This special edition of The Vortex is coming to you from the Texas State Legislature where today is the day that a great realigning of power may begin within the Texas Republican party. But as you might imagine, something like this could not happen without heavy amounts of drama and that drama has been provided by none other than the Catholic bishops of Texas.
Through their agency, the Texas Catholic Conference, they injected themselves into this election while early voting was already underway and, unbelievably, publicly endorsed a slate of candidates. That action now threatens to have the Church in Texas stripped of its tax-exempt status by the IRS as we covered in depth in yesterday's Vortex. The woman behind what some are calling a stupendous political blunder is the executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference, Jennifer Carr Allmon. She produced this statement on behalf of the state's bishops, thus throwing them into these very dangerous waters.
As we revealed yesterday, Church Militant has learned exclusively that a petition is being drawn up for presenting to the IRS, seeking the revoking of the tax-exempt status for the Church in Texas. In the statement, she slammed the most well respected, oldest and largest pro-life organization in the state — Texas Right to Life — ordering bishops and priests to have nothing to do with the group. Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth even went so far as to order his priests to read the denouncing statement from the pulpits at Mass, serving as icing on the cake for calls to revoke the Texas bishop's tax exempt status.
Catholic lawmakers in the state legislature were blown away when they learned of the action. On top of it all, Renaldi says the statement is riddled with incorrect statements about Texas Right to Life and needs to be completely rescinded publicly by the bishops. Rinaldi even dashed off a five-page letter to one Texas bishop pointing out all the errors in it. The two groups Rinaldi is speaking off, Texas Alliance for Life and Texans for Life Coalition, are publicly praised and supported in the statement which even provides a link to one of their voter guides, thus cementing the case for revoking the tax exempt status.
There has been a big division in the pro-life world here in Texas, as in many other states, over the best way to advance the pro-life cause legislatively. Here in Texas, it has turned especially ugly because the issue of illegal immigration plays such a large role. The supposed pro-life groups that the bishops' statement praises and publicly endorses also back current Republican establishment types who are also friendly to the Texas bishops' agenda of wide open borders, sanctuary cities, support for DACA and so forth, in short, all things illegal immigration.
Various priests, perhaps without realizing the storm they were wading into, even condemned Texas Right to Life from the pulpits the past couple of weekends and praised the other two groups allied with the GOP establishment. That was the cause of some direct confrontations on the steps of churches, this one at St. Mary's Cathedral in downtown Austin where angry supporters of Texas Right to Life challenged the priest immediately following Mass, saying he had no business saying that from the pulpit. After a somewhat heated exchange, the priest admitted that he didn't know the full implications of this whole issue, needed to be more educated on it, was ordered to offer those words and then apologized to the group.
Solid Catholics all over Texas are deeply troubled by this turn of events motivated by partisan politics. It was even the dominant topic of discussion when our crew met with some members of the Church Militant Austin and San Antonio Resistance, as well as Catholics from other parts of the state. Texas Catholics are concerned that bishops here and elsewhere are softening their stand on abortion and even avoiding it in favor of garnering political support for illegal immigration.
A perception is now developing that the bishops aren't really that pro-life, only when it suits their needs — a perception by the faithful that privately, some bishops here are growing increasingly nervous about. Statements like the one by their executive director, Jennifer Carr Allmon, only serve to reinforce this growing perception. One bishop even went on EWTN last week to try and reverse that perception, but for everyday Catholics, as well as legislators like Rinaldi, that interview was not helpful because it sidestepped the real issue — the bishops' continued support and praise for the other groups and red herring claims made against Texas Right to Life.
So what is developing here in Texas, and we'll have a much clearer picture when all of today's voting is done, is if the bishops who have now jeopardized that sacrosanct tax-exempt status to keep establishment Republican lawmakers in place, realize exactly how much they are alienating rank and file Catholics in the process. What many faithful Catholics we spoke with said they need to see to restore any measure of trust is that the statement be publicly rescinded, people responsible for it lose their jobs and a whole new examination of how Church politics operates in Texas be initiated.
If the bishops' chosen candidates, again, a violation of the Johnson Amendment, suffer setbacks when all the votes are done being counted, the bishops may be forced to take a long hard look at their own conference and its leadership and rethink its entire reason for existence. Stay tuned to Church Militant for the results from key races we will be watching — what political junkies call bellwether races — to see how this all plays out. Saddle up, it's going to be a rough ride — the Texas state legislature which may look very different than it does now when this is all said and done.