As we go to meet our Lord in the Eucharist this weekend – and hopefully also on election day – let us take the opportunity to be reminded and reoriented toward our foremost allegiance, our universal faith, our true hope for the world that unites us as one Body.
At the end of a bitterly divisive election season in which we have too often failed to love one another as we ought, we will plead to Christ our hope, “Lord, have mercy.”
Whatever our hopes and fears for electoral outcomes, we will rejoice to proclaim glory to God, peace on earth, and Christ’s unique lordship: “For you alone are the holy one, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the most high, Jesus Christ.”
With the Church universal we will confess one God who created all things, one Lord whose kingdom will have no end, one Spirit who has spoken through the prophets, one Church and one baptism to transcend all divisions.
With all the angels and saints we will join the unending hymn proclaiming the holiness of the Lord of hosts, joining also the crowd’s “Hosanna” to the king who comes in his Father’s name, not to conquer but to lay down his life.
We will proclaim the mystery of faith, holding up the Church’s eternal memory of our Lord’s death, resurrection, and second coming.
We will give our “Amen” of holy allegiance to Christ in the Eucharist, joining ourselves to the celebrant’s proclamation of praise to the almighty Father: “All glory and honor is yours, forever and ever.”
We will pray for the coming of our Father’s kingdom, audaciously asking to be forgiven as we ourselves forgive, and again reaffirming his eternal reign above all others: “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever.”
We will offer a sign of peace to friends and enemies, neighbors and strangers, who may be making different choices at the polls but are still united around a common table.
We will greet the world’s only hope, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the numberless human failings in the face of which we can only implore, “Have mercy on us. Grant us peace.”
Above all, we will be made one Body by our share in the Body and Blood of our Lord, our one great hope of unity.
In a sense, the whole Mass is an anamnesis, a holy remembrance of where all glory truly belongs. Let us remember, lest the Body be dismembered. And as we seek the welfare of our earthly civitas as best we know how, let us bear witness to the only one with the power to heal its deep divisions. Let us become a living example, not merely of civility, but of fellowship.
Last January, I predicted that Mitt Romney would win the Republican nomination for president and go on to beat Barack Obama for the White House. I’m sticking to that prediction, although I also thought that Romney would be running with Governor Susanna Martinez, and that Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden would flip roles. The lesson there is that I’m a lousy oracle, so readers would be advised to take any prediction of mine with a large grain of salt.
For my part, I won’t be voting for either Obama or Romney because both promise to pursue policies that violate my understanding of fundamental Catholic teaching. To invest my democratic franchise in either would, in my opinion, be an abrogation of my first responsibility, which is to to witness to the Gospel in all its dimensions. For me, there can be no disjunction between the two. To permit any other allegiance, identity, issue or ideology to trump the Gospel – even temporarily or provisionally – is, again in my opinion – a form of idolatry. Christian discipleship must be marked first of all by an unyielding evangelical integrity: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness …” (Matthew 6:6). And just as I would hope not to choose a “lesser” evil in my personal or business life, neither can I do so as a citizen. As I’ve often written here, when you choose the lesser of two evils, you still get evil. Christians shouldn’t be in the business of choosing evil.
I want to briefly review for readers the specific issues and policy positions that have compelled me to repudiate both candidates, and I will do so below. I will not, however, indulge in the Scholastic trigonometry of “material cooperation,” “prudential judgment” and the like because those concepts, while valuable, are too often deployed as smokescreens for advocacy, not genuine moral analysis. I have one friend, for instance, who insists that abortion, same-sex marriage and “religious liberty” are the only non-negotiables in this election, and that everything else a candidate might advocate – from pre-emptive war and torture to the abuse of workers, the environment and the poor – falls under the category of “prudential judgment.” I find that sort of Weigelian “analysis” to be suspiciously convenient and transparently self-serving. It is Republican partisan advocacy dressed up as moral argument.
By the same token, I have friends who react to the Democratic Party’s vigorous promotion of abortion on demand, assisted suicide, or embryonic stem cell research by erecting an elaborate exculpatory apparatus anchored by supposed degrees of moral distance from the underlying acts. This, too, is self-serving and oh-so-convenient; and it only demonstrates to me that some people are Democrats first and Americans second, with Christian coming in a distant third. Read more…
a guest post by Aaron Matthew Weldon
Election season seems to provide impetus for Christians to come to terms with the declining influence of the Church on the broader culture. The conscientious Christian is aware of her political homelessness, but she can use that awareness to reflect on how the disestablished Church can serve the world. For decades, theologians have been grappling with this issue and what it may mean for the future Church in the West. A collection of luminaries readily comes to mind.
The Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner, famously asserted that the Christian of the future would be a mystic or would not be a Christian at all. He saw that the Church would decline as a culture-shaping institution, which provides a supportive milieu to the baptized, and so only those persons who undergo an experience of God’s love in Jesus Christ would be able to remain Christian. Influenced by contemporary Anabaptist theology, Stanley Hauerwas has placed a strong emphasis on the Church as a community of witness, a people of virtue, whose shape of life points to the story of the God who has saved the world in Christ on the Cross. Much of the vision that Hauerwas articulates can be understood as the synthesis of two major figures who also deal with this issue: the Mennonite theologian, John Howard Yoder, and the Catholic philosopher, Alasdair MacIntyre. One crucial point that Yoder develops is the notion that the Church can imitate the non-violent practices of her Lord because she understands that it is God, not the Church, who is responsible for the direction of human history. In other words, for Yoder, as well as Hauerwas, it’s not our job to make sure that everything comes out right. MacIntyre, in his well-known final chapters of After Virtue, points to St. Benedict and the communities he established, which proved to be outposts of culture through an age of barbarism. In a liberal age, in which political discourse can no longer refer to final ends – for moral discourse has been uprooted from the particular communities and stories in which those ends would be intelligible – perhaps the best service that people of goodwill can offer to civilization would be to form communities of traditioned inquiry in pursuit of the good.
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in his career as both professor and churchman, has brought together some of these themes in a way that can be helpful for talking about how the Church relates to the world. His 2008 address to the College of the Bernardines in Paris stands out as a helpful reminder of what Christian communities, which we may call “creative minorities,” must be about in a secular age. He points out that the monks transmitted a culture, a tradition, not by seeking to preserve, but by seeking the face of the God who has made Godself known in the Incarnate Word. They did not seek influence. They did not seek to save civilization for the sake of preservation. They sought the Truth, the “definitive behind the provisional.” In this sense, there seems to be a certain logic to the thinking of Ratzinger/Benedict, which might be summarized in one of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples: you must lose your life to save it. That is, we only achieve some objectives that pertain to the temporal order by stepping back from the temporal and toward the spiritual. Influencing politics and culture may be one of those objectives.
For three years, I was a part of a Mennonite congregation, and in my experience with the Anabaptist world, the issue of faithfulness versus effectiveness often arose. I expect to see more Catholics taking up that question, and the focus on St. Benedict, which comes from both MacIntyre and Ratzinger, provides a helpful starting point. The legacy of Benedict seems to argue that we lose our life to save. That is, we are influential precisely to the extent that we seek to know and perform the truth, even at the expense of our lives.
[Note: This is the first of a brief series by Aaron Weldon.]
…shows the folly of the assertion that you have to vote for Romney because abortion.
America Magazine submitted some additional questions to Joe Biden and Paul Ryan after their vice-presidential debate. Their answers (and non-answers) are interesting and revealing. The lead question, however, really caught my attention for the difference in their answers:
America: In what circumstances is war morally justifiable?
Vice President Biden: War is morally justified when it is necessary to protect the safety of innocents from an aggressive act. The threat must be grave and certain. Every effort must be made to peacefully avoid conflict.
Congressman Ryan: American foreign policy needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose. Only by the confident exercise of American influence are evil and violence overcome. That is how we keep problems abroad from becoming crises. That is what keeps the peace.
Mitt Romney has said that he would only send troops into combat in very specific circumstances. Number one, there needs to be a vital American interest at stake. Number two, there needs to be a clear definition of our mission. Number three, a clear definition of how we’ll know when our mission is complete. Number four, providing overwhelming resources to make sure that we can carry out that mission effectively. And finally, a clear understanding of what will be left after we leave. All of those would have to be in place before Mitt Romney would deploy American military might in any foreign place.
Did original sin cause Hurricane Sandy? There are, I think, two ways to answer that question. I’ll leave out of consideration the possibility that the world before the Fall was serene and not “red in tooth and claw” on the natural and cosmological level. So that leaves two possibilities to consider.
First, yes, original sin “causes” Hurricane Sandy, but only if the doctrine of original sin is expanded far beyond its current anthropocentric contours and given cosmological dimensions. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, for all his faults, was the first modern theologian to consider this in a serious way. He links “original sin” to the reality of contingent being. In his thought, all contingent being must be created as being-in-becoming:
It [original sin] simply symbolizes the inevitable chance of evil (necesse es ut eveniant scandala) which accompanies the existence of all participated being. Wherever being in fieri is produced, suffering and wrong immediately appear as its shadow.
So original sin is everywhere from the very beginning:
If there is original sin in the world, it can only be and have been everywhere in it and always, from the earliest of the nebulae to be formed as far as the most distant.
God could not/did not create a perfect world. God created a world that could only become perfect by changing. Read more…