Donald Trump Names 34 Members to Council of Catholic Advisers

Donald Trump has released a list of 34 prominent Catholics to serve as advisers to his campaign.

(photo: Michael Vadon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

In a quest to allay concerns on the part of some Catholics and to attract more Catholic voters, Donald Trump has named 34 respected Catholic leaders to serve as advisers to his campaign.

The Catholic advisory group was originally formed by Mr. Trump earlier this year, to help him better understand what is on the minds of Catholics in the United States. These advisers have provided keen insights into the key issues and priorities for American Catholics. The candidate has maintained the lines of communication with this group, as well as with other faithful Catholics interested in public policy, and pledges to continue this communication from his desk at the White House, if he is elected in November.

With help from his Catholic advisers, Mr. Trump has identified the following areas which are of special concern to Catholics: Religious Liberty, Pro-life, Judicial Nominations, Education, Healthcare, Jobs and Taxation, and Safety and Security. His strong conservative positions in each of these signal areas can be found at his website.

Among the list of prominent Catholic leaders who will help to shape policy and reach out to Catholic voters are:

  1. Sen. Rick Santorum, Former US Senator and presidential candidate
  2. Marjorie Dannenfelser, President, Susan B. Anthony List
  3. The Honorable Matt Schlapp, Chairman, American Conservative Union
  4. Ambassador Francis Rooney, Former US Ambassador to the Holy See
  5. Sean Fieler, President, Chiaroscuro Foundation
  6. Rev. Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life
  7. Chris Slattery, Founder & President, Expectant Mother Care
  8. Cong. Andrew Harris, US Congressman, Maryland, 1st District
  9. Janet Morana, Co-Founder, Silent No More Campaign
  10. John Klink, President Emeritus, International Catholic Migration Commission
  11. Marjorie Murphy Campbell, Founder & Publisher, New Feminism
  12. Deacon Keith Fournier, Chairman, Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance
  13. Tony Maas, President & CEO of JTM Food Group
  14. Patrick Walsh, Former Chief Secretary and Attache, US Embassy, Dublin, Ireland
  15. Matt Smith, President, Catholic Advocate, Board Member, American Conservative Union
  16. Austin Ruse, President, Center for Family and Human Rights
  17. Richard Viguerie, Chairman, ConservativeHQ
  18. Angela Flood, Former Director, Secretariat of Communications, Archdiocese of Washington, DC
  19. Lou Murray, New York Life Financial Consultant
  20. Lisa Bourne, Journalist, LifeSiteNews
  21. Cong. Steve Chabot, US Congressman, Ohio, 1st District
  22. Cong. Mike Kelly, US Congressman, Pennsylvania, 3rd District
  23. Ed Martin, President, Eagle Forum
  24. Chuck Mifsud, President, Catholics for Ohio
  25. Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas Governor and former Kansas US Senator
  26. Tom Monaghan, Founder, Ave Maria University/Ave Maria School of Law
  27. Mark Corallo, Founder, Corallo Media Strategies
  28. Jay Shepard, RNC National Committeeman, Vermont
  29. Joseph Cella, Founder, National Catholic Prayer Breakfast
  30. Faith Whittlesey, Former US Ambassador to Switzerland
  31. The Honorable R. James Nicholson, Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Ambassador to the Holy See
  32. The Honorable Frank Keating, Former Governor of Oklahoma
  33. The Honorable Sean Duffy, Congressman, Wisconsin, 7th District
  34. Mary Matalin, Former Counselor to the Vice President

Why Are Some Catholics Worried About a Possible Trump Presidency?

Indeed, Trump needs to reach out to the Catholic electorate if he hopes to win the White House. Polls in Spring 2015 showed that Clinton enjoyed a 23 point lead over Trump among Catholics. A WaPo/ABC poll on August 28 showed an even wider gap, with Clinton leading Trump among likely Catholic voters by 25 points.

In a September 1, 2016 interview with National Public Radio, John Carr, head of Georgetown University's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, talked about why Catholic voters seem to prefer Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump. “Among church-going Catholics,” Carr said:

...I think there are several problems for Trump. One is temperament. Does he have the character, the qualities we want in a president? A second is background. He seems very secular. He's the pro-family candidate, but he's also the candidate with three marriages. People really admire his children but wonder about his commitments.

Church-going Catholics are often sons and daughters of immigrants, and they do not take kindly to a candidate who demonizes immigrants. And I think there is a possibility that Pope Francis, who has challenged Catholics to look at the world from the bottom up, has touched people's hearts and consciences and may be affecting their votes.

Asked by NPR's Renee Montague to speculate regarding the importance of the abortion issue to Catholic voters, Carr added:

I think there are a lot of people that are simply unpersuaded that Donald Trump's conversion to the pro-life cause is real.... I think they're unpersuaded that Donald Trump is one of them.

An Alternative Perspective Which Should Reassure the Catholic Voter

But as the election nears, some Catholics are now turning toward Donald Trump, throwing their support behind the outspoken candidate. "The choice for Catholics in this presidential election could not be more stark," said Faith Whittlesey, a member of Trump's Catholic advisory board, according to a statement in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Whittlesey continued:

Clinton supports a breathtakingly radical cultural agenda and judicial nominees which leave no room for the legal protection of the unborn and the ability of Christians to fully and freely practice their faith that is constitutionally protected by the First Amendment. Trump will fight for Catholics in defense of life, and their religious liberty.

Joseph Cella, founder of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, will be chief liaison to the Trump campaign for Catholic affairs. Cella was not always a Trump supporter; in fact, he was among signatories of a March 7, 2015 statement by Catholic intellectuals and leaders which declared that Trump was “manifestly unfit to be president.” Cella has reverse his position, and he talked this week with the Register about why he now supports the Republican candidate:

I am happily supporting Mr. Trump, volunteering for him, and will be voting for him. There has been a sincere change of heart and mind and the concerns expressed in the primary have been allayed due to a fuller understanding of how committed Mr. Trump is to the issues and policies of greatest concerns to Catholics, and his commitment to judicial appointments. And complimenting that is the great selection of Governor Pence as his running mate, and the hiring of excellent senior staff.

The differences are stark. There will be 3-5 Supreme Court vacancies filled by the next administration, and Mr. Trump has promised to appoint justices in the mold of the great Catholic jurist and thinker, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Hillary Clinton has promised to do just the opposite. And that will have far reaching and long lasting implications for the Catholic Church and the lay faithful on everything from pro-life issues, to religious liberty, to health care and onerous educational mandates, and likely in ways we are presently unaware of.

And considering the concerns surrounding what a Hillary Clinton presidency would mean on issues and policies of greatest concern to them, Catholics are beginning to coalesce around Mr. Trump, changing their previous support, and even crossing the aisle to vote for him. And I am only one of thousands across the country that have switched and continue to switch their support on that basis.”

Last week in St. Louis, Missouri, Donald Trump and his wife Melania attended the funeral Mass for constitutional lawyer and Catholic icon Phyllis Schlafly, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. At the request of the family, Mr. Trump delivered brief remarks. He said:

Phyllis fought very hard to the very end for a free and prosperous America. She understood that to be truly united as a country, we can't simply turn to government or to politicians. The bedrock of our unity is the realization that we are all brothers and sisters created by the same God. Phyllis understood that.

Speaking September 9 at the Value Voters Summit in Washington, DC, Trump said,

Your values of love, charity and faith built this nation. So how can it be that our media treats people of faith so poorly?.... A Trump administration, our Christian heritage will be cherished, protected, defended, like you've never seen before.

In Advent, we await the coming of Jesus at Christmastime.

What Is Advent Anyway?

EXPLAINER: Advent is a season in the Church’s life intended to renew the experience of waiting and longing for the Messiah.