Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Reflections on a New President

Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2) 

Since Election Day, I knew I would need to comment on what had happened. The problem I faced was deciding what to say that emphasized a Catholic perspective and neither seemed to whitewash nor exaggerate the problems we’ll face over the next four to eight years. Perhaps I have an advantage here. I tried to keep my blog non-partisan during this tiring election season, and I can honestly say I didn’t vote for either major party. I voted for a minor party which formed its platform on Catholic social teaching. [†] So hopefully what I say can be seen as non-partisan.

I don’t believe Trump will be a “political messiah” that many of his supporters think he’ll be. He strikes me as a pragmatist who will be flexible on his positions. He holds many positions I believe are incompatible with our Catholic faith. The question in my mind is, how flexible will he be? Will he keep his promises to oppose abortion and to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will defend Christians from unjust laws? Or will he compromise on these issues, betraying the Christians he promised to protect? By the same token, will he keep his promises on enacting what I see as unjust immigration policies? Or will he compromise and do less harm than I fear?

At this point, I don’t think any of us can say what he will do for certain. We’ll have to watch and see. We may gain some clues during the transition period, with who he appoints to positions. Others we’ll probably have to wait and see how he acts once he is sworn in to office. Some are filled with hope and assume he will do good. Others are filled with dread and assume he will do evil.

As Catholics, I think our position should neither be one of elation, nor of dread. It should be one where we take each of his actions and support moral laws and oppose immoral laws. During the last eight years, it was easy for informed Catholics to recognize attacks and government harassment over our beliefs. Because there was a concerted effort to push religion out of the public square and to falsely label our moral obligations as “bigotry” and a “war on women,” Catholics could stand together against an overt attack.

Now that this attack is ending, it will be easy for us to think we can rest from our labors. But we can’t do that. We must witness to our faith and moral values even if people tell us, “Shut up! Don’t rock the boat!” Where his values are compatible with our Catholic faith we should encourage him, and where they are incompatible, we should urge a change and even oppose him when necessary.

What we cannot do is let our partisan values supersede our Catholic faith. We have to bear witness in Democratic administrations and in Republican administrations, regardless of whether it seems to be convenient or not (see 2 Timothy 4:2).

So my recommendation over the next four to eight years of this administration is to remember our Catholic faith and let it shape our response, neither giving our next President a free pass nor unremitting hostility based on our personal politics. Let us pray for our country, and that those who govern us may govern justly.



[†] No, I didn’t think they would win. In fact, they received less than 1,500 votes nationwide. The purpose of this vote was to say, “Because I can’t vote for either candidate without violating my conscience, I will vote for a party which professes Catholic teaching to symbolize my standing with the Church.”

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