In case you’ve been wondering about my absence recently, I’ve been traveling A LOT this summer. God’s just had me incredibly busy. Of course, every time I wrap up a school year, I think “Vacation!”, but I might have finally realized after almost 20 years that I’m busier in the summer, so I’m looking forward to my next homeschool stay-cation.
Anyway, I’m trying to jump back into the blog scene. Many things – wonderful and tragic – have occurred since my writing slowed down. That said, there’s one thing looming like a big black cloud, and that’s the election.
I’ve spent a great deal of my summer talking to the “famous” people of the Catholic and pro-life world, and the conversation always turns to “Who are you voting for?” It’s a conversation I’ve come to dread. I usually get a few words out before I’m told, “You’re judging Trump’s soul!”, “You’re not thinking about the babies!”, “You’re just being prideful!”, “You’re not thinking about the Supreme Court!”, “You’re voting for Hillary!” (I would never advocate that, so don’t break out in hives!), etc. The proverbial kitchen sink has been thrown at me without one thought that I might just have a thought or two of my own. I mean, seriously, I’m not thinking about the Supreme Court and I’m not pro-life? Saving babies and their mothers has been in my brain, just about non-stop, since I was sixteen. Save it. I’m in agony here. “What else are we going to do?!” doesn’t cut it with me. It’s far more complex.
I felt a sigh of relief when this came across my desk: http://catholicphilly.com/2016/08/think-tank/archbishop-chaput-column/some-personal-thoughts-on-the-months-ahead/. Rather than casting aspersions on some really great, faithful people, I think this is the way to handle it. In short, shut up and pray like crazy – every last one of us! I think the good archbishop realized that the Christian faithful are tearing each other apart over this. Quite frankly, it’s been rather sickening to see. Vigorous debates are good! Keep having them. Saying good Christian souls of good-will are (crazy, etc., fill in the blank) for voting for whomever is ridiculous and quite pompous, and those engaging in this tactic might need to schedule some plank removing time.
Because links sometimes aren’t followed, let’s break this one down.
Archbishop Chaput’s column
Some personal thoughts on the months ahead
Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Posted August 12, 2016
My column this week is a collection of personal comments. Read it as thoughts from a brother in the faith, not as teachings from an archbishop.
Understood! That’s pretty much a caveat for the ACLU and the rest of the liberals who are ready to pounce at the slightest.
Presidential campaigns typically hit full stride after Labor Day in an election year. But 2016 is a year in which two prominent Catholics – a sitting vice president, and the next vice presidential nominee of his party — both seem to publicly ignore or invent the content of their Catholic faith as they go along. And meanwhile, both candidates for the nation’s top residence, the White House, have astonishing flaws.
It is possible for someone to say that they are not sure who they will vote for, or even if they will vote, without saying that these two loons are peachy and we’re fine with them being in office. Don’t believe me? Read on.
This is depressing and liberating at the same time. Depressing, because it’s proof of how polarized the nation has become. Liberating, because for the honest voter, it’s much easier this year to ignore the routine tribal loyalty chants of both the Democratic and Republican camps. I’ve been a registered independent for a long time and never more happily so than in this election season. Both major candidates are – what’s the right word? so problematic – that neither is clearly better than the other.
And this is where I think “Finally! Somebody gets me who’s not related to me!” They are BOTH hugely problematic. Please “Catholic 4 Trump”, stop candy coating him for a win. Trump is highly problematic. I don’t care if you pray, fast, think and vote for him anyway, but we have to admit that. Defending him on his over the top ideas is just downright shilling for him. If you feel you need to vote for him to stem evil, to save SCOTUS, etc., I can see that argument. Saying he’s great? Not so much. Hillary? Well, that goes without saying. Almost all if not all of her policies are plain evil.
As Forbes magazine pointed out some months ago, the Republican candidate is worth roughly $4.5 billion. The Democratic candidate is worth roughly $45 million. Compare that with the average American household, which is worth about $144,000. The median U.S. income is about $56,000. Neither major candidate lives anywhere near the solar system where most Americans live, work and raise families. Nonetheless, we’re asked to trust them.
That’s a big ask. One candidate — in the view of a lot of people — is an eccentric businessman of defective ethics whose bombast and buffoonery make him inconceivable as president. And the other – in the view of a lot of people – should be under criminal indictment. The fact that she’s not – again, in the view of a lot of people — proves Orwell’s Animal Farm principle that “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
I could have added a little more, but I can live with this, since he left us a nice “Animal Farm” quote. (Please parents, have your kids read.)
So what are we to do this election cycle as Catholic voters? Note that by “Catholic,” I mean people who take their faith seriously; people who actually believe what the Catholic faith holds to be true; people who place it first in their loyalty, thoughts and actions; people who submit their lives to Jesus Christ, to Scripture and to the guidance of the community of belief we know as the Church.
Anyone else who claims the Catholic label is simply fooling himself or herself — and even more importantly, misleading others
Cough! *Pelosi, Biden, Kaine* Cough!
The American bishops offer valuable counsel in their document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (available from the USCCB), and this year especially, they ask us to pray before we vote. This is hardly new “news.” Prayer is always important. In a year when each Catholic voter must choose between deeply flawed options, prayer is essential. And prayer involves more than mumbling a Hail Mary before we pull the voting booth lever for someone we see as the lesser of two evils. Prayer is a conversation, an engagement of the soul with God. It involves listening for God’s voice and educating our consciences. (emphasis mine)
So, dear friends who’ve told me I’m doing everything from voting for Hillary to forgetting about the babies killed by abortion, do you honestly think that I’m doing this because I haven’t arrived at the same conclusion you have? This does go both ways my friends. Do you really believe that people voting for Trump are selling their souls? If you do, don’t you think that maybe they’ve prayed, fasted and given a lot of thought to their position? Of course, I will say I’ve heard far more of the former than the latter, but I recognize that it does happen with people not voting for Trump..
It’s absurd – in fact, it’s blasphemous – to assume that God prefers any political party in any election year. But God, by his nature, is always concerned with good and evil and the choices we make between the two. For Catholics, no political or social issue stands in isolation. But neither are all pressing issues equal in foundational importance or gravity. The right to life undergirds all other rights and all genuine social progress. It cannot be set aside or contextualized in the name of other “rights” or priorities without prostituting the whole idea of human dignity.
Well, that was a not-so-subtle shout out to Cupich, McElroy, and the rest of the seamless garment crowd. I’m sure there are a whole lot of Catholics in their dioceses wishing Chaput was their archbishop.
God created us with good brains. It follows that he will hold us accountable to think deeply and clearly, rightly ordering the factors that guide us, before we act politically. And yet modern American life, from its pervasive social media that too often resemble a mobocracy, to the relentless catechesis of consumption on our TVs, seems designed to do the opposite. It seems bent on turning us into opinionated and distracted cattle unable to gain mastery over our own appetites and thoughts. Thinking and praying require silence, and the only way we can get silence is by deciding to step back and unplug.
Whether or not your final decision matches mine, I trust that faithful Catholics everywhere are attempting to do this in such a tumultuous year. I also trust that many will do the 54 Day Novena which starts TODAY! https://www.novenaforournation.com/ If you’re worried about this election at all, you will do this!
This year, a lot of good people will skip voting for president but vote for the “down ticket” names on their party’s ballot; or vote for a third party presidential candidate; or not vote at all; or find some mysterious calculus that will allow them to vote for one or the other of the major candidates. I don’t yet know which course I’ll personally choose. It’s a matter properly reserved for every citizen’s informed conscience.
Wait! That’s just crazy talk! If you’re voting for someone other than the person I’m voting for or not voting for, etc., you can’t possibly be good! That was sarcastic in part, but I’ve actually been told that, people! Can we go over my favorite part of that, one ore time, and kind of where I am at this moment?
or find some mysterious calculus that will allow them to vote for one or the other of the major candidates.
I still haven’t found that calculus, and it looks like I’m in good company. Are my well meaning friends now going to tell the good archbishop that he’s voting for ‘Killary?’
But I do know a few of the things I’ll be reading between now and November. The list is not exclusive or comprehensive. But this year these particular titles seem especially urgent:
Living the Gospel of Life. This 1998 pastoral letter of the U.S. bishops remains the best brief guide to American Catholic political reflection yet produced.
Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society by R.R. Reno (Regnery) and It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies by Mary Eberstadt (HarperCollins). Both of these books are new, important, a key to understanding the current moment in our national life, and deeply engaging. They need to be discussed and shared widely.
And finally two essays by the late, great Czech writer, Václav Havel, “Politics and Conscience” and “The Power of the Powerless.” Both are collected in Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990 (Vintage Books). Havel was not (to my knowledge) a religious believer, and he wrote as a dissident during an era of Soviet Bloc repression. But his commitment to what he called “living in the truth,” and his understanding and critique of the weaknesses in Western societies like our own – not just Marxist ones – were remarkable. They remain relevant right now, today.
It looks like I’ve got some more reading on my plate! How about you?
The next few months will determine the next decade and more of our nation’s life. We need to be awake, we need to clear our heads of media noise, and we need to think quietly and carefully before we vote. None of us can afford to live the coming weeks on autopilot.
Right! Autopilot bad. This is the one thing I don’t think I’ll ever understand. We, as a nation, took the carrot away from Trump to behave in a manner fitting of, well, almost any position we hold dear. We said, “Hey! We’ve got no choice! We’re voting for you!” instead of “We still have a choice to ditch you at any time because we’re not on autopilot and we can course correct if needed! You better earn our vote!” It’s not too late. We can still do that.” We don’t have to be living examples of “Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?” I think some of the many “thinkers” already came to that conclusion or were there in the first place. They need to figure out a way to put Trump on notice and hold his feet to the fire.
In conclusion, I respect most of you who read this blog, whether or not you’re voting for the person I’m voting for come election day. Save the rhetoric and realize that people can pray, fast, search for answers and come to a totally different conclusion than you and still be a faithful Catholic trying their best to follow God’s will. Regardless of who ends up as president, there’s A LOT of work we all need to do to clean up this country, and it’s much easier to do if we haven’t taken a sword to each other over this election. We know who we can’t vote for, and now we need to figure out who God wants us – each, individually – to vote for. “We don’t have a choice” is not a good reason to vote for someone. We always have a choice.