Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia called the emails 'contemptuously anti-Catholic'

Catholic bishops and political campaigners alike have condemned emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign team which attack Catholicism.

The emails, released by Wikileaks this week, are disparaging about Catholic “middle ages” teachings.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia called the emails “ugly” and “contemptuously anti-Catholic”.

He was particularly angered by an exchange of emails between John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton campaign, and Sandy Newman, president and founder of the campaign group Voices for Progress.

Newman wrote: “This whole controversy with the bishops opposing contraceptive coverage even though 98 per cent of Catholic women (and their conjugal partners) have used contraception has me thinking … There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle-ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church.”

In another email, John Halpin of the Centre for American Progress mocked the conservatism of Catholics, especially converts: “They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.” In a follow-up email he added: “They can throw around ‘Thomistic’ thought and ‘subsidiarity’ and sound sophisticated because no one knows what . . . they’re talking about.”

On his diocesan website Archbishop Chaput wrote ironically: “Of course it would be wonderful for the Clinton campaign to repudiate the content of these ugly WikiLeaks emails. All of us backward-thinking Catholics who actually believe what Scripture and the Church teach would be so very grateful.”

A less forceful statement from Archbishop Joseph E Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, talked of the importance of freedom of religion, which “ensures the right of faith communities to preserve the integrity of their beliefs and proper self-governance”.

“There have been recent reports that some may have sought to interfere in the internal life of the Church for short-term political gain. If true, this is troubling both for the well-being of faith communities and the good of our country,” he wrote.

“In our faith and our Church, Christ has given us a precious gift. As Catholics, we hold onto our beliefs because they come to us from Jesus, not a consensus forged by contemporary norms. The Gospel is offered for all people for all times. It invites us to love our neighbour and live in peace with one another. For this reason, the truth of Christ is never outdated or inaccessible. The Gospel serves the common good, not political agendas.”

Archbishop Kurtz concluded: “Politicians, their staffs and volunteers should reflect our best aspirations as citizens. Too much of our current political discourse has demeaned women and marginalized people of faith. This must change. True to the best hopes of our founding fathers, we are confident that we can and will do better as a nation.”

A Catholic political group, catholicvote.org, has called on Hillary Clinton’s campaign spokeswoman, Jennifer Palmieri, to resign. Its president, Brian Burch, said: “Hillary Clinton has already called half of her opponents’ supporters ‘a basket of deplorables’ and ‘irredeemable’ and now it comes out that her campaign spokeswoman dismissively question[ed] the sincerity of Catholic Americans’ faith.”

He continued: “Everyone has a unique faith journey, and it’s just insulting to make blanket statements maligning people’s motives for converting to another faith tradition. Had Palmieri spoken this way about other groups she [would be] dismissed. Palmieri must resign immediately or be fired.”