Open letter in National Review urges Catholics to reject Trump candidacy

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Cadillac, Mich., March 4. (CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters)

Republican candidate Donald Trump's run for the White House is putting the efforts by the Republican Party to defend and advance the many "noble causes" it has promoted in his history "in grave danger," said an open letter to Catholics published March 7 in the National Review.

"Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to be president of the United States. His campaign has already driven our politics down to new levels of vulgarity," said the letter from two prominent Catholics, Robert George and George Weigel.


"His appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice are offensive to any genuinely Catholic sensibility," they wrote in their "appeal to our fellow Catholics and to all men and women of goodwill.

George is the McCormick professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University. Weigel is distinguished senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and holds its William E. Simon chair in Catholic studies.

"There is nothing in his campaign or his previous record that gives us grounds for confidence that he genuinely shares our commitments to the right to life, to religious freedom and the rights of conscience, to rebuilding the marriage culture, or to subsidiarity and the principle of limited constitutional government," they said.

National Review, based in Washington, is the conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley. The letter from George and Weigel included signatures from at least 35 others well-known in legal, academic, public policy circles as well as at think tanks.

George and Weigel said that the Republican Party—while "imperfect, like all human institutions, but serviceable" has in recent decades been a vehicle "for promoting causes at the center of Catholic social concern in the United States."

Those causes include "providing legal protection for unborn children, the physically disabled and cognitively handicapped, the frail elderly, and other victims of what St. John Paul II branded 'the culture of death.'"

The party also has defended religious freedom "in the face of unprecedented assaults by officials at every level of government who have made themselves the enemies of conscience"; worked to rebuild "our marriage culture" based on the "sound understanding" that marriage is between one woman and one man; and made strong efforts to re-establish "constitutional and limited government, according to the core Catholic social-ethical principle of subsidiarity."

"There have been frustrations along the way, to be sure; no political party perfectly embodies Catholic social doctrine," they said. "But there have also been successes, and at the beginning of the current presidential electoral cycle, it seemed possible that further progress in defending and advancing these noble causes was possible through the instrument of the Republican Party."

George and Weigel acknowledged that Trump "speaks to issues of legitimate and genuine concern" and said they understand that as a result, many people, including Catholics, have been attracted to his campaign.

Some of those issues, they said, are "wage stagnation, grossly incompetent governance, profligate governmental spending, the breakdown of immigration law, inept foreign policy, stifling 'political correctness' -- for starters."

"There are indeed many reasons to be concerned about the future of our country, and to be angry at political leaders and other elites," George and Weigel said.

But they urged Catholics and other voters to consider other Republican candidates who are "far more likely" than Trump "to address these concerns, and who do not exhibit his vulgarity, oafishness, shocking ignorance, and—we do not hesitate to use the word—demagoguery."

George and Weigel did not name the others still in the running for the Republican nomination: U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, of Texas, and Marco Rubio, of Florida, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Trump's record and his campaign "show us no promise of greatness; they promise only the further degradation of our politics and our culture," George and Weigel said.

"We urge our fellow Catholics and all our fellow citizens to reject his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination by supporting a genuinely reformist candidate," they added.

George and Weigel also pointed to Trump's talk on the stump of ordering U.S. military personnel "to torture terrorist suspects and to kill terrorists' families." The writers pointed out such actions are condemned by the Catholic Church.

Such policies, they added, "would bring shame upon our country."

On the campaign trail, Trump had said that as commander in chief, he "would order the military" to carry out torture and override the fact the U.S. military is not duty-bound to carry out unlawful orders. But after facing scathing criticism of his views on how to fight terrorism, CNN reported on March 4 that Trump had reversed himself and said he would not order the military to violate international law.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 2 months ago
Glad to see Trump emphatically ruled out by principled pro-life orthodox Catholics. This is consistent with the "Against Trump" series of articles by secular conservatives in National Review,and others in The Weekly Standard, and the opposition by Mitt Romney and other prominent "nevertrump" politicians. Trump revels in egoism, vulgarity, bigotry, fraud and even criminality (torture, exclusion, etc.) and must be opposed by all serious Christians. I am horrified that so many evangelicals have voted for him. Sadly, they are not the bulwark against degeneracy I thought they were. I do note that Trump does best in open primaries, where the disaffected Democrats or Independents seem to have invaded the Republican party to help his numbers, but that is not an excuse for even a minority of evangelical republicans to vote for him. The most charitable interpretation is that they have been conned, duped like the Trump University students, but I fear the worse. A correction to the last paragraph. Trump again 'clarified" his position on torture this weekend. While he now says he would not order the military to violate US law (not international), he wants to change the law first, so his torture orders have the veil of formal legitimacy. His disposition remains utterly immoral.
Anne Chapman
2 years 2 months ago
Well, Tim, it's been a while since we crossed swords. Apparently miracles do happen. I agree with all you say in this comment.
Stephen Carlier
2 years 2 months ago
All, let us go beyond judging and seek to determine why Americans are lining up behind Trump. There are a number of reasons but let us look at one hot button- Immigration, when one digs deeper into trying to understand the support for Trump you will find out it is frustration with the governments failure to follow the Rule of Law, simply put, mercy is fantastic but it will not eliminate justice, rather it is integral to mercy developing. Thus when you have the Rule of Law not being followed you have demonstrated with significant spill over impact "anything goes" and therein lies the fear, the distrust and all the inhuman behaviors we witness. Mr. Trump's rhetoric is in need of major improvement but the core of his message is to protect the American people. Americans get that and want a government with leaders who follow the law. On the Muslim issue the media repeatedly distorted what he said, He essentially said - Stop the process until we understand what is going on that allows the San Bernardino events to take place. This makes sense if the role of the government is to protect its citizen. Yet, it was one the "Stop the Process" as if an absolute had taken place, it was no absolute statement but you would never had known that with the frenzy of the media. Tolerance from Americans with the government has reached a tipping point, it is not racist and it is not anything but rejection of the professional elites business as usual strategy. Peace to all S
William Rydberg
2 years 2 months ago
I am Canadian, so I have no dog in this fight. But I did read the statement by "prominent Catholics" and it didn't strike me as being very articulate. Judging by some of the names used, all that was missing was "Meathead". In my opinion, this will backfire, at least it would I am convinced, here in Canada. Wether its intentional or not, in my opinion Mr Trump is looking like David and the "prominent Catholics" sounding like Goliath or the proverbial "Archie Bunker". Spitting out insults... Speaking just as a Catholic, I am frankly embarassed that America has described this inarticulate letter as being authored by "prominent Catholics". I detect no reasonable Catholic intellectual rigor whatsoever, in my humble opinion...Can't American "prominent Catholics" write anymore? Through being so grossly inarticulate, they run the risk of throwing the USCCB "under the bus". Forcing the USCCB to enter the fray potentially for no compelling reason other than picking Political Sides in a National Federal Election. People seem to forget that Mr Trump is a Presbyterian and it is part of their credo that "Prominent Presbyterians". (elders) actually speak for their Church.... This is a "101" ecumenical church fact about "Elders" in classic Presbyterianism... I pray that this stuff cools down, because Politically the Church in America can't get agreement on Humanae Vitae, let alone agreement on a poorly written letter. The USCCB getting involved because of this letter would be in my opinion, the equivalent of bringing a knife to a gunfight. Finally, In my opinion, the Jesuit Fathers of the New York Province, and especially the Father Provincial of New York Province, I see as responsible for letting the Church in America down, Through inadequate spiritual, supervision, guidance and oversight of America Magazine through the appointment of persons in my opinion, having only partial Formation in the Society of Jesus that are currently managing America Magazine. Especially considering the import to Catholicism in North America, Latin America, and the Anglosphere of America Magazine. It goes without saying in my opinion, that the fact that this item is presented so prominently on the America Magazine Public Facebook Page & Web Site (although the Author is CNS) that it suggest ownership and Agreement by America in my opinion. Which in my opinion is a manifestly sophomoric move, giving credence to a what in my opinion is a poorly worded document (and for reasons stated above). But that is up to the Jesuit Fathers to deal with in my opinion. But I think not getting involved with the day to day at America would be unjust to the men who are trying so hard now to run the Magazine. It’s the Jesuit Father Provincial of New York’s move. Help out the guys at America! They are undoubtedly hard-working folks at America, but they need more support in my opinion. Just my opinion, in Christ,
Sandi Sinor
2 years 2 months ago
Mr. Rydberg, I don't read all of the articles at America, but there is almost always a "just my opinion" by Mr. Rydberg. It quite fascinates me. But very often I can't figure out what point you are trying to make. To begin with, you are castigating the America staff for describing the men who wrote this letter as "prominent American Catholics." Did you not notice that the article was not written by America staff but by the Catholic News Service? The headline merely repeats the CNS description of George and Weigel. You may not know much about these men, since you are Canadian, but it is a fact that both are 'prominent" American Catholics, especially well known among those American Catholics of the more "orthodox" type. George Weigel is a popular Catholic author who has written more than a dozen books. His column appears in many diocesan newspapers, and he also writes for journals such as First Things. He was encouraged by John Paul II to write a biography of him while he was still alive, because the late pope had been impressed by another book written by Weigel. This biography is called "Witness to Hope". Weigel is not my personal cup of tea as far as his views on Catholicism are concerned, but I have to concede that he is a "prominent" American Catholic. Robert George is an academic, another "prominent" Catholic of the orthodox wing of the church whose views on the church I do not always share. But I would never question that he is "prominent" nor his credentials. He is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, where he lectures on constitutional interpretation, civil liberties and philosophy of law and is a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. Both universities are considered to be "prominent" American universities with faculty that are often quite "prominent" in their fields. Perhaps the reason you didn't realize that both men are "prominent" Catholic is that while you are a "co-religionist" with these two men, you are not a fellow countryman. Although I had some trouble following your comments, I had no problem figuring out what the letter in question was saying. Their letter provided brief and clear summaries of Catholic social teaching and of major concerns of many voters in the United States - actually the letter is quite articulate. Speaking as a lifelong Republican, I agree with the authors completely that there are other Republican candidates who are far better qualified than Mr. Trump to be President. If he is nominated, I will vote for his Democratic opponent. They are correct in saying that other candidates are not only vastly more qualified to lead this country than a man whose only experience is in the casino and hotel business (and a master of manipulating the bankruptcy laws}, the other candidates "do not exhibit his vulgarity, oafishness, shocking ignorance, and — we do not hesitate to use the word — demagoguery." Right on. They were too polite to use the descriptor you offered, but the word would be quite apt. The letter can be read at: Then you write:People seem to forget that Mr Trump is a Presbyterian and it is part of their credo that "Prominent Presbyterians". (elders) actually speak for their Church.... This is a "101" ecumenical church fact about "Elders" in classic Presbyterianism..Mr. Trump was baptized in the Presbyterian church. Elders are elected by the membership, part of the governing body of the church. He is not an elder. The Presbyterian Church has stated that even though Trump was baptized in their church, he does not hold membership now. They have also issued official statements that the Presbyterian Church of the USA does not agree with many of Mr. Trump's positions - they are not the positions of the PC(USA). Mr. Trump most definitely does not speak for the Presbyterian Church in America. Mr. Trump would not qualify as an elder even if he were still a member.Individuals who undertake particular ministries including ruling elder, should be persons of strong faith, dedicated discipleship, and love of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Their manner of life should be a demonstration of the Christian gospel in the church and in the world. (The PC(USA) Book of Order)You criticize most writers on the America staff, yet your own writing can be a bit confusing. You use capital letters to begin words that should not be capitalized. Since you capitalize random words that are not proper nouns in the middle of sentences and phrases, it is sometimes necessary to re-read the comment in order to understand what you are trying to say. (By the way, it's "whether" not "wether", and the verb should be "it's", the contraction for "it is", not "its" and there should be a comma in this phrase "at least it would, I think, in Canada" and....... You "correct" almost every writer here, and often criticize America's staff. It's not clear whether your main complaint in this comment is that George Weigel and friends don't write to your satisfaction, or that Jesuits at America magazine are responsible for reprinting a CNS article about the letter, or that the Jesuits at America have not completed their seminary training or....?? The following is another very confusing statement.... the Jesuit Fathers of the New York Province, and especially the Father Provincial of New York Province, I see as responsible for letting the Church in America down, Through (through) inadequate spiritual (spiritual what?), supervision, guidance and oversight of America Magazine through the appointment of persons (who) in my opinion, having (have) only partial Formation (formation)in the Society of Jesus that {yet} are currently managing America Magazine. Huh? I had to read these confusing sentences a couple of times, slowly, to figure out what you are trying to say. I would guess it is something like this .... "I believe that the Jesuits of the New York Province have failed to provide adequate editorial control of the content of America magazine.. I believe that (some?) members of the editorial staff have not yet completed seminary training and are not properly prepared for their responsibilities in managing a prominent Catholic magazine." Just my opinion...
William Rydberg
2 years 2 months ago
Lisa Weber
2 years 2 months ago
Donald Trump is, and always has been, obviously unfit to be president. He is the Republican party's well-deserved reward for sowing hate for years and for refusing to govern. The condemnation of him by mainstream Republicans is long overdue.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 2 months ago
Lisa - I would note that Democrats as well as Republicans have been accepting his support for years (when he was pro-choice) without sufficient disapproval from that side as well. i fear he will also attract a lot of Democratic/Bernie base in the General Election, if he is not stopped by the Republicans (he does best in primaries that are open to Non-Republicans).
Vincent Gaglione
2 years 2 months ago
This description of the letter from “prominent Catholics” to their fellow Catholics in the National Review served only to deepen my negativism and cynicism about Catholic moral leadership in the United States. I don’t read the National Review. As just a Catholic in the pew, I certainly don’t read it for Catholic commentary or opinion. Who do these guys think that they are reaching in the Catholic community? The Bishops? Neither of the names that are mentioned are “prominent Catholics” from my perspective, one of them someone I had never even heard of before. The other makes his dime trading in commentary that often betrays a “holier than thou” perspective that alienates me. His pimping for the Republican party in the guise of moral reflection is laughable. He had a couple of columns in the New York diocesan newspaper that I found derogatory of Pope Francis. His silence - as that of America’s Bishops and Catholic media, this magazine included – on Trump’s reference to the Pope as “disgraceful” is itself a disgrace! What we have with this letter is another rehashing of the narrative that the Republican party is essentially the American Catholic political party. Giving the benefit of the doubt, that may be what, in my opinion, has been the subconscious wish of most of America’s Bishops. For this Catholic it is a proposition which I dismiss and reject outright. I do not need nor want any political party to pretend to represent my religion’s moral values or anyone else’s. Of one thing I am sure, some of those people professing Christian values and freedom of religion don’t reflect my own perspectives. For all the alleged ecumenical goodwill, there are a lot of Christians in this country who do not share my understanding of Christ’s message. I have had enough of the politicians who fawn about “evangelical” values in public debate and their unctuous references to Jesus as a part of their political rhetoric. Some of what has been said about the poor, the homeless, the undocumented, the disabled, the mentally challenged – I’ve heard better from non-Christians! Finally, while the opinions of fellow Catholics – prominent or otherwise - may be interesting from a polling perspective, I am more interested to hear and know the perspectives of Catholic Bishops on the various issues being discussed. That’s why I was very happy that the Pope called out Trump’s proposition about building walls to be unChristian. U.S. Bishops and American Catholic media unfortunately don’t seem to have the same moral fortitude, outspokenness, and gumption of the Pope.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 2 months ago
Vincent - not to recognize George Weigel or Robert George as prominent orthodox Catholics shows how depressing the situation is with Trump. His followers seem to be actually proud of their ignorance (as Trump has described some of his followers "I love the poorly educated" and they applaud him!). And, while I have my differences with the Presbyterian Church, it is laughable for Trump to call himself one, in doctrine or practice. He uses it like he uses the Republican moniker, especially when he compares himself to Abe Lincoln. He has no clue of what the Republican Party stands for? Catholics who have no knowledge of the people who for the last 20-30 years have been at the forefront of lay intellectual thought should really hold their comments until they do at least a tiny bit of online research (and being a Canadian is no excuse - William). The discussion about Trump is not about a religious political movement. It is about an immoral uncivilized and ignorant movement grabbing hold of one of the two main parties in the nation.
Mary Gomez
2 years 2 months ago
Are you Catholic "leaders" the same ones who allow Cecile Richards to speak at Georgetown? and never speak up about international Christian genocide? and never speak up for Sgt Martland? and never speak up for vouchers in DC? and never speak against Obama for his improper actions? and never speak up for American citizens whose wealth is being squandered to the tune of $19 Trillion dollars? and never speak up against illegal aliens? Yes, that's why Catholics will be resistant (maybe deaf) to your message against Trump. At the least, he speaks up. We don't hear from you on the issues that matter.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 2 months ago
Mary - you obviously do not know the positions of both men behind this article. They have written extensively on nearly all the items and are certainly not advocates of Cecile Richards, or Georgetown for that matter. You should have googled them a bit before sounding off so illogically.
Chuck Kotlarz
2 years 2 months ago
Perhaps the billionaire donor class brought America's anger to a boil with an offer that Washington politicians couldn’t refuse.
Bruce Snowden
2 years 2 months ago
For whatever its worth. Talking in the waiting room of a garage while our car was being serviced, the conversation got around to the current political rabble and I ventured to call Trump "an ass!" The woman I was talking to responded quickly, "Oh no, he's very nice! I know him personally! I don't know why he's saying the things we hear." So Trump is "nice?" I find this hard to believe. and just though there might be "redemption" for him after all, if what the woman said is true.
Tom Maher
2 years 2 months ago
As with all personal attacks of Donald Trump, this personal attack letter will either be ignored or will actually increase support for Donald Trump. Better known people than the 30 authors of this letter such as the Pope, Jeb Bush, and Mitt Romney had no effect on Donald Trump surging momentum and national support. Such personal attack on a very worthy, well known and public spirited person as Donald Trump only strengthens Donald Trump's authenticity, credibility and abundant leadership ethos in a time of chronic public policy failures that have profoundly and adversely impacted the nation such as immigration and border security, trade policy, economic policy and national security. Jeb Bush and his super PACs after spending tens of millions of dollars on negative advertising personally attacking only to see Trumps political support grow on a weekly basis and his own support diminish to near zero. Currently Marco Rubio's fierce personal attacks on Trump have caused his support nationwide to crater. Rubio will likely badly lose decisive Florida primary even though he is a Senator from Florida. The personal attacks such as Trump is not a Christian in his resolute defense of the nation's legitimate and critical interests in securing its borders and controlling immigration is highly partisan and is widely rejected as Trump support grows more popular and politically stronger. It as if Trump's critics live in a fantasy world oblivious to worsening economic, social, and military threats to national stability and well being. Trump's critics fail to deal with present day impacts of globalization. A political realignment as offered by Trump is long overdue. Trade pacts, and policies dealing with worldwide terrorist insurgency of the last 25 years have not worked out at all and have actually create new and worse problems such as the widespread loss of jobs and chronic and ridiculously one-sided trade deals and diplomatic arrangement extremely detrimental to the national interest. It is completely true as Donald Trump very rightly frequently pointed out that the Iranian nuclear negotiations was one of the worse deals even negotiated and will likely only aid Iran by relaxing sanctions while not preventing Iran from cheating on the deal and still becoming a formidable nuclear power and threat to world peace. The establishments have appeased Iran with an peace-at-any-price treaty that will quickly make Iran yet another permanent nuclear armed military threat to the United States and the world.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 2 months ago
Tom - It is perfectly reasonable for thoughtful Catholics and others to oppose Trump purely on moral grounds, even if it means his popularity grows. I expect you would not be persuaded to vote for Obama or Hillary just because the polls told you she was going to win. Sometimes in this life, one has to take a stand even if victory is unlikely. Trump's support of 30-40% voters in one party is wholly insufficient justification for supporting him. Trump is forever pointing to the primary polls as justification for people to vote for him, whereas the same polls nearly always show him losing badly to the Democrat in a General election poll - far worse than any other Republican candidate. While I agree that the Obama administration has done considerable harm to the country and the people, and cannot stand ideological political correctness, I have to evaluate a political candidate based on at least three things 1) morality - honesty, integrity, civility and treatment of people; 1) understanding & experience - a grasp of the problems facing the country, in all their complexity, and in sufficient detail; 3) political proposals & prospects - does he/she offer practical and non-criminal solutions? Apart from his ability to garner a solid majority of the votes so far, he is the worst candidate in the Republican field on all three measures. So, should he lose badly in November, he will go back to enjoying his ill-gotten gains, defrauding new suckers with a new business venture, write a book explaining how he was cheated from the Presidency, and get a new reality show where he mistreats a new batch of aspiring Trumpeteers. His supporters will be left with the worst political outcome possible, and will finally see that they were suckered. And that is the most likely outcome.


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