Indeed, the first incident was more egregiously fascistic than the second. Trump had military forces tear-gas and flash-bang a group of peaceful protesters, as well as clergy at St. John's Church, so that he could walk by himself to that church with a deceptively placid Washington, D.C., in the background.
So it is more than amusing that a Catholic bootlicker organization like Catholic Vote feigned outrage when Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory called Trump on the cynically manipulative nature of his visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine. Here it is instructive to define the term "bootlicker": "Someone who kisses up to their oppressors’ thoughts and feelings rather than being aware of their own communities’ needs to survive" (Urban Dictionary). Given that I have also deployed the term "useful idiot," I will also offer an operational definition: "Someone who supports one side of an ideological debate, but who is manipulated and held in contempt by the leaders of their faction or is unaware of the ultimate agenda driving the ideology to which they subscribe" (RationalWiki). In the case of Catholic Vote, both terms apply.
In a statement by its president, Brian Burch, the organization completely ignores Archbishop Gregory's reasonable concern that Trump "egregiously misused and manipulated" Saint Pope John Paul II's legacy "in a fashion that violates our [Catholic] religious principles." John Paul II was "an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings" who would never have condoned "the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace." Instead, Catholic Vote chooses to focus on the Executive Order promulgated by Trump at the Shrine. The Order "protecting religious minorities should have been celebrated by all those who love the Church, religious freedom, and the courageous example of St. John Paul II." Archbishop Gregory did not celebrate the Order, for which "[m]illions of Catholics in the United States, including many within the Archbishop’s own flock, are grateful," but chose instead to "engage in a partisan attack on the President."
First, let me state up front that, as a Catholic, I am not at all grateful for Trump's meaningless and empty Executive Order. It is a generic directive, applicable only to foreign policy, which provides no direct benefit to American Catholics or indeed to Christianity in general in the United States. Second, the "bootlicker" label applies to Catholic Vote because it blindly supports Trump despite the fact that Catholics would be among the first to be lined up and shot in a pseudo-theocratic Trump dictatorship. It is well known that his fundamentalist "evangelical" Christian supporters consider the Roman Catholic Church to be the "Whore of Babylon" of the Book of Revelation. According to Miguel de la Torre, writing in Global Baptist News, "The pope as Antichrist, leading the Catholic Church as whore into apostasy, was not only a mainstream interpretation during the rise of Protestantism, but has remained a popular interpretation, especially among many fundamentalists, dispensationalists and right-leaning evangelicals today." Given that fundamentalist evangelical Protestants are well-known constituents of Trump's "base," it is naive of Catholic Vote to think that Catholics are anything but anathema to the MAGA world.
This naivete lends credence to the charge that Catholic Vote and its conservative Catholic followers are "useful idiots." Allowing themselves to be manipulated by Trump for his own selfish ends, they are blissfully unaware that Trump and his cultish supporters hold them in contempt. Moreover, they do not see how the ultimate agenda driving the Trumpist ideology involves a white nationalism that has always hated Catholics, just as the Ku Klux Klan did. The Southern Poverty Law Center notes, "Although Black Americans have typically been the Klan’s primary target, it also has attacked Jews, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community and, until recently, Catholics." The "until recently" qualification refers to the "useful idiot" function of conservative Catholic bootlickers.
In fact, in contradiction to the historical "Whore of Babylon" smear of Roman Catholicism, President Trump himself qualifies as an antichrist. Now, don't get agitated: Trump is not THE Antichrist of the Book of Revelation (although he would strive for that title, given the chance). No, the Donald is merely one of many antichrists of which the Lord Jesus Christ warned his disciples: "For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24, NRSV). Conservative Catholics need to repent of their adulation of this unapologetically sinful man. President Trump has openly displayed his contempt for and sexual objectification of women, his marital infidelity, his hatred for minorities such as Hispanics and Muslims, and his malignant narcissism. As Jesus taught, "You will know them by their fruits":
Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:16–20, NRSV).