Joseph Cella

Formerly Anti-Trump Catholic Adviser Says Trump's Court Promises Won Him Over

As we noted yesterday, conservative Catholic activist Joseph Cella, a member of Donald Trump’s new Catholic advisory committee and reportedly the new “chief liaison to the campaign for Catholic affairs,” joined other Catholic conservatives earlier this year in denouncing Trump as “manifestly unfit to be president of the United States.”

Cella appeared on Ave Maria radio yesterday afternoon and told host Al Kresta that he is now “happily” supporting Trump. When Kresta asked what had changed since the “manifestly unfit” statement, Cella said he has had a “sincere change of heart and mind.” Trump, he said, had convened some Catholic leaders in June to “listen and learn.” He said Catholic voters are coalescing around Trump and predicted that trend will continue.

Cella praised Trump’s public commitment to nominating conservative Supreme Court justices in the mold of the “great Catholic jurist and thinker” Antonin Scalia. Clinton, he said, would do the opposite, and with the next president likely having the opportunity to fill three to five vacancies, “that alone will have far-reaching and long-lasting implications for the Catholic Church” on issues like religious liberty and health care.

Cella also mentioned Trump’s naming of Religious Right favorite Mike Pence to be his running mate and his “excellent” senior staff—he said the Trump campaign’s top three leaders are Catholic.  

Trump Campaign's New Catholic Liaison Has Called Him 'Manifestly Unfit' To Be President

There’s eating your words, and there’s eating your words. Here are some words about Donald Trump that Joseph Cella, reportedly the new “chief liaison to the campaign for Catholic affairs,” has apparently decided he is willing to choke down:

Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to be president of the United States. His campaign has already driven our politics down to new levels of vulgarity. His appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice are offensive to any genuinely Catholic sensibility. He promised to order U.S. military personnel to torture terrorist suspects and to kill terrorists’ families — actions condemned by the Church and policies that would bring shame upon our country. And there is nothing in his campaign or his previous record that gives us grounds for confidence that he genuinely shares our commitments to the right to life, to religious freedom and the rights of conscience, to rebuilding the marriage culture, or to subsidiarity and the principle of limited constitutional government.

Here are a few more:

Mr. Trump’s record and his campaign show us no promise of greatness; they promise only the further degradation of our politics and our culture. We urge our fellow Catholics and all our fellow citizens to reject his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination by supporting a genuinely reformist candidate.

Cella, the founder of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, was among a group of prominent conservative Catholics who signed an anti-Trump “Appeal to our Fellow Catholics” that was published by National Review during the primary elections. That manifesto was written by Robert George and George Weigel, neither of whom is among the names that have been reported to have joined Trump’s new Catholic advisory council.

In addition to former senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum, as reported by Philly.com, the campaign’s new Catholic advisory council includes some high profile right-wing activists, among them:

…Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List; Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback; Matt Schlapp, president of the American Conservative Union; former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating (R); U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, Republican of Ohio; Jim Nicholson, former Republican national chairman, secretary of veterans affairs and ambassador to the Vatican; longtime conservative leader Richard Viguerie; and Tom Monaghan of Michigan, founder of Domino’s Pizza and the Ave Maria University.

The Trump campaign also released a letter this month naming Dannenfelser the head of his campaign’s “Pro-Life Coalition.” As Miranda noted last week, Dannenfelser wants to criminalize abortion in America without exception; she called exceptions in the case of rape “abominable.” Dannenfelser also has some word-eating to do; she is on record with some off-message opinions about the candidate she’s now supporting. A letter she and other anti-choice activists signed in January declared that Trump “cannot be trusted” on abortion.  And this:

Moreover, as women, we are disgusted by Mr. Trump’s treatment of individuals, women, in particular.  He has impugned the dignity of women, most notably Megyn Kelly, he mocked and bullied Carly Fiorina, and has through the years made disparaging public comments to and about many women. Further, Mr. Trump has profited from the exploitation of women in his Atlantic City casino hotel which boasted of the first strip club casino in the country.

America will only be a great nation when we have leaders of strong character who will defend both unborn children and the dignity of women. We cannot trust Donald Trump to do either.  Therefore we urge our fellow citizens to support an alternative candidate.

In the recent letter addressed “Dear Pro-Life Leader,” Trump made a number of promises:

I am committed to:

  • Nominating pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Signing into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would end painful late-term abortions nationwide.
  • Defunding Planned Parenthood as long as they continue to perform abortions, and reallocating their funding to community health centers that provide comprehensive health care for women.
  • Making the Hyde Amendment permanent law to protect taxpayers from having to pay for abortions.

Trump urged anti-choice activists to “make this contrast clear in the minds of pro-life voters, especially those in the battleground states” so that “Mike Pence and I can be advocates for the unborn and their mothers every day we are in the White House.”

Former Reagan administration official Faith Whittlesey, a member of the campaign’s Catholic advisory board, reportedly said Trump “will fight for Catholics in defense of life, and their religious liberty” and claimed that Hillary Clinton would threaten “the ability of Christians to fully and freely practice their faith that is constitutionally protected by the First Amendment.”

What a Difference One Month Makes

Just one month ago, Fidelis, a low-level right-wing organization always on the look-out for anything that might suggest anti-Catholic bigotry, especially as it pertains to Bush judicial nominees, was crowing that “social conservatives” had spoiled John McCain’s “campaign surge”:
A victory in Michigan would have locked in John McCain as the GOP front-runner, but conservatives suspicious of the Arizona Senator overwhelmingly voted against him Tuesday, handing the perceived front-runner a major defeat. “Social conservatives remain unconvinced whether John McCain is truly committed to the fundamental issues of life, faith and family. In the face of new developments on stem cell research, McCain continues to support using taxpayer dollars to fund embryo-killing research. On marriage, he not only voted against the federal marriage amendment, he has barely uttered a word on protecting the traditional family on the campaign trail. Values voters are looking for strong leadership in defense of life and family, and John McCain has yet to show how he will lead on these issues,” said Brian Burch, President of Fidelis. ... “Other conservatives are frustrated with McCain over immigration, his opposition to tax cuts, and his leading role in limiting the free speech of pro-life groups, and other advocacy groups during election campaigns. Put simply: John McCain hasn’t closed the sale with conservative voters,” continued Burch.
But apparently, in just one month’s time, McCain has managed to “close the sale with conservative voters” on all of these issues, because Fidelis has just endorsed him:

Fidelis Political Action, the political arm of the one of the fastest growing Catholic advocacy organizations, today announced that they have endorsed Senator John McCain in his bid for the Republican nomination for President. Brian Burch, President of Fidelis Political Action issued the following statement: “Fidelis is pleased to join a growing chorus of conservatives nationwide in supporting Senator John McCain in his bid for the presidency. As a Catholic based advocacy group, Fidelis believes McCain’s pro-life record, his commitment to selecting judges who will respect the Constitution, and even his controversial positions on immigration and torture merit the support of Catholics, and we are proud to stand with him as he prepares for a very difficult election ahead. … “The stakes of this election are too large to ignore. Abortion supporters are awaiting the opportunity to eliminate eight years of progress on pro-life legislation by electing a President who supports abortion. There are six justices on the Supreme Court over the age of 68, and granting a President Hillary or President Obama the opportunity to fill possible vacancies would be disastrous. Our endorsement of Sen. McCain is not simply a compromise endorsement. America needs the experienced leadership of John McCain.

What a miraculous turn of events! Do you suppose the presence of Joseph Cella - a former Fidelis president, Fred Thompson-backer, and anti-Rudy activist – on McCain’s newly announced Virginia Family Issues Leaders committee had anything to do with that?

Catholics Against Rudy, But For Thompson?

A few months ago, the New York Observer reported that various right-wing Catholic activists were gearing up to target Rudy Giuliani’s campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.  

One of those efforts, Catholics Against Rudy, is in the process of gearing up while the other, headed by Joseph Cella of Fidelis, doesn’t yet have much to show for its bold goals:

Mr. Cella says that the organization will try to provide a comprehensive, Web-based “clearinghouse” of issue-based opposition research, and that it will also engage in the distribution of more traditional negative literature, as when the group recruited a handful of volunteers to network and pass out its anti-Rudy materials at the South Carolina debate earlier this month.

“More is afoot—not just from us, but others,” said Mr. Cella, who has also served as an editor at the popular conservative Web site Redstate.com. “It will be edgy. Creative. Hard-hitting.”

Cella and his organization, Fidelis, seem to exist primarily to level accusations of “anti-Catholic” bigotry against Democrats, which is why his anti-Giuliani work was interesting … and which makes this development all the more intriguing:

Now the Christian right is eyeing former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, who is thought to be on the verge of entering the race. And Thompson is waging a rigorous behind-the-scenes effort to win its support.

U.S. News has learned that [Fred] Thompson recently hired Bill Wichterman, who served as conservative outreach director for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Joseph Cella, president of a conservative Catholic group called Fidelis, to lead the effort. The aides are arranging more meetings between Thompson and conservative Christian leaders and have launched a rapid-response operation to fend off attacks on Thompson's conservative credentials.

But Cella is not the only right-wing figure that Thompson has approached - and he seems to be winning a lot of converts:

Stem Cell Research Opponents Warn of Egg 'Harvest'

As the Senate once again debates funding for embryonic stem cell research, many right-wing groups are reminding us of their fervent opposition. Focus on the Family’s Carrie Gordon Earll, who says embryos discarded from fertility treatments can be adopted, says “”We oppose destroying these embryos or any young humans for research.” Joseph Cella of Fidelis, Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, and Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee similarly voice their objections, and Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition claims that the bill constitutes persecution of “people of faith”:

This shows utter contempt and disdain by the United States Senate for people of faith.  And let it be made very clear, supporters of this legislation can no longer consider themselves friends to historic Christianity.

Meanwhile, the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ warns that “the potential of the emergence of a market for the sale and harvesting of eggs would be immense,” a scenario grimly predicted by Cathy Ruse of the Family Research Council in a Washington Times op-ed as mass “exploitation” of “the bodies of young women” as “human hens”: “If embryonic stem cell researchers have their way, young women will soon be paid to lay eggs on demand like chickens in a factory farm, but with more pain and personal risk.”

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Joseph Cella Posts Archive

Peter Montgomery, Friday 09/23/2016, 4:58pm
As we noted yesterday, conservative Catholic activist Joseph Cella, a member of Donald Trump’s new Catholic advisory committee and reportedly the new “chief liaison to the campaign for Catholic affairs,” joined other Catholic conservatives earlier this year in denouncing Trump as “manifestly unfit to be president of the United States.” Cella appeared on Ave Maria radio yesterday afternoon and told host Al Kresta that he is now “happily” supporting Trump. When Kresta asked what had changed since the “manifestly unfit” statement, Cella said... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Thursday 09/22/2016, 5:12pm
There’s eating your words, and there’s eating your words. Here are some words about Donald Trump that Joseph Cella, reportedly the new “chief liaison to the campaign for Catholic affairs,” has apparently decided he is willing to choke down: Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to be president of the United States. His campaign has already driven our politics down to new levels of vulgarity. His appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice are offensive to any genuinely Catholic sensibility. He promised to order U.S. military personnel to torture terrorist suspects and... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 02/13/2008, 10:22am
Just one month ago, Fidelis, a low-level right-wing organization always on the look-out for anything that might suggest anti-Catholic bigotry, especially as it pertains to Bush judicial nominees, was crowing that “social conservatives” had spoiled John McCain’s “campaign surge”: A victory in Michigan would have locked in John McCain as the GOP front-runner, but conservatives suspicious of the Arizona Senator overwhelmingly voted against him Tuesday, handing the perceived front-runner a major defeat. “Social conservatives remain unconvinced whether John McCain is truly committed to the... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 07/16/2007, 4:36pm
A few months ago, the New York Observer reported that various right-wing Catholic activists were gearing up to target Rudy Giuliani’s campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.   One of those efforts, Catholics Against Rudy, is in the process of gearing up while the other, headed by Joseph Cella of Fidelis, doesn’t yet have much to show for its bold goals: Mr. Cella says that the organization will try to provide a comprehensive, Web-based “clearinghouse” of issue-based opposition research, and that it will also engage in the distribution of more... MORE >
, Wednesday 04/11/2007, 5:16pm
As the Senate once again debates funding for embryonic stem cell research, many right-wing groups are reminding us of their fervent opposition. Focus on the Family’s Carrie Gordon Earll, who says embryos discarded from fertility treatments can be adopted, says “”We oppose destroying these embryos or any young humans for research.” Joseph Cella of Fidelis, Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, and Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee similarly voice their objections, and Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition claims that the... MORE >