Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Reasons Catholics and Evangelicals are Flocking to Trump

The Reasons Catholics and Evangelicals are Flocking to Trump

By Raymond Arroyo   |   Friday, 25 Mar 2016 08:11 AM

On primary day in Florida it was like Palm Sunday for Donald Trump, replicating a trend seen in contest after contest: Evangelical and Catholic voters swung decisively for the GOP front-runner. The question is: Why?

The Florida exit polls were striking. A full 50 percent of Catholics in the Sunshine State voted for Trump, while only 33 percent voted for the Catholic, Sen. Marco Rubio. Trump’s support among born-again Christian voters was 49 percent. Meanwhile, the evangelical Ted Cruz languished with only 20 percent of the votes from his own pew mates.

Trump’s hold on both Catholics and evangelicals is by no means restricted to Florida. Massachusetts exit polls reveal that Trump drew a stunning 53 percent of the Catholic vote and 49 percent of evangelicals there.  
On the surface a thrice-married, jet-setting billionaire with a penchant for expletives and a casual familiarity with scripture would seem a bad match for religiously minded voters. Nevertheless, in Michigan, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and other contests, Trump handily won the majority of both Catholics and evangelicals. Something is clearly happening, but what?

Leaders are all too aware of the pattern. Seeking to stop the faithful stampede to Donald, a phalanx of religious leaders have risen up in recent days — not to support another candidate, but to condemn Trump with usually harsh and unforgiving language. Evangelical heavyweights like James Dobson, Max Lucado and Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention have decried Trump as an “economic swindle” and a “social Darwinist.” Lucado insisted that Trump lacks “decency.” 

A parcel of Catholic intellectuals recently signed an open letter condemning the GOP front-runner for his "vulgarity, oafishness" and "shocking ignorance." In between garment rending, these "Never Trumpers," like so many in the Beltway crowd, admit they can neither explain nor make sense of the Catholic/evangelical Trump phenomenon.

Stephen Prothero, a Boston College religion professor, explained the evangelical exodus to Trump in a recent Politico article. It’s simple, he says: "American evangelicals are just not that evangelical anymore."

I’m not sure so that theory washes — and it certainly does not explain the Catholic support for Trump. So I decided to make it my business to visit key primary states and talk to Catholic and evangelical Americans on their own turf. I tried to situate myself at polling places in Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana and Michigan on big primary nights while on the road. In some cases, I visited the states shortly after primary voting, speaking in depth with scores of Catholics and evangelicals. Their surprising personal explanations for casting votes for Donald Trump made more sense to me than anything I have heard or read in D.C. 

For all the fury and indignation coming from the establishment over the rise of Trump, in the minds of these voters, it is the establishment itself that is most responsible for his rise and enduring popularity. 

Conservative evangelicals and Catholics feel betrayed by the politicians they helped elect in the past. An observation shared by a man in Alabama was heard over and over again: "We voted for these people and look at the state of marriage. We voted for them and I’m now competing for jobs with people coming across the border. Why not give Trump a chance? He says he’ll protect the border. He says he’s pro-life now. I believe him and nobody owns him. He could be different." 
When I challenged these faith-based voters with the concerns raised by leaders in their respective communions, I discovered an even deeper reason for their support of Trump. Nearly every evangelical and Catholic I encountered expressed outrage over what some described as "the politicization of the church."
Both evangelical and Catholic leaders have in recent years hardened their positions on a host of once secondary political issues, to the dismay of their conservative flock. While muting their voices on the big ticket issues of life and traditional marriage, these voters claim, the churches are embracing agendas long championed by the Democratic party. Pope Francis’ support of a UN treaty to limit carbon emissions, an emphasis on the social gospel, as well as calls from some evangelicals and the Catholic bishops to loosen immigration restrictions have irritated swaths of rank and file faithful. 

This political divide within the church squares with what Korey Maas noted in a recent Federalist article: "Monmouth has found that 76 percent of Catholic Republicans support building a wall across the border, 61 percent support the Trump immigration plan — despite Pope Francis and the Bishops' insistence to welcome the immigrant." 

These faithful voters seem open to receiving general moral principals from the churches to shape their voting. But the combination of making it seem heretical to disagree over what they see as secondary political issues and blatantly forbidding them to vote for a particular candidate has made them rebellious. They are not just voting against the establishment of their party, but the establishment in their churches.   

"Voting for Trump is a way to stop the Church’s advance into politics. It’s a check and balance," a Catholic Michigan woman told me. "Jesus didn’t come to ply a political agenda. He came to save us. All these other things (immigration and environmental policies) are prudential judgments. We don’t need the bishops telling us about immigration. We live the problem every day."

An evangelical in Louisiana was just as explicit: "To me Trump blocks all these church people who want to be politicians. I love my pastor, but we didn’t elect him to speak for us politically. I’ve got this — and I agree with Trump."

Perhaps Holy Week is the perfect time for religious and political leaders to do some soul searching and to recall the ruinous effects of those who attempted to secure their power by demonizing a charismatic leader. Only in this case, by misunderstanding the motives of their own people, their efforts could well cause the candidate they fear most to rise again.

Raymond Arroyo is a New York Times best-selling author, most recently of "Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls" (Random House) and managing editor of EWTN News. This piece originally appeared in Newsmax. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A priest who hears and heals, Father Aniello Salicone

A priest who hears and heals
Father Aniello Salicone was born on March 12, 1940, in Campania, Italy, fifty miles south of Naples and entered seminary for a mission at age 12, before leaving to become member ofXavierian Theology in Parma for his novitiate. Soon he was in Xaverian House in Salerno and became vocations director. In 1975 he went to learn English in London; then it was on to Africa (Sierra Leone) for three years after which he came to the U.S. -- Chicago -- for postgraduate in theology at the Catholic Theological Union (1979-1981). 
After that he went back to Africa where he started teaching and then became rector at a major seminary in Liberia for eight years (from the students there were to come four bishops and one archbishop). In 1990 he was sent to London as rector for Xaverian missionaries studying English and in 1994 sent now to work in Massachusetts (Holliston), where the Xaverians have a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. An assistant pastor at a parish in Chicago Chinatown for a spell, he found himself, in 2011, where is he is today: in Franklin, Wisconsin.
This is all said by way of noting credentials, which Father Salicone has those in abundance, for he asserts the unusual: a gift of "hearing" and healing.
Since he was a boy of ten, Father Aniello says has heard what he calls a "Voice" speak to him, informing him on the medical condition of people as well as other matters. 
At first he prayed over family members and those who, hearing about him, came to seek help, until giving it up when he entered seminary."Tell her to go home," the voice said to him in one case, referring to a woman who approached him. "Her brother is healed." This indeed turned out to be the case. At times he would feel a "strength" go out of him when a healing was occurring.
In February of 1995, after years of silence -- of subduing it -- the gift returned to the priest in a dramatic way. 
"I was going to talk to a group of ladies and gentlemen who were members of the Xaverian League in Newton, Massachusetts, and on my way, about 5:30 in the afternoon, while I was driving, I heard somebody calling me very clearly in my car -- 'Son.' 
"I had no idea what it was -- somebody calling me very clearly. 
"I was surprised and didn't say anything. A few minutes later, again. 'Son.'
"The third time I said to myself I have to answer something and see what is happening and I said, 'Yes?' and to my surprise the same voice answered a question I had been asking in my prayers. I was complaining that, 'Lord you made me a priest, and thank you, and a missionary, and thank you, but as far as love, no one has ever made me their number one.'" 
The voice intoned, "Don't complain anymore. You are My number one."
"I was so happy! Wow. I nearly stopped the car -- I was so happy and surprised," recalls Father Anione. "And I asked if I could ask another question, and the Lord said, 'Yes,' and I said: 'I imagine You say this to everybody -- that they are number one.' To my surprise the voice answered, 'You think it cannot be done and you are wrong. I love everybody as My number one and I can do it because I am infinite. I love everyone as much as everybody needs to be loved."
A couple years later, going to Franklin, where he was directing an "Our Lady of Hope" prayer group, Father Aniello was asking the Lord, if He "could give me some extra power in my hand."
The reply, claims the Italian cleric, was: "I want you to tell people how much I love them. Tell them that I am the One who does the miracles." And increased strength, that night, at the healing service, there was. 
Not for everyone. Not all the time. There are no guarantees in the realm of spiritual healing. "You have to pray," says the priest, "and He will do the miracle if He feels it is appropriate." The major message: how God loves everyone as His "number one." 
"A lady asked me whether I could pray for her daughter because her daughter wanted a child and I prayed and I got the message, 'Yes, you will have a baby boy,'" he recalls. "So she called her daughter but the lady said, 'Father, it is not possible. She has a tumor in her womb.'" 
Father Aniello told her, "I don't care what your doctor told you. I repeat to you what I heard from the Lord, namely in nine months you are going to have a baby boy,' which happened. The mother told me what occurred. When the baby was born also the tumor disappeared."
In a case that drew attention in U.S. Marian circles, Father Aniello heard the voice in June 2003 in relation to a woman he knew from the Chicago area who had been given a few short months to live due to an inoperable brain tumor and a daunting list of other problems. 
She had been contemplating a pilgrimage to seek help.
"I knew her but didn't know she was dying," he told us. "One morning I heard the voice say, 'Call her and tell her I want her to go to Medjugorje. There she will she My glory.' So I obeyed and picked up the phone and she [her name was Colleen Willard] was so happy to hear my voice and she went and there she was healed."

In another case a woman who was in line at a healing service came up to him said, 'Father, my son is nineteen and died of cancer. My other son, who is thirty, is now also dying from cancer.' I heard the voice say, 'Tell her her second son will not die.'" He lived. Many miracles happen. 
Approached by a deaf man in Sacramento, Father Salicone heard: "Speak to him very softly." These are interior locutions -- but so clear they sometimes wake the priest up. He did as instructed and when the deaf man responded to his soft voice he realized the man could now hear.
"Many, many, many healings happen that way," he says. "Many healings I don't hear about or not until later. 'Jesus loves you.' These are the healing words. "
IMG_8705Father ended up visiting Medjugorje himself. "I have no doubt about it," says this intellectual mystic, who found the twenty or more confessionals there compelling. He believes that critics of reputed apparition site fall for the main part into one of two categories: those who don't get exactly what they were looking for when they go ("When they don't get it, they label it as 'no good'") and those who, in his view, "refuse any miracle in any way. 
"These are the major people who deny it. In theory they may say they believe in miracles but in reality they do not. In Scripture you have the Pharisees and Sadducees who for different reasons said 'no.' When God arrives in a way [they] don't expect, they don't want to be bothered or change." They find reason for skepticism. But, adds the priest, referring to the perceived shortcomings, in some cases, of seers: "Because someone has visions doesn't mean they are holy. The external gifts don't make anybody holy."
He explains that in some cases, he can feel "needles" in his hands, indicating that a person's ailment is caused by evil spirits. It usually happens that the person in some way opened himself up to the occult, often by way of Ouija boards. What draws evil is a "connection" with it. "Once you deal with the devil, even once, he puts his mark on the people," is the way he phrases it.
"My favorite prayer is, 'Thank You Jesus for loving me as Your number one. Please help me to make You my number One."
Consider making it one of your prayers.
Although he doesn't focus on any gift of the prophetic, he believes, as far as those who believe that major events loom, that such beliefs have occurred through history and often pertain not to the apocalypse but what will transpire during various periods. "You can find it in any [historic] group," he believes. "Every generation is the same -- look how Christ referred to 'this evil generation'; in Hebrew they generalize. Don't be surprised if "crises occur. Cultures grow and collapse. Kingdoms come and go and so do earthquakes; it is not just something occurs to one era." But fear not evil, he says, even when it is so flagrant, as is the case today. "Dog barks when afraid," he notes of the clamor of demons. "Because God is silent tells me that He is in control. It's the silence of the winner, not the silence of one who does not know what to do. Don't worry. Why be worried?" Just say,  "Thank You Jesus for loving me as Your number one."