(CNSNews.com) – Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), who is Catholic, twice declined to comment on House Minority Leader John Boehner's call for the resignation of presidential adviser Harry Knox who has made a number of anti-Catholic statements, including that the pope is “hurting people in the name of Jesus” because he does not support condoms as a means to curtail HIV/AIDS in Africa.
At the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, CNSNews.com asked Casey whether he agreed with Boehner that Knox--who serves on President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships--should resign. The exchange was as follows:
CNSNews.com: “Harry Knox, who’s the faith-based adviser at the White House, has said twice that the pope is quote, 'hurting people in the name of Jesus' end-quote, because he doesn’t support using condoms to stem the spread of AIDS in Africa. And Leader Boehner has said Harry Knox should step down. Do you agree that Harry Knox should step down?”
Sen. Casey: “Well, I just haven’t seen his statements. I don’t know him, so I’m not going to comment on a statement I haven’t seen. But the Holy Father is a—is a very important spiritual leader not just for Roman Catholics, but for the world. I have great respect for him, but I just don’t -- can’t comment on something I haven’t seen.”
CNSNews.com: “Okay, so, in principle do you think it’s okay for a presidential adviser to say that the pope is, quote, “hurting people in the name of Jesus”?
Sen. Casey: “I’m not going to comment on what someone has said until I see more, but I have a high regard for the Holy Father.”
In addition to being an adviser to President Obama’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Knox is the director of the Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a homosexual activist group.
When asked by CNSNews.com on Feb. 2, whether he still stands by his March 2009 statement that Pope Benedict XVI is “hurting people in the name of Jesus” by not condoning condom distribution as the solution to AIDS in Africa, Knox said, “I do."
Knox’s earlier March 2009 statement about the Pope was posted on the HRC’s Web site.
The statement, posted two weeks before Knox was appointed to Obama’s Advisory Council, says in part: “The Pope’s statement that condoms don’t help control the spread of HIV, but rather condoms increase infection rates, is hurting people in the name of Jesus.”
“On a continent where millions of people are infected with HIV, it is morally reprehensible to spread such blatant falsehoods,” says Knox's statement. “The pope’s rejection of scientifically proven prevention methods is forcing Catholics in Africa to choose between their faith and the health of their entire community. Jesus was about helping the marginalized and downtrodden, not harming them further.”
In addition, Knox has a history of bashing the Catholic Church, as reported by CNSNews.com on Feb. 17.
The St. Michael Society, a Catholic group dedicated to “defending and promoting the faith in the public square,” has sponsored a petition calling for Knox’s resignation. The petition has garnered more than 9,500 signatures, including that of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), and the group plans to deliver the petition to the White House.
On Feb. 4, Rep. Boehner (R-Ohio), who is Catholic, told CNSNews.com that Knox appears to be an “anti-Catholic bigot” and should resign as a White House adviser.
“He should resign, and I have agreed to sign a letter” from the St. Michael Society, said Boehner. “We can’t have in the White House an anti-Catholic bigot, and that’s what this gentleman appears to be.”
Last May, Boehner and Rep. Thad McCotter (R-Mich.), along with 20 other prominent Catholics, signed a letter sent to the White House that called on President Obama to remove Knox from the advisory council. (Disclosure: One of the signers was L. Brent Bozell III, president of the Media Research Center, the parent organization of CNSNews.com.)
Nearly a month after the letter was sent, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told CNSNews.com that he had not seen the letter, "but the president is comfortable with the makeup of his faith advisory council."
On Feb. 22 of this year, CNSNews.com asked Gibbs about Boehner's renewed call for Knox to resign. “I don't--not surprisingly, I do not have anything on that,” Gibbs said. “I'd be happy to have one of these guys take a look at it.” But White House spokesman Shin Inouye did not respond to a followup email and telephone calls from CNSNews.com asking for a White House response to Boehner's call for Knox's resignation, and also asking if the White Houes agreed with Knox's statement about Pope Benedict and if it still supported Knox as a member of the president's faith-based advisory council.
Knox is one of 25 members of the White House’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Obama announced the formation of the office last February, a continuation of a similar office started by President George W. Bush to issue federal grants to faith-based, non-profit charitable organizations.
Other members include Bishop Charles Blake of the Church of God in Christ in Chicago; the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, president-elect of the National Council of Churches USA; Dr. Frank Page, president emeritus of the Southern Baptist Convention; the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of the liberal Christian group Sojourners; and the Rev. Joel C. Hunter of Northland Church in Longwood, Fla.