On March 7, 2016, prominent Catholics Robert P. George and George Weigel published in the National Review “An Appeal to Our Fellow Catholics” to “reject [Donald Trump’s] candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.” As a fellow Catholic to whom this appeal was addressed, I respond in this open letter, apologizing for both the purpose and language of this published piece.
While Professor George and Mr. Weigel opened their letter with a noncontroversial (if incomplete) statement of Catholic priorities, and a more questionable embrace of the Republican Party, they immediately shifted, not to a candidate-by-candidate, reasoned analysis, but to a direct and hostile attack on one candidate, Donald J. Trump. With no factual support for their assertion that Trump’s appeal rests upon racism and ethnic prejudice, George and Weigel fashioned a personal, conclusory, name-calling hit piece on this candidate whose voter base constitutes a culture distinct from the more polished, elite world in which the authors live...Many Catholics, myself included, were dismayed that these respected Catholic intellectuals drew upon the sort of language they disapprove of in the candidate Trump. This alone warrants an apology. I wish to assure candidate Trump and his voters that Catholics generally are called upon by Gospel and church law to respect people whose differences we might not understand and to treat all persons with dignity, even people with whom we most strongly disagree or don’t understand.Share
The Catholic laity is held to a higher standard than mere avoidance of hypocrisy. Our church law, and letters and directives from our popes, exhort us to engage our work in a manner that serves as ‘witness to Christ throughout the world.” (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, 1965). This fundamental mission entails concern and care for the dignity of every person, not merely the promotion of the church as institution and enforcement of Catholic principles via legislation and political mandate.
The dignity of every individual includes good reputation. Catholics are admonished to avoid name-calling, gossip and other harm to a person’s reputation in the community. Canon 220 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law provides: “No one is permitted to harm illegitimately the good reputation which a person possesses or to injure the right of any person to protect his or her own privacy.” (Read more.)