Natural marriage, the defense of life and religious liberty took hits on election night 2012. It would be inhuman for those who love the Church and desire each soul to know its dignity not to feel the sting of those blows and to take some time to reflect and regroup.
At the spiritual level, temporal setbacks are good occasions for regaining perspective, recalling that Christians are pilgrims who are not meant to be completely at home in this world.
Practically, since elections have policy consequences, it makes sense for those who love the Church to turn their energies to devising strategies for our people and institutions to evade the punitive taxes and lawsuits coming soon in consequence of the contraception mandate.
Realism about our place in society shouldn’t mean resignation, however –and certainly not abandonment of the public square.
Don’t mistake post-election disappointment on one hand and gloating on the other for reality. It’s simply not true that the Church’s interests have been utterly repudiated at the ballot box and the battle for the culture of life has been lost. Not only was this federal election extremely close—nearly half the country voted consistent with pro-life positions -- did you know that 2012 was the second best year ever for pro-life legislation? 39 pro-life laws passed state legislatures this year. More than 100 such laws have passed since 2010, resulting in real lives saved. Liberals and Conservatives worked together in Massachusetts to defeat an assisted suicide measure.
If we look only at the federal government, ignoring the states, we miss much of the action on vital moral questions in the country. The federal election was a setback for the culture of life, and there will be policy consequences for Christians to contend with, but it is not the end of America.
Don’t disengage from your fellow citizens. After electoral defeat often comes a strong temptation to retreat from the public square into the Catholic ghetto. That’s no fit solution, for two reasons.
For starters, it doesn’t work. If the HHS contraceptive mandate teaches us anything, it’s that minding your own business is no protection against state intrusion. Our Catholic school principals and hospital administrators didn’t ask for a battle over religious liberty. Its having been thrust upon us, we’ve no choice but to stand up.
Moreover, it’s the mission of the laity to work ceaselessly for a more just public order. The need for courageous lay witness in the public square and person-to-person among unbelievers is a major theme of Vatican II, of each of Pope Benedict XVI’s three encyclicals, and of the Year of Faith.
Abraham Lincoln once had to contend with radical abolitionists in the North who were only too happy to agree to Secession. “Good riddance!” was their attitude towards anyone who supported slavery. If the South seceded, they’d be left with a nation purified of slavery.
Lincoln saw that Secession wouldn’t end with a North-South split, but lead to the complete dissolution of the Union. He also saw that since 90% of the African slaves were in the South, Secession meant those people would never be free. What, he asked of the abolitionists, has become of your opposition to slavery if you’re content not to help a single slave?
Similarly, real souls are hurt by anti-life policies and the destruction of the family. If we love our brothers and sisters, we will do what we can to build a wholesome civil order – to prevent and alleviate human misery for everyone, not just for ourselves.
Don’t Despair. No matter who is President, Christ is King. We have a feast coming up November 25 to celebrate the fact – a feast created for a time like this. Pope Pius the XI instituted the feast of Christ the King in the 1920s, at a time when socialism, radical atheism and social decadence were sweeping across Europe. His primary purpose was to reinvigorate love of Christ, but he also hoped that through the celebration “the nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom and immunity from the state.”
Worried about what will happen to our Catholic institutions and the people they serve? Wounded by feelings of disappointment and disaffection? Why not respond in a uniquely Catholic way: by celebrating the upcoming feast with particular fervor? Place your worries at the feet of the triumphant Christ and make an act of faith in his kingship. Since the meaning of the feast is to assert the Church’s liberty, why not revel in the occasion by organizing a period of Eucharistic adoration or a Eucharistic procession in your parish?
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.