William Barr’s Exemplary Christ-Like Behavior

“A twisted halftime show between executions.” Barbara Koeppel reports on the outrage over this year’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast honoree. 

(National Catholic Prayer Breakfast)

By Barbara Koeppel
Special to Consortium News

On Sept. 23, Attorney General William Barr was honored with the Christifideles Laici award at the 16th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast (NCPB). To those not versed in Latin, it’s given to highlight the good works and those who serve the Church so well.”

Many Catholics were outraged. Barr reinstated the death penalty for federal prisoners this past July. Until then, there were none for 17 years. Since July, there have been seven.

The award was squeezed between the sixth and seventh executions: One was on Sept. 22, the day before the breakfast, and the other was on Sept. 24, the day after.  The two men, William LeCroy and Christopher Vialva, who had been convicted of murder, had been imprisoned for 26 and 20 years.

The yearly breakfast is sponsored by the Fellowship Foundation, which a 2019 NBC report described as an evangelical Christian organization, called “The Family,” that is quietly building its influence on global politics “in the name of Jesus.”

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Although the Catholic Church allowed the death penalty for centuries, it changed its position under Pope John Paul II: In a 1999 Papal Mass in St Louis, the Pope said “The dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil…the death penalty is both cruel and unnecessary.”

More recently, Pope Francis said it was “inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person. Society can be protected in other ways.”

Sister Helen Prejean (the author of Dead Men Walking), called the decision to honor Barr “scandalous.” She noted that she chose this word “because he is so keen to kill criminals under his jurisdiction.”        

Charles Sullivan, a former priest and president of International CURE (a prison reform group founded in 1972) says:

The Federalist Society’s logo; a silhouette of President James Madison. (Wikimedia Commons)

“The breakfast is the product of the Federalist Society, which is behind the push to place conservative Catholics on the courts. Its president is Leonard Leo, who is the face of the right-wing of the Catholic faith. By giving Barr an award for ‘exemplary Christ-like behavior,’ they’re trying to pour holy water on the attorney general and the other Catholics who are close to the Federalist Society, saying they’re more Catholic than the Pope.

Leo has promoted all the conservative Catholics on the Court — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh. He also pushed for Neil Gorsuch who was raised Catholic but now belongs to the Episcopal Church. Now, President Trump is set to appoint another right-wing Catholic, Amy Coney Barrett, who was also a Federalist Society member for four years.”

Sullivan adds that Leo is using the abortion issue as “the nose of the camel under the tent. The issues are much broader than just abortion. They want to repeal Obamacare and same-sex marriage, to transform the Church to the way it was in 1950s.  Since President Trump also addressed the Breakfast, the event is was a dramatic gesture to mix politics with the Church.”

As noted in The Washington Post, the Federalist Society, which was founded in 1982, has reached “an unprecedented peak of power and influence.” Previous speakers at the NCPB annual breakfasts in Washington, D.C., have been Vice President Mike Pence and former President George W. Bush

Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network Against the Death Penalty, called the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast “a twisted halftime show between executions, which could mislead the public to believe the Catholic Church somehow condones the death penalty. This is categorically false.”

Further, a National Catholic Reporter article noted that the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference issued an “unusually blunt statement against the federal executions” scheduled for the week in which Barr was honored. “In the last 60 years, before the Trump administration re-started federal executions, there were only four federal executions,” the statement said.

Barbara Koeppel is a freelance investigative reporter based in Washington, D.C.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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19 comments for “William Barr’s Exemplary Christ-Like Behavior

  1. Dee Cee
    September 29, 2020 at 19:07

    Thank you for writing this! I was wondering when someone was going to point out how perverse the traditional values of the Church are, and how the modern way of doing things is so much better! Hopefully if the Church can change, then so can the constitution… then all will be butterflies and rainbows!

  2. mike
    September 29, 2020 at 18:04

    as a recovering cathacholic I hope the popes action is soon…..before auntie connonator becomes the 5th one on the kangaroo court.

  3. September 29, 2020 at 17:15

    I don’t know about Barr, and there have been some seriously unfair things coming out of the DNC, so don’t forget that. They murdered someone the evidence suggests.
    If Jesus was around now first he would puke it all out and then he would start kicking some ass. Cause think about it….if Jesus comes back he is NOT going to die this time. He has got to do something different if anybody is gonna give a shit.
    I’m not sure I want Jesus to come back but if he does, I would look over to Jesus and say to him: Is this what you had in mind?
    I’d say the same thing to Mohammad if he was in front of my face and I’d say to him – did there really need to be all the bloodshed?
    If Abraham was in my room, I’d look at him with a scowl on my face for his willingness to give up his son Isaac. No God of mine would demand that.
    So here we are at this moment of upcoming judgement when the judges should be defendants and the defendants should be passing judgement.
    It is all so twisted and messed up that I’m just not sure we will ever be able to escape this horrible predicament that is so against everything that any good god would want for anybody or any creation the god had made.
    Makes one wonder about the intent of the gods.

  4. robert e williamson jr
    September 29, 2020 at 14:18

    Billy P Barr is a man mad with power, all religions in history have had them.

    It is men like Barr who achieve high office, intoxicated with their imagined supreme power and intelligence they become victims to the illusion they are doing the work of God.

    It is generally all down hill from there.

    Barr is a victim of his own perceptions that he is some supreme power, fooled by the very mysticism he believes in and the bull shit the CIA has filled his head with.

    Footnote: According to Ralph Thomas, investigative reporter who wrote the “Wall of Secrecy” report on the JFK assassination says Bush 41 was in on the CIA plan to cover up the dirty deed. Another man who thought he was above reproach.

    These men are not heroes.

    Thanks to all at CN

  5. Marilyn McCarty
    September 29, 2020 at 14:06

    What were the reasons given for their choice of William Barr? The article doesn’t say..

  6. Stan W.
    September 29, 2020 at 12:07

    Attorney General Barr will quite likely be in his position for another four years.

  7. bobzz
    September 29, 2020 at 11:41

    For those interested, Betty Clermont has written a very enlightening book exposing political Catholicism “The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America”. A large percentage of Catholics, like the religious right in general, are more political than Christian. But I also recall the priest, Oscar Romero—a central American liberation theologian, killed by the right wing for giving hope to the underclass. The Catholic church is its people, a mix of good and not so good, many of whom are unwittingly misguided by their leaders, again like the religious right in general.

  8. Susan Siens
    September 29, 2020 at 10:41

    Addendum: I would remind sociopathic Barr that Jesus was executed by the state and that Barr would be the first in line with the hammer and nails then and now.

  9. Brian Bixby
    September 29, 2020 at 09:40

    Barr is actually an excellent example of Catholic leadership of the type of Torquemada, leader of the Inquisition (Pope Benedict’s last office before being nominated) and Dominic, founder of the Dominican order of monks, who call themselves “God’s Soldiers. He follows in the path of William Scalia, a member of Opus Dei, and regularly attends the same Opus Dei-run church as Clarence Thomas and Louis Freeh. It would not surprise me a bit to see him appointed to the next vacancy on the Supremes.

    • TS
      September 29, 2020 at 14:57

      Opus Dei
      How did a member of this proto-fascist group get on the Supreme Court? Who voted in favor and against?

  10. September 29, 2020 at 00:09

    Until churches and Congress, actually, require those entities to try to use their influence and power to try to follow Jesus’ teachings, they should just dispense with the “prayer meetings.”

  11. paul
    September 28, 2020 at 21:43

    Barr is malevolence personified.

  12. Jeff Harrison
    September 28, 2020 at 20:54

    Don’t kid yourself, this is right out of the Catholic’s play book. I was raised Catholic

    • September 29, 2020 at 09:31

      Well, not all Roman Catholic followers are alike. Is William Barr the same kind of believer as the current Pope? Was Archbishop Romero the same as Pope Pius XII, who remained silent about the Holocaust?

  13. Me Myself
    September 28, 2020 at 20:51

    I pray for a Lituya Baysize size mega-sunami of Holy Water as a Blessing and Cleansing to heal their disposition.

  14. historicus
    September 28, 2020 at 20:25

    The Catholic Church has never been known for its progressive attitudes, to put it mildly. Just Google “syllabus of errors Encyclical of Pius IX” for a listing of what the church officially condemns. The catalog includes democracy, the free press, freedom of religion; it demands immunity for the church from civil law, and many more unpleasantries. There’s an iron core of repression under the sweet talk about` human rights, always has been.

    Ironically, in a March 1790 letter, George Washington wrote this to a delegation of Irish Catholics, about their status in the new majority WASP republic, “As mankind become more liberal they will be more apt to allow, that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the Community are equally entitled to the protection of civil Government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality.”

  15. Aaron
    September 28, 2020 at 19:35

    He seems pretty much the opposite of everything Christ taught his followers. But all it takes to be honored nowadays, like I just heard some jerk from Notre Dame on public radio say about Barrett, is to have someone say you have a “brilliant legal mind”. Not sure exactly what that is supposed to mean, but that’s what they always say about the nominees.

    • September 29, 2020 at 09:32

      It means someone can argue that black is white and get someone executed on that basis.

  16. Dee Cee
    September 28, 2020 at 14:33

    Ms. Koeppel:
    A Pope cannot change the doctrines of the church in statements that are not made “ex cathedra.” In fact, under the Hermeneutic of Continuity, a Pope can’t actually change the dogmas at all–to do so would invalidate their statements automatically because it creates a Hermeneutic of Discontinuity (i.e.: A change to the constant truths of the Church cannot occur because the Truths of the Church were true, are true, and always will be True. If this wasn’t the case, then they would not be Truths at all, and by extension are not true now, nor ever were true before). Neither of the statements you referred to above constitute a change in the dogma of the Church, which has ALWAYS allowed death penalty when such penalty is proportional to the crime. Amazingly, the American justice system handles crime and punishment in the same way. Remarkably Catholic, for a mostly Protestant body of Constitutional Framers–I wonder if they knew something about it that you apparently don’t! The “right to life” does not extend to people who are not innocent. For instance, executing a dangerous child rapist and murderer is not on the same moral plane with executing an innocent life in the womb, or stripping an elderly person of their right to life through Court-ordered Euthanasia (which is FULLY legal in many countries in Europe–I haven’t seen your article speaking to that terrible miscarriage of Justice yet… perhaps your next one can focus on that!).

    You failed to quote the Catechism in your wrong-minded article, which states under paragraph 2266: “Preserving the common good of society requires rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm. For this reason the traditional teaching of the Church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means o penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.”

    Maybe you need to go back to the basics and learn the faith before you blast it all over the place. Start with the Baltimore Catechism and work your way up to real theological topics of discussion before you go around messing with topics you clearly do not understand. Catholics everywhere, their faith and formation of conscience, will thank you!

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