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Trump is converting America’s nuns Catholics in the US are drifting to the Right

Nuns for Trump out in full force. Credit: Getty

Nuns for Trump out in full force. Credit: Getty


June 4, 2024   5 mins

Bespectacled and berobed, a softly spoken nun may seem an unlikely figurehead for the hard-Right of American politics — but Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God isn’t just any nun. With her broadsides against liberalism, President Biden, and Satan’s hold on the media, she is a fitting representative for the conservative turn of fringe Catholicism in the United States.

Last month, unconsecrated nun Rosalind Moss, as the Vatican would have her, was praised by Texas Governor and practising Catholic Greg Abbott for supporting what has become the holiest of causes for Republicans: the re-election of Donald Trump. “Across the globe, men and women are waking up to the alarming truth that governments no longer serve God and the people,” Moss said in her weekly broadcast on the Catholic Media Network, simulcast on Facebook. “If President Trump gets in, it’s a complete act of God,” she continued. “We are up against not just an election, but an absolute war for good against evil.”

Mother Miriam, a Jewish-turned-evangelical-turned-Catholic convert who wears a full nun’s habit, claims to have been kicked out of two dioceses, and had her vows cancelled by one bishop and denied by three others. Yet this has only increased the size of her pulpit among a reactionary coalition of defrocked. Joining her in the “Nuns for Trump” crusade are The Dominican Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a disavowed Michigan “order” of anti-socialist activists, and Ohio-based Children of Mary, who have attended rallies wearing MAGA masks.

Not to be outdone, in 2020 Wisconsin priest Father James Altman went viral with a YouTube video stating that “you cannot be Catholic and be a Democrat”, warning that those who were would “face the fires of hell” with “60 million aborted babies standing at the gates of heaven barring your Democrat entrance”. Altman was subsequently stripped of his duties, but gained the support of prominent Texas Bishop Joseph Strickland, who was himself removed from his post late last year by Pope Francis, reportedly after calling him the “usurper of Peter’s chair”.

“Joe Biden might be a Catholic, but in this febrile political climate, he is not Catholic enough.”

Suffice it to say that the vision of God promoted by these extremist figures differs widely from that worshipped by the Pope, who has been critical of the exploitative nature of global capitalism, and even declared that, in a “sociological” way, “I am a communist, and so too is Jesus”. But despite their fundamentalism, the views of these consecrated influencers still speak to a broader shift among American Catholics. Although the White House is now occupied by a mass-going Catholic, his co-religionists have lurched dramatically to the Right. Joe Biden might be a Catholic, but in this febrile political climate, he is not Catholic enough.

Traditionally, Catholic voters have been fairly evenly split between the two parties, only swaying to one side in notable landslide elections such as with George Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008. Donald Trump is changing that, and it’s likely to have far-reaching consequences. Only four years ago, Catholics voted for Trump by just 1%. This year, the Republican candidate is currently up 12 points on Biden among Catholics. And this shift is most profound among Hispanics, who make up 40% of the country’s Catholics. In the past two national elections, Hispanic Catholics voted around 2-to-1 for Democratic candidates. In current polling, however, they have Biden only at two points ahead, at 49-47. To put that in context, a similar poll in 2020 found Hispanic Catholics preferred Biden to Trump by 67-26 — a staggering 20-point swing.

Dr Andrew Chesnut, a professor of Catholic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, says that American consecrated nuns — unlike Mother Miriam — have historically been known for progressive Catholicism, particularly social action work and charity. The rise to prominence of renegade clergy is “reflective of the political shift among white Catholics, and now increasingly Hispanic Catholics as well”, he says. While they can no longer partake in activities sanctioned by the Vatican, they are nevertheless representative of those who do. “Those who attend mass on a regular basis tend to be even more Republican and more pro-Trump,” Chesnut says.

This is largely why Trump’s lead among white Catholics is continuing to grow, an eight-point swing from 57-42 in 2020 to 61-38 today. Meanwhile, the number of Catholics who go to mass has halved since the Seventies, pointing to a population that is dwindling in numbers, but increasingly rusted on to conservative values. Indeed, no one is more representative of the changing mood of the Catholic laity than Bishop Strickland. According to the National Catholic Register, until 2016, he was “considered mild-mannered and middle-of-the-road”. But as that year’s election grew near, he ceased being a “management bishop” and adopted an aggressive and controversial approach. Recalling his words in prayer, he told the paper that he asked himself: “Are you going to just sort of follow this management model [or] are you going to teach the truth?”

These days, Strickland is a MAGA disciple, rejecting the established religious order to pursue the truths weighing on his soul, engaging in Covid-scepticism, stoking anti-LGBT sentiment, and attending rallies protesting the election “stolen” from Trump alongside other dismissed Catholic luminaries. “They form a traditionalist, pre-Vatican II wing who are not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church,” Chesnut says. In the Saint Dominic order, claimed by the Michigan Nuns for Trump, they have a figure known for combating heresy “which is what they see themselves doing in fighting against ‘godless socialism’ implemented by Biden”.

The Bible shows that one man’s heretic can be another’s hero, but equally, the gospels are nothing if not about the horrors of persecution and the importance of mercy. “American bishops have been at the forefront criticising, questioning and challenging Pope Francis’s papacy,” Chesnut says. “The bigger, more interesting picture here is that we’ve always seen Trump’s main constituency as white evangelicals. But we can now make the blanket statement that Trump is the candidate of white Christians.” Given the pace with which Hispanic Catholics are fast moving to the Right, it might not be long before we can say that Trump is the candidate of Hispanic Christians, too. And, even though black Protestants are firmly in the Democratic camp, some 18% are leaning towards voting for Trump this election, twice that of 2020, and six times the number who voted for him in 2016.

Yet while Trump’s spiritual coalition is taking shape, the question of why Catholics are now in the tent is a little thornier. “Catholics have moved to the Right for the same reason as Evangelicals are already there,” Andrew Chesnut believes, “and that is the perception of a declining standard of living due to immigration and a departure from traditional Christian values”. And the ramifications of this shift cannot be underestimated. Evangelicals have traditionally been seen as the Republicans’ most reliable constituency, accounting for about a quarter of the United States population. Yet Catholics represent around one in five Americans, meaning their change as a bloc from an essentially neutral political stance to reliable conservatives is likely to be electorally significant. In fact, it bears a resemblance to the shift in the Seventies, when evangelical voters swung behind Ronald Reagan.

In 1976, Reverend Jerry Falwell launched his “I Love America” tour, a nationwide campaign on socially conservative issues. In the same year, fellow evangelical Jimmy Carter had been sworn into office — but the cardigan-clad, micromanaging ditherer in the White House was in stark contrast to the charismatic, smooth-talking and morally unambiguous Baptist minister. Carter might have been the first born-again president, but the energy of the evangelical movement was firmly with Falwell, who turned his personal crusade into the national Moral Majority movement in 1979. In turn, evangelicals became a key pillar of support for the Republican candidate Ronald Reagan, a divorced former actor and former Democrat whose spirituality appeared to bend more towards his astrology-worshipping wife than his God-fearing mother.

Similarly, the activism of out-and-proud Catholic heretics since 2016 has been, if not a result of the conservative political candidate of the day, then at least influenced by the same forces that swept the former reality television star to the highest office in the land. Today, Catholics are moving towards the flame of a twice-divorced reality television star making patently insincere Christian overtures while being found liable for sexually abusing one woman and facing allegations of trying to buy the silence of a porn star over their affair. Amid this paradox, should we be surprised that Mother Miriam and the renegade clergy are gaining influence on the Right by trading bells and smells for fire and brimstone? Today’s America isn’t anywhere near as Godly a place as it was in 1976, but the politics of faith are as potent as ever.


Elle Hardy is a freelance journalist who’s reported from North Korea and the former Soviet Union. She is the author of Beyond Belief: How Pentecostal Christianity Is Taking Over the World.

ellehardy

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Paul K
Paul K
14 days ago

Joe Biden might be a Catholic, but in this febrile political climate, he is not Catholic enough.

ï»żBiden supports abortion on demand as a basic human right, which is contrary to Catholic teaching. His beliefs on gender, and what he is doing about that in terms of promoting radical, sexualised material to minors and much more, are also obviously anti-Christian too.
More broadly, the radical left promotes an understanding of the world on these issues and more which can’t be supported by any believing Christian. It’s not a question of wealth or of ‘communism.’ You can certainly make a good case for the early Christians being ‘communist’ in a material sense, but you can’t make a case for them killing babies in the womb or denying the existence of two human sexes.
This is not a case for Trump, who clearly doesn’t have a spiritual bone in his body. But is an explanation of why many religious people are rejecting the Democrats and their ilk.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
14 days ago
Reply to  Paul K

Respectfully, why is it so “clear” that Trump is not religious? Based on what? I just want to understand your logical basis for that statement, my friend.

Tony Price
Tony Price
14 days ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Well … he boasts about sexually assaulting women, and is convicted of doing so, is a serial adulterer, can hardly open his mouth without lying, cheats when he can and speaks constantly of revenge – sounds about as un-Christian as you can get.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
13 days ago
Reply to  Tony Price

No, he doesn’t. He said women let rich guys do things. Ever hear of groupies? And after years of people coming after you, you’d probably be thinking about payback, too.

Martin M
Martin M
13 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

And after years of people coming after you, you’d probably be thinking about payback, too“.
I thought Jesus was in favour of “turning the other cheek”, not “extracting revenge”.

Andrew F
Andrew F
13 days ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Yes, but dozens of women accusing Clinton ” Epstain Lolita Express frequent flyer “of rape and sexual abuse are not to believed?

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
13 days ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Provide a time, location, date, all relevant context, please. Otherwise, this list is no more convincing then your first claim.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
14 days ago

Biden’s daughter writes in her diary about memories of showering with her father. Not a word is ever mentioned about this in the regime media – ever. But let’s insinuate that Trump was convicted of sexually abusing someone, when he clearly was not. The double standard is so pervasive nobody blinks an eye.

William Shaw
William Shaw
13 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The entire article is one-sided and biased against Trump.
Blatantly so.

Last edited 13 days ago by William Shaw
Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
14 days ago

Democrats are a Godless party, shorn of good sense, barren of good deeds. Their one principle is power, their one goal is control. A Catholic Democrat is like bright darkness or dry water; a contradiction in terms.

Nathan Sapio
Nathan Sapio
13 days ago

I’m not a Catholic but I know enough to quickly see this as another article written by someone without understanding but who feels sufficiently entitled to comment on behalf of Catholics

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
13 days ago
Reply to  Nathan Sapio

She’s written a book on Pentecostals, and I bet she has as much understanding of that group, too.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
13 days ago

 the conservative turn of fringe Catholicism in the United States.
I’m sorry, what? Catholicism IS conservative. The faiths internal battles are not to make it more conservative; they are the polar opposite.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
13 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Add to that the comment about these nuns joining the “far-right”. The left loves to create definitions out of whole cloth and perverse established definitions at will. All part of the modus operandi.

Last edited 13 days ago by Warren Trees
Colorado UnHerd
Colorado UnHerd
13 days ago

I’ve shifted right since 2016, too, but is Strickland really “stoking anti-LGBT” sentiment”? It’s hard to tell from the link. He might be protesting trans activism and sexualized exhibitionism that today characterize many “Pride” events, which people like myself (an L) founded decades ago to advocate for equal rights and protections for gays.
If so, I’m with him; children ARE vulnerable victims of gender ideology though indoctrination in public schools and social media, and for some, later, “gender-affirming care,” still trendy in these United States if (thankfully) on the outs in smarter countries. And no thoughtful parent should bring a child to mindlessly “inclusive,” sexualized expressions of “Pride,” which I and many other LGB people find shameful and an insult to the serious purpose for which these events came into being.

Last edited 13 days ago by Colorado UnHerd
T Bone
T Bone
14 days ago

I would suggest that you do your research on South America and Liberation Theology and maybe you’ll understand why they’re so rebellious.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
14 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

Yes, if one is going to mock the Catholic Church, one ought to mock at least the real thing, not some cartoonish version of it.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
13 days ago

“American consecrated nuns — unlike Mother Miriam — have historically been known for progressive Catholicism, particularly social action work and charity.”
This is only true for a very narrow cadre of activist nuns pushing things like the Nuclear Freeze and disarmament beginning roughly in the 1960s, when every other American institution also began to crumble. We’re seeing the catastrophic result of these breakdowns today, AND the beginnings of a much needed return to normalcy – for example the nuns in this story.

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago

“….prominent Texas Bishop Joseph Strickland, who was himself removed from his post late last year by Pope Francis, reportedly after calling him the “usurper of Peter’s chair””.
Obviously the Pope doesn’t have a sense of humour.

Nancy Kmaxim
Nancy Kmaxim
10 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Now that you mention it that does seem to be one of his personal struggles. His 2 most recent predecessors are notably hard acts to follow so I like to give him a break in the “informal communication “ department.

Tree Bee
Tree Bee
13 days ago

Are those real nuns? Or Fake Nuns?

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
12 days ago
Reply to  Tree Bee

As long as their not Huns, I’m happy.

penny wright
penny wright
8 days ago

Seriously, they aren’t nuns. It’s like men dressing as women and calling themselves women. Women dressing as nuns (from the 1950s), calling themselves nuns and then not actually believing in the teachings of the Catholic Church – well they are just women playing dress ups. I am an Australian Catholic and from over the Pacific Ocean, the inability of rational, democratic America to shake off Trump (or for that matter leaving Biden to run again as the Democrat candidate when the man needs a chair near a window and a good book) seems to say there is something really dysfunctional about the version of democracy operating under the American constitution. America isn’t the only way to do democracy but it’s the richest and noisiest. It needs to look at who is rising to leadership positions.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
11 days ago

I’m suspicious when anyone really thinks a vote for a political candidate is a vote for God, no matter what the politics involved.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
14 days ago

Hate to go in to bat for the Roman Catholics but almost all the people listed above are internally degraded or have actually been kicked out. That so many “trads” follow them is a display of the protestantisation of roman catholicism in the USA – the most dynamic and youthful expression of the faith. These people wouldn’t have got a look in a few decades ago without social media and Youtube to air their heretical views.

Greg Morrison
Greg Morrison
14 days ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Point taken, but in fairness, ‘a few decades ago’ pretty much ALL Catholics were trad caths, without a smartphone in sight – and a lot of the views aired by the current trads were not remotely considered ‘heretical views’.
Today’s trads didn’t exactly leave the mainstream church… But did the mainstream church leave them?

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
13 days ago
Reply to  Greg Morrison

The “heretical views” that most have been formally censured for is suggesting that the current pope is not the pope (modern-day sedevacantists). While I don’t agree with them on many other issues, obviously, even most protestants would consider Francis the bishop of Rome. Even if they don’t espouse this openly there are many formerly faithful members of that church who flirt with question Francis’ right to be pontiff – Damian Thompson of this parish for example who seems to have a lovable mania on the subject.

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
12 days ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Damian Thompson isn’t a sedevacantist: he doesn’t “question Francis’ right to be pontiff”: he just wants the media to pay some attention to the Pope’s support of some very unpleasant people. Google, for example, Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, or the ex-Jesuit Marko Rupnik.
As for the article, it’s a moderately ignorant hit-job that takes many of its facts (or should that be ‘facts’?) from the National Catholic Reporter, a rag so ‘liberal’ that a previous bishop of the diocese they’re in told them to remove the word ‘Catholic’ from their name. (They took no notice.) For instance, Bishop Strickland never claimed that Francis was a usurper, and indeed has specifically acknowledged him as Pope. He read a letter to an assembly that claimed Francis was a usurper, but rejects that claim himself.
The problem for American Catholics is not Trump but Biden, who picks and chooses the bits of Catholic teaching he agrees with and ignores the rest. Unfortunately, it’s the polar nature of US politics (two parties and that’s it) which forces many Catholics into the arms of Trump. Were I American, I’d probably vote that way myself, very reluctantly; it wouldn’t be a vote for Trump but against Biden. Luckily, I’m not American, and of course we British have a plethora of glorious parties and politicians to vote for. /s

Last edited 12 days ago by Sue Sims