Catholics must reject ‘sectarian partisan lens’ and ‘live the truth’ of their faith, says former congressman
WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Despite being labeled a Democratic “heretic” by the media for his pro-life stand and his support for traditional marriage, former Congressman Dan Lipinski told a Washington conference he never backed down from “what I knew was true.”
“It is our responsibility, especially because of our Catholic faith, to live the truth no matter what profession that we are in,” Lipinski said March 10. “What we need to do is to be Catholic first. This means adhering to the truth in this post-truth world. It’s not always going to be easy. Sometimes we will be hated. We will have to make personal sacrifices.”
Lipinski, 56, who represented Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District for eight terms, from 2005 to 2021, was a keynote speaker during a conference on “Journalism in a Post-Truth World,” sponsored by EWTN News and Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, at the Museum of the Bible in Washington.
The March 10-11 conference, held in person and over livestream, included panel discussions on issues such as the state of modern journalism and religion coverage, media ethics, media bias, the upsides and pitfalls of using social media, and how to cover the Catholic Church.
When he served in Congress, Lipinski said, “I always relied on St. Thomas More, the patron saint of politicians, to be my guide. Almost five centuries ago, More stood up for truth and as a result he not only lost his incredibly powerful political position but he lost his life.”
Thomas More, a Catholic lawyer, judge and statesman who served as lord chancellor to King Henry VIII, was found guilty of treason for refusing to recognize the king as the supreme head of the Church of England. He was beheaded July 6, 1535.
Lipinski recounted what led to his losing a bid for a ninth term in Congress. He was narrowly defeated in the March 2020 Democratic primary by Marie Newman, a businesswoman and abortion rights advocate. Newman had the backing — including lots of campaign money — from outside groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Service Employees International Union, Planned Parenthood Votes and Illinois Federation of Teachers.
Media coverage of him changed over the years, Lipinski said, when journalists decided he was on the wrong side of every issue the Democrats supported, even though Lipinski’s record showed he voted with Democrats more than 90% of the time and that he had 91% and 92% lifetime scores, respectively, from the League of Conservation Voters and the AFL-CIO.
The media never forgave him for his vote against the Affordable Care Act, he said.
On Nov. 7, 2009, the House passed its version of health care reform in a 219 to 215 vote, followed Dec. 24 by Senate passage of its version 60-39. On March 11, 2010, the House passed the Senate version 219-212, with all Republicans and 34 Democrats, including Lipinski, voting “no.” Lipinski was the only Illinois Democrat who opposed it. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law March 23, 2010.
Lipinski said he opposed the ACA because it did not explicitly forbid the possibility of allowing federal funding of abortion in subsidized health plans. He also thought it was too expensive and did not do enough to reform health care.
Obama signed an executive order to prohibit federal funding of abortion under the health care law (with exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother). But, critics said the law still provided federal subsidies for health plans that cover abortions.
Lipinski said the media wrongly accused him of voting to repeal the health care law when the House considered a repeal-and-replace bill in 2017. The measure barely passed the House and ultimately failed in the Senate.
News stories relentlessly tied him to President Donald Trump’s policies, and Politico said that as one of the last conservative Democrats in Congress, he was “an exotic species.”
“That’s the first and last time I’ll ever be labeled an ‘exotic species,'” Lipinski said.
“So, what does my experience and what I’ve seen … say for our post-truth world about journalistic ethics? … Truth has not left the world but much of the world has turned its back on truth,” said Lipinski, who these days is a writer, speaker and consultant.
Publications he has written for include America magazine and First Things.
“Catholics have become as prone as the rest of the country to seeing the world through a sectarian partisan lens. There are Catholic adherents on both sides of the divide,” Lipinski said. “And I understand the desire for faithful Catholics to either join the sectarian left to fight the inhumane right or join the sectarian right to fight the godless left,” he continued. Lipinski added it “would not surprise any of those who helped remove me from office, that among those I am personally closest to, most of my friends, the draw is certainly to the sectarian right.”
“While I have spoken out and I continue to speak out about the Democratic Party’s radical extreme position on abortion, family and other issues, neither major party is completely in line with our Catholic faith,” Lipinski said.
Fusing “our partisanship with our membership in the body of Christ is terribly problematic,” he said. “We know that a political party’s policy agenda, which is designed to serve immediate needs of the party, will always take precedence over Catholic common good policies.”
“The answer is to be faithful, to follow the truth in all that we do and do our job, as we know it should be done,” Lipinski said.
“I always go back to what St. Teresa of Calcutta said: ‘We’re not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful,’ and that’s my recommendation not just for journalists but for all of us in this post-truth world,” he said. “We work for the best with God’s help, we will get done what we can. The rest is all left up to him.”
Julie Asher is senior editor at OSV News.