Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “what is in man”. He alone knows it.
John Paul II [October 22, 1978], Homilies of Pope John Paul II (English) (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2014).
This year, an election year, disagreements between Catholics are reaching a fevered pitch. People fear the evils of the future, and reasonably want to limit them. Unfortunately, they cannot agree on what the worst evils are and how to face them. Because of this, Catholics who fear the evils from one candidate accuse other Catholics who disagree of supporting those feared evils or willfully ignoring the danger. For proof of their claims, they point to certain Catholics who do support these evils in defense of their candidate and argue “guilt by association” (a fallacy). To further muddy the waters, many blame the Pope and bishops for not focussing on their issues. Why doesn’t the Pope speak more about X? Why do the bishops spend so much time talking about Y? People assume that if our shepherds were doing their jobs right, we wouldn’t be in these difficulties, and also assume that these are the worst times ever faced, and it has to be somebody’s fault.
Of course, some of the promoted policies do promote evil and could end up persecuting the Church. It is reasonable to oppose such evils and try to limit those which are inevitable. But it’s not the worst possible times ever faced by Christians. In other times, and currently in other regions, the Church has faced persecution to the point that members of the faithful faced martyrdom and other miseries. No, I’m not arguing the fallacy of relative privation here. We do want to avoid whatever harms the faithful and we want to stop whatever leads people away from God.
But as I work my way through works like A History of the Councils of the Church written in the 19th century by the German Bishop Karl Joseph von Hefele, I see a Church history full of governments backing the enemies of the Church, supporting the dissenters and persecuting the faithful. The Church survived these evils, and eventually converted the oppressing rulers. This is a scenario that repeats itself throughout Church history. The faithful, in concert with the Church—under the headship of the successor of Peter and never apart from—challenge the triumphant dissenters and eventually restore the Christian world to faith. As Cardinal George once remarked:
I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church has done so often in human history.
God provides the grace to accomplish this, but He also sends heroic men and women in every generation to stand up against the state and teach what is right. Thinking about this makes me ponder. If we find ourselves wondering where these heroic men and women are in this generation, then perhaps this is a call from God for us to be one of them. Whether the coming times are times when Christians will die in bed, die in prison, die in the public square, or pick up the shards, Christians are called to stand up and promote the faith despite how the world treats us.
So, yes, let’s take this election seriously. Let’s properly form our conscience through the teachings of the Church, promoting good and trying to oppose evil wherever possible. Let’s vote responsibly. But let’s not live in terror of the aftermath. I’ve no doubt things will be hard for us, and I have my opinions on which way will be harder for us. But let’s remember our obligations to evangelize the world regardless of who gets elected or what unjust laws get passed. We should pray for Our Lord’s protection as we do His work, and relief from evil. But since Our Lord warned us people would hate us on account of Him (John 15:20-25), we can’t be surprised if we have a rough time for the next four years . . . or ten years, or a hundred years or more.
So we have to work, and Our Lord wants us to work together (John 17:20-21). As it says in Psalm 133:1, “How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers dwell together as one!” That won’t happen if we savage each other and accuse each other of bad will in our actions, when it is a matter of simply having different ideas on what we must do to be faithful to God and His Church.
So let us keep our mind on our real Savior, who will remain Lord over all creation regardless of who gets elected. Let us live for Him regardless of what happens to us in the future.