Catholic Republicans have mixed reactions to Trump’s crude talk
As Donald Trump faces continued fallout from a video released on Oct. 7 that shows him bragging about groping women and kissing them against their will, members of his Catholic advisory committee say they will stick by the candidate because he offers the best chance of appointing pro-life judges.
“The past words and actions that have come to light from the video tape and radio interviews released are repulsive and undignified and cannot be condoned or defended,” Joseph Cella, the liaison between the Trump campaign and its Catholic advisory group, said in a statement.
But that does not mean he is abandoning Mr. Trump.
“Donald Trump and Mike Pence remain the only candidates in this election who will bring jobs back home where they belong, keep our families and communities safe, defend the right to life, the right to fully and freely exercise our religious freedom, and other issues of great importance to Catholics—and most importantly, they will appoint Supreme Court Justices who will do the same for future generations,” he continued.
Another member of the advisory council, pro-life activist Father Frank Pavone, told America on Friday evening that while he had not watched the tapes, he was also sticking with Mr. Trump.
“I will continue serving on the advisory committee because the role is to advise,” he said in an email. He said he has pointed out repeatedly to critics that he’s working with the Trump campaign not because of the candidate’s “virtue in speech” but because “we are electing someone to do a specific job, namely, to appoint the right kinds of judges and to sign the right kinds of legislation.”
“In order to do that, one must be president,” he continued.
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Not all Catholics who once signaled an openness to Mr. Trump are taking the tape’s revelations so easily.
The lay-run group CatholicVote released a statement over the weekend calling on the G.O.P. candidate to drop out of the race.
“In our opinion, the viability of Donald Trump’s candidacy is now in question,” the group said in a statement. “Furthermore, the good many hoped to achieve, in spite of Trump’s many well-known flaws, is also now in doubt. If Donald Trump is unwilling to step aside, the Republican National Committee must act soon out of basic decency and self-preservation.”
Back in January, the organization said Mr. Trump was not a worthy choice for Catholics voting in the G.O.P. primaries. It amended that position in September, saying that in the contest between Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton, he was the better choice for Catholic voters. It defended that decision in Saturday’s statement while not holding back on criticism for Mr. Trump.
“Our goal has been simple: secure as much good as possible from a terribly difficult presidential contest among two extraordinarily flawed candidates,” the group said.
The video gave further ammunition to Mr. Trump’s Catholic critics from earlier in the campaign, who vowed not to support the real estate developer and reality TV star even if he were nominated.
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Princeton University professor Robert P. George, one of the creators of the Catholic “Never Trump” effort, Tweeted on Friday, “Time & again I said: Trump will shame those who link themselves to him, tainting worthy organizations they lead and noble causes they serve.”
He also called on Mr. Trump to drop out of the race and suggested that vice presidential hopeful Gov. Mike Pence run for the White House instead, an unlikely scenario given the election is less than a month away.
“A Trump apology is useless. The man is what he is. No one will believe he has changed. He now has no chance. We need a Pence candidacy,” Prof. George Tweeted.
Earlier this month, the Trump campaign reached out to Catholic groups, writing letters in which he promised that in addition to picking pro-life judges, he would support conscience protections for health care workers opposed to abortion and the rights of small businesses to deny services to same-sex couples based on religious objections.
Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton face off in the second of three presidential debates on Sunday night.
Michael O’Loughlin is the national correspondent for America and author of “The Tweetable Pope: A Spiritual Revolution in 140 Characters.” Follow him on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.