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How <strike>not to counter Archbishop Nienstedt</strike> to confuse voters. (UPDATED)

DFL anti-Catholic PostcardUpdates throughout: Apparently the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party recently sent this [PDF] to prospective voters. On the front it features a priest person in a Roman collar wearing a button that reads "Ignore the Poor" (and holding some kind of holy-looking book, or possibly a datebook, or possibly an instruction manual on how to overthrow Minnesota's democratically elected government). On the reverse, it criticizes GOP candidate Dan Hall, asking, "Who in God's name would deny health care to the poor?" Presumably the postcard is intended to push back on Archbishop Nienstedt's anti-gay-marriage mailing.Dan Hall has worked as a chaplain, and attends a nondenominational church that's associated with the Assemblies of God. Instead, the DFL has successfully impugned the charitable efforts and concerns of the Catholic Church in general, and its priests in particular, all while reinforcing the notion that Democrats not only don't get religion, they harbor animosity toward it. I think that's what the kids might call a messagefail. Not sure what's on the other side of the postcard, or if it even matters, but I think it's safe to say that whoever came up with this idea is in the wrong line of work. (H/T Stella Borealis.)DFL spokesman Donald McFarland has issued the following statement:

The ad is part of a two-piece mailing that highlights and criticizes the policy views of Dan Hall, a preacher who is the Republican candidate for the Minnesota Senate. I enclose both sides of both pieces. I understand that some Republican bloggers have taken one image from the first piece, and claimed that the mail is somehow anti-Catholic. But the text explicitly criticizes Preacher Hall for distancing himself from policy views that have been taken by the Catholic Archdiocese, by the Lutheran Synod, and other leaders in Minnesotas faith community. Dan Hall is willing to enlist God and religion in his campaign when it helps him -- but in fact, his views hurt the poorest and sickest among us, and this mailing holds him accountable for those views.

You can see the second mailing here. It also refers to Hall as "Preacher Hall" (I can't find any evidence that Hall refers to himself that way). Why the DFL would use the image of a man in a Roman collar to depict a lay chaplain who is a member of a nondenominational church remains mysterious. At least we can dispense with the claims that the mailing is anti-Catholic, although it may be anti-wise. My apologies for jumping to conclusions.Another update: "I've never worn a Roman collar," Dan Hall told me. "No one in my church does." Asked why he thought the DFL would use such an image, he said, "I have no idea. You're offending all kinds of church people, whether Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish." Hall explained that, probably as a result of this dustup, he's received a great deal of media requests, concluding, "In the end, it's probably going to help me."Still another update (the last, I hope): That isn't the only Catholic-looking image the DFL is using in its campaign mailers. Check this one out. What is that, a side chapel? And St. Anthony? Might be a good time for the DFL to say a little prayer to him. Maybe he can help them find their common sense.Preacher Politician


Commenting Guidelines

Catholics and Lutherans are each about 25% of the population in Minnesota, so maybe the DFL's messagefail is criticizing the Lutherans. ;)

"Presumably, the postcard is intended to..."That's perhaps the problem here, certainly to anybody not under Nienstedt's thumb: The message is a matter of interpretation. To those of us outside Minnesota, the message is unclear. What is the message as interpreted by Minnesotans?Or is the message unclear to them, as well?

Terrible. I would say that they have unsuccessfully impugned the work of the church on behalf of the poor. Because there will surely be lots of blowback.

Joseph: if the DFL gets back to me, I'll let you know what they say. In the meantime, the message seems clear enough: the church ignores the poor. in four Americans said they couldn't think of a single positive societal contribution made by Christians in recent years, according to a nationwide survey released Monday.

"I would say that they have unsuccessfully impugned the work of the church "Seems to be going around these days!cockadoodle doo.


I'm skeptical. Why would you counter a DVD on opposition to homosexual marriage with "These people ignore the poor?" It doesn't sound plausible. There may be something going on in Minnesota that non-Minnesotans have no idea about, but which makes this instantly comprehensible to Minnesotans.

Maybe you're right, Felapton. Still, the Minnesotans I've spoken to find this perplexing. One of the responses elicited by Nienstedt's mailing was: this is a misallocation of resources; why isn't the church spending its energies on serving the needy?

I think the DFL piece is another 'more clever than by a half" push back in these days of division and vitriol, etc.Still, there's this, as per today's Denver Post -one in four Americans can't think of a Christian contribution to the poor.I also note (per NCR) that the bishops had to defend (again) the Campaign for Human development (but, of course, tightening regulations to please our brothers on the right.)All of which makes me wonder about the forthcoming notion of the new evangelization.Fr. Martin is right about simple minded denigartyion of many excellent priests serving the poor! But are we continuing, on a policy level, to tip our hat to the meassge of service, in our society so concerned with our own individual selves??????

Isn't this postcard just taking off from the arguments made by Fr. Michael Tegeder, pastor of St. Edwards Church in Bloomington, MN, who published a letter in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, that Minnesota bishops and Archbishop Nienstedt were ignoring the real threat to marriage, which is poverty? If this is the connection, then whoever dreamt this up forgot that Americans have ridiculously short attention spans and were unlikely to connect the dots in the time lag between Fr. Tegeder's letter and the DFL mailing. In addition, the mailing is a ridiculously blunt instrument (not the nuanced argument that Fr. Tegeder made) and is likely to push Catholics who are undecided to vote against the DFL.By the way, the DVD was not Archbishop Neinstedt's first venture into political action. He was instrumental in the postcard campaign against the Freedom of Choice Act a few years ago and a few years before that then-Bishop Neinstedt started a postcard campaign for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.

Felapton --Maybe the message is "See these people are hypocrites -- they don't really help the poor".

It's so, so dumb I wondered if it's a hoax/ploy..??? [not that Dems can't be dumb]

The hostile comments after the National Catholic Register's story The Most Anti-Catholic Political Ad You'll Ever See are certainly charming. If it is an attack on Archbishop Nienstedt, it certainly is an inept one. Apparently the picture is PhotoShopped. Would it have been so hard to use a picture of someone dressed as a bishop rather than a priest? I'm waiting until I hear what the DFL has to say before I comment further. I don't see what they have to gain by a wholesale attack on the Catholic Church (if that was their intent). Certainly it is not true that the Catholic Church does not help the poor, but I certainly can imagine much more outrageous attacks on the Catholic Church that would have more truth to them as well.

As a Minnesotan, at least for the last ten years, I cannot think of any particular local issue to which this speaks. It seems like a foolish move, unless the DFL are trying to harvest the vast, untapped anti-Catholic vote. I think they have made a bad mistake.

Here is one possibility. The text intended for the button wasIGNORE THEPOORMISGUIDEDGAYPEOPLEWHOWANTYOUTOCHANGETHEDEFINITIONOF MARRIAGEBut it just wouldn't fit.

Grant said: One of the responses elicited by Nienstedts mailing was: this is a misallocation of resources?That's a good question. Didn't somebody suggest on the other thread the DVD may have been funded by some unidentified group? I'm not sure which would be more disconcerting: the archdiocese spending the pew potatoes' money making a campaign ad DVD or the archbishop playing himself in a political action committee's campaign ad DVD.Unfortunately, this is the sort of thing bishops don't have to tell anybody.

Bob Nunz says: "as per todays Denver Post -one in four Americans cant think of a Christian contribution to the poor."I'm not sure this is reason to panic. I'm pretty sure one in four Americans can't name an odd integer either.

Until now Catholic defections from the Democratic party have been concentrated among those self-identifying as moderates or conservatives. The creative types of the DFL may succeed in the more difficult and challenging task of driving Catholic liberals away.

I don't see that "ignore the poor" perception as necessarily stemming from anti-Catholicism: it is fueled by the way in which Catholics dwell with politics. Catholics don't "ignore the poor", of course, but what about the Catholic voice in politics? Non-Catholics might not be aware of the work to help people in need, done by Catholics. Their image of the Catholic church comes from the mainstream media. I don't think they hear about, say, the bishop's statement on faithful citizenship. The statements directed to non-Catholics and that are directly relevant to politics concern three main topics: abortion, same-sex marriage, and immigration laws. Where the media are more vocal about the first two topics, then "ignore the poor" will hit the mark.The web page of the archdiocese of Minneapolis doesn't help: if a non-Catholic (say, a journalist) tries to click on links that might be of interest to him or her, "Position statements" goes to statements about marriage (presumably against same-sex marriage) and "Policies and public resources" brings her to one document about the health-care reform (presumably centered on abortion) and one document on H1N1. Only by clicking on "Catholic charities" do you get to a page that talks about 4 ways in which the money is spent, and only one of them ("Venezuelan mission") is clearly for the poor.

Say what you will about convent comedies (see Mollie's review of The Divine Sister just posted online), the old movies generally projected a view of the Catholic clergy as helpful to the helpless and downtrodden. Think about On the WaterFront and the biography of the priest who founded Boys Town and all those nuns in lovely habits hovering about in hospitals in dozens of movies. I'm sure they helped lend a positive image to the Church. But these days are there many movies about the Church, complimentary or not? The lovely habits are gone, of course. (I suspect the conservatives were right in opposing that move.) The plain lack of good press can change the Church's image, not ot mention you know what.

Finally heard back from the DFL. Updates throughout the post. Very strange.

Thanks, Grant.It remains a bad choice of visual because it causes guilt by association.

I'm gone for 7 weeks and ---- nothing has changed!!!!Re: Nienstadt and his ilk: what you sow so shall you reap.

Although he does not refer to himself as "Preacher Dan Hall", he does highlight his work as a "chaplain" and a "minister" on his bio at this campaign website. See He also lists himself as "Chaplain Dan Hall" on the Midwest Chaplains website. See He founded the Midwest Chaplains organization. As a result, his primary occupation now seems to be "Christian ministry".Preacher is a synonym for chaplain or minister, although (for at least some people) it has stronger negative connotations than the other terms, which is probably why the DFL used it.Dan Hall also highlights his work with the poor on his campaign website. Thus, the text on the back of the postcard seems to be aimed at highlighting how he is a hypocrite on aid to the poor given his voting record. "Preaching" one thing but doing another.That message, however, has gotten lost due to the unfortunate picture on the front of the postcard.

Would we be bending over backwards to excuse a GOP mailing picturing someone in what appeared to be, as Juan Williams might say, "Muslim garb" wearing a button with an anti-American phrase on it?And if they offered an explanation saying it was a specific criticism of a politician who wasn't even Muslim, would that mitigate this, or would it only underscore its ignorance?

Doesn't the RC Church still regard "rash judgment" as a sin?

John McG,Yes! Yes! It's still the most anti-Catholic add you'll ever see! Because clearly that is a Catholic priest on the front. Of course, Wikipedia tells us:

Collars are typically worn by seminarians and clergy members of other groups such as those of the Anglican, Presbyterian and Lutheran traditions. Also many Methodist, Apostolic, Oneness Pentecostals, Non-denominational, and others wear collars. Some Unitarian Universalist ministersHumanists as well as Christianswear collars. In some churches or locales however, this practice is discouraged because collars are known to be associated with Roman Catholicism.

So even non-denominational ministers may wear collars. But that is definitely a Catholic chin in the photo.

DN,Are you claiming that the association most people would have with that image is not "Catholic priest?"Again, imagine an ad featuring someone wearing a turban. As we know, Muslims don't wear turbans; Sikhs do. Would we thus excuse trading in anti-Muslim bigotry?Is it "the most anti-Catholic ad you'll ever see?" No. But I'd prefer not to see the likes of this particular ad again.I'm willing to forgive, but I'm not going to bend over backwards to excuse.If it was a mistake, it was a mistake.

Are you claiming that the association most people would have with that image is not Catholic priest?John McG,First of all, there is text on the back that refers to "Preacher Dan" at least six times. Second, probably anyone who is not a Catholic and attends a church where their minister wears a collar would not immediately jump to the conclusion that the image is of a Catholic priest. You are used to seeing priests in collars, so you assume it's a priest. A significant number of Minnesotans are Lutherans, and Lutheran ministers dress similarly to Catholic priests. As Wikipedia noted, a lot of denominations use collars, as do some non-denominational ministers.No matter how desperately you want to believe there is anti-Catholicism involved here, you are wrong.

What a mess. Aren't there any Catholics working with the DFL?

What a mess. Arent there any Catholics working with the DFL?Fr. Martin,One would assume so, given the demographics of Minnesota. Wikipedia says:

A 2008 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that 32.0% of Minnesotans were affiliated with Mainline Protestant traditions, 21.0% with Evangelical Protestant traditions, 28.0% with Roman Catholic traditions, 1.0% each with Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, and Black Protestant traditions, smaller amounts for other faiths, and 13.0% unaffiliated.

But I am not sure what the point of the question is. Anybody who looks at both sides of the card will know it was not intended to be a Catholic priest. The only mess involved here is people jumping to conclusions based on seeing the front but not the back of the card.

Really, David, the only mess? You're not looking hard enough.

It's actually kind of complimentary, isn't it? The DFL wants images that says "religion" and the first things that come to mind is a Roman collar and a chapel with St. Anthony of Padua.Of course, they didn't mean it to be complimentary. But still.

Really, David, the only mess? Youre not looking hard enough.Grant,Well, okay. There's the totally embarrassing blog post over at The National Catholic Register, which begins:

The Most Anti-Catholic Political Ad You'll Ever See BY MATTHEW ARCHBOLD Monday, October 25, 2010 10:03 PM Comments (92)A Democrat Party supporting independent non profit group has sent out perhaps THE most anti-Catholic political advertisement Ive ever seen. Sometimes theres a little subtlety to anti-Catholic political rhetoric but not this time. This is in your face anti-Catholicism. A postcard was sent out to voters with a photo shopped picture of a Catholic priest wearing a campaign button saying: Ignore the Poor.As you can see the pic takes up nearly the entire length of the postcard. Its anti-Catholicism is not one point of many. Its the point.

And then there are the ugly comments that follow, like this one by DivineRipples:

The Democratic party is a collection of the vilest groups of American society - ranging from baby killers, liars, thieves, intern seducers, pot smokers but not inhalers, mentally challenged pass it to know it, beastiality practitioners hollywood types, million dollar apostate nuns and the like.
Then there's this, from LifeNews (still uncorrected):
Democratic Ad: Catholic Church More Concerned About Abortion Than PoorA campaign postcard the Minnesota Democratic Party sent to voters in the Midwestern state is causing a strong reaction from pro-life advocates. It claims the Catholic Church is more concerned with abortion than helping the poor. The postcard features a large photo of a older but faceless Catholic priest holding a Bible and wearing the clearly-seen Roman Catholic collar. [Emphasis added]

So in this interpretation, it's about abortion rather than Archbishop Nienstedt and same-sex marriage. That is an amazing deduction from a picture of someone in a Roman collar wearing a button that says "Ignore the Poor." That story is reproduced on many blogs.Then there's this from Irish Central:

Democrat Party use anti-Catholic political advertisementThe Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party are hoping that that their anti-Catholic advertisement might gain them the vote of all those who have turned against the Church.A postcard sent out to voters in Minnesota shows a photograph of a priest, wearing the traditional black shirt and dog collar, with a campaign pin photo-shopped in that reads Ignore the Poor. The postcard holds no other information on the front, no other message.The National Catholic Observer [Register?] points out the most worrying aspect of this ad besides its face value message. This group must believe that theres enough of an anti-Catholic vote that this would pay dividends. Could that be true? said Matthew Archbold.

There's even this, in which reporters go around showing the front of the card to people without showing them the back. The mess, in my opinion, is people jumping to conclusions based on seeing the front of a postcard without asking what is on the back.Everyone knows that in our universe, a piece of paper has two sides. How in the world did such an uproar get made over one side of a piece of paper? If the Times reported on one side of a piece of paper without finding out what was on the other side, we would -- and quite correctly so -- never hear the end of it.The hysteria over this has made Bill Donohue seem reasonable by comparison!

Now you're being arch. You sure there's nothin messy about the DFL's as design?

Sorry for the coding errors above. But one more thought. Their message is that this "preacher" is not in step with the various religious denominations in Minnesota. They are not saying Christianity is a bad thing, they're saying he's not acting like a Christian, he's acting like a politician. Where is the insult to religion there? When has it ever been anti-Catholic to accuse a non-Catholic of being un-Christian?

Now youre being arch. You sure theres nothin messy about the DFLs as design?Grant,I see no problem. There is no disrespect intended for religion. The ad is directed at someone who is not living up to his religion.

Sorry for the typos. I can't say whether Hall is "living up to his religion." I can say that if you're trying to produce an attack ad based on a candidate's religion, you'd better get it right. And, you know, try to avoid annoying a large swath of potential supporters. Bad politics.

Felapton: "Why would you counter a DVD on opposition to homosexual marriage with 'These people ignore the poor?' "The major objection to the mailing of the Marriage DVD to all the Catholics of Minnesota, using donated money, was that the money should have been used to give to the poor.That just happened three weeks ago. Most people in Minnesota would be aware of the controversy if they read the papers at all. Most voters read the papers. The DFL leadership is vehemently opposed to the Church's position on homosexual marriage.Dan Hall is not a minister at all. He has been a police chaplain and an employee of chaplains' organizations. Yet the DFL ads keeps referring to him as "preacher." And one shoes the priest with the button. Another, shoes an altar with a statue of St. Anthony holding the Baby Jesus. How many protestant churches have statues?He attends a non-denominational church where the ministers do not wear clerical vestments or clothing. On Hall's web pages the photos are always of him wearing a shirt and maybe a tie.

Grant Gallicho:Thanks for the great research work. I've been trying to keep track of this all day from Minneapolis and you have done a much better job than just about everybody else that I have seen. Keep up the good work. I'm going to have to stop by Commonweal more often.

He attends a non-denominational church where the ministers do not wear clerical vestments or clothing.No clothing? Instead of complaining about what the man in the photo was wearing, we should just be thankful he was wearing something.

It seems that DFL could have saved itself a lot of trouble by including the face of the person the ad was targetting.Does anyone have a good reason for why they did not do so, and instead presented the disembodied torso?

BTW, let's talk about a truly anti-Catholic ad -- Sharron Angle's "closing argument" in her Nevada race:

I'll take that as a "no."

BTW, can't we dispense with the same old tactics of ignore, deny, deflect?

It doesnt sound plausible. There may be something going on in Minnesota that non-Minnesotans have no idea about.2010 new ugg boots

John McG, isn't the disembodied torso supposed to make the recipient turn the card over? If Dan Hunt's face were on the front of the card, anybody who found it in the mail would immediately know it was political advertising and probably not bother to read the back.

Felapton, yes, "because they're stupid" is more often than not the correct answer ("Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain").Similarly, over the course of my career, I have more than once been in a position of trying to tell someone as gently as possible that the jerk boss who just humiliated them is actually an equal opportunity jerk, humiliating one and all with complete indifference to their membership in a protected class. There is no substitute for a thick skin in this world.

It seems the moral of the story is, if you come across something that is either an egregious attack on the Church or just really, really, really stupid, it's probably just really, really, really stupid. Anti-Catholicism exists, but colossal stupidity is much more prevalent.