Boston, Massachusetts

As a not-particularly devout Mormon and journalist who has tracked Mitt Romney’s campaign since it began in 1993.  My aim is to correct a number of errors in The National Catholic Register’s editorial of 12/11/2007 (Romney vs. JFK )  and to set the record straight in a few other areas.

You wrote: “There are reasons a Catholic might wince when Mitt Romney, a Mormon” 

“Mormon” is a pejorative that once was considered as mean-spirited as “Papist” would be to a Catholic, or “kike” to Jew.  Mormons turned that frown upside down long ago. I often refer to myself as a Mormon. I like the term, frankly. So no harm done.  Still, most members would prefer to be called Latter-day Saints.  The AP stylebook, as well as ones from The New York Times, and TIME suggest that the correct name be used in first reference: that would be The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most stylebooks suggest “Latter-day Saints” or “LDS” in second reference. Mormon is an acceptable second reference too, as I noted.

You wrote: “The first reason to wince is the anti-Catholic nature of his religion. Mormons believe that Christ failed in his project to found a church, and that the history of Christendom is the story of “The Great Apostate,” the Catholic Church.” 

Actually, the church teaches that Christ succeeded in establishing his church, but, because of persecution and communication lapses, the teachings were changed and, ultimately, the authority to act for God expired with the death of the last apostle. The alleged doctrinal changes and the subsequent withdrawal of the power to act in God’s name are collectively referred to as the “Great Apostasy.” Some Protestant churches point to this period of apostasy as well.  Latter-day Saints are unique only that they, like Catholics, believe the power to act for God must be conferred in an unbroken chain linking the newest priesthood holder to Jesus Christ, Himself.  Like Catholics, Latter-day Saints proclaim that priesthood power can not be assumed.

You wrote: “More than 1,800 years would pass before the true church was founded: the Church of Latter-Day Saints.” 

Latter-day Saints would say the power to act for God and the true church was “restored” in 1830.  While they may casually use “founded” and “restored” interchangeably, they really mean “restored.”

You wrote: “The second reason to wince is the political legacy of Mitt Romney. It was on Romney’s watch that the Supreme Court of Massachusetts demanded that the state’s Legislature legalize homosexual “marriage” — among the most damaging usurpations of legislative power by a judicial body in American history. America is a democracy. Here, citizens and their representatives make laws. Yet Gov. Romney ordered state officials to perform “same-sex marriages” because unelected judges — not voters — told him to.”

This is a very, very serious distortion of the truth. I live near Boston. I happen to believe that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court correctly interpreted the U.S. Constitution  and The Massachusetts Constitution when they ruled in favor  of the same sex couples who sued to have their domestic arrangements sanctioned by the state.   However, Mitt Romney was furious at the order and complained bitterly that the SJC had usurped its authority and was “activist court.”  He then attempted and failed to get the matter reversed, then submitted as a referendum to the voters.

Moreover, the LDS Church has been in the vanguard of churches, along with the Roman Catholic Church, opposing same sex marriage and favoring a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.  By the way, I happen to think the Marriage Amendment is a really bad idea and unconstitutional.  That is of no particular concern.  What is of concern is that you have seriously misrepresented Romney’s actual position and the facts surrounding the same sex marriage controversy in my state.

You wrote: “The third reason to wince is because it’s hard to accept Romney’s convictions at face value. He said it best in his speech: “Americans do not respect believers of convenience. Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.” We tire, for instance, of politicians who give heartfelt speeches lauding abortion rights to win the support of Massachusetts voters, and soon after give heartfelt speeches about the right to life to win the hearts of pro-life Republicans. And, as a Presidential candidate, he continues to press this matter to the fullest.” 

I’m not sure what to say about that. As far back as 1993 he was personally opposed to abortion.  Like many Catholic politicians (I needn’t name names because they are all well know to you) he believed, however, that women and their physicians had to right to make a choice free of interference from the state.  His modest change since then is this: he thinks Roe v. Wade should be reversed and the matter returned to each state legislature.

You wrote: “But then again, we’re used to presidents whose religions consider the Catholic Church illegitimate” 

Aren’t we talking about a philosophical difference of opinion, at best? Don’t Catholics proclaim to belong to the only true church?  As I recall, recently the LDS church has funneled significant aid resources (cash and goods) through Catholic Charities. As I understand it, this is an on-going and growing relationship. I doubt the LDS church would do business with an organization it believed illegitimate and unreliable.

You wrote: “…we don’t want to complain too loudly when a politician switches to a position that is more pro-family than before.” 

I am utterly astonished. As mentioned above. I have tracked Mitt’s political career since it began.  I briefly covered his father when he ran for President in 1968 as well. Later I helped cover the campaigns of George McGovern, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford. I can not think of any candidates in the history of the United States who have been more pro family than the Romneys.  None. There was no switch involved here.  He has consistently been pro family and his church has been as well, aggressively so.

You wrote: ” But ultimately, as several commentators have noted, the God Romney bowed to is the “In God We Trust” civic deity of our currency.” 

I don’t know what you’re driving at here but it feels like you are making a very, very cheap accusation that he worships the Almighty Dollar. He certainly has plenty of dollars to bow down to, if he was so inclined.  I suspect if you took the time to fully measure the man, including how he has husbanded his resources and used them for the good of the people around him, in his church and personal life, you might discover that he has been as good at sharing his good fortune as he was earning it. It is a tradition of sharing and giving back that Mitt inherited from his father, whom the former President Bush said correctly said was the father of volunteerism in America. No  doubt this had something to do with your assessment that Romney’s religion –like John Kennedy’s in 1960—does not render him incapable of leading the United States of America.

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