Sunday, March 8, 2020

Unholy Politics

The other day I saw a Catholic blogger pushing the slogan Vote Blue, No Matter Who§. A week before, I wrote about another Catholic advocating voting according to conviction, not conscience to condemn Catholics who felt morally obligated to reject both major parties. Both slogans are reminders that Catholics are just as susceptible to putting unholy views of politics above higher values as any other person. They both advocate setting aside moral obligations to benefit the political party that certain ideological Catholics favor. Meanwhile, they don’t show the slightest bit of shame for condemning Catholics from the other major party doing the same. 

I call it unholy because both of our major political parties are at odds with Catholic teaching in serious matters, but Catholics who fall into the ideological trap do downplay those matters when their own party is at risk of losing votes over that evil.

Let’s face it: promoting abortion, coercing contraception, redefining marriage and gender are evils that must be condemned. So is the inhumane treatment of migrants. But an alarming number of American Catholics are willing to make excuses for the evils of their own party and attack the bishops—even the Pope—for standing up and saying, “this is evil.” Effectively, we are giving our souls, not for the whole world, but for our political party being in control for a few years more.  

In these times of increased polarization, ideological Catholics decide that this election is too important to risk losing, so we “must” focus on stopping the greater evil… which is always defined in a way to condemn the other side. These Catholics, curiously, never seem to work on opposing the evils in their own party after this election is over, but they are quite happy to point out the fact that the other party is guilty of this. They forget that Our Lord warned:
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3–5)
If we want to live in a holy manner, we need to stop acting like the Pharisee who looks contemptuously at another sinner who sins differently (cf. Luke 18:9-14). Yes, it’s wrong when Catholics in the other party ignore, or even support an evil in their platform. But by recognizing that it is wrong for them to do it, we show that we are not ignorant about the moral obligation in general and we are without an excuse if we commit that same act ourselves.

Yes, finding a moral choice in the past few elections is difficult. Every Catholic faces a choice that should be difficult. Each party supports one or more evils that are incompatible with the Catholic Faith. Each American Catholic will need to form their conscience in a way that recognizes these evils exist and strives to respond in a Christian way. 

In doing so, we need to remember that Jesus did not let Himself in dualistic thinking. He showed that the different factions of his time (Pharisee v. Sadducee, Pharisee v. Herodian, Hillel v. Shammai) were wrong in some aspects and the right approach sometimes meant rejecting both sides of dualistic thought.

We have to remember that Christ comes first, and that the Catholic Church teaches with His authority and protection. So, however we vote or act, it must take this into account. We can never “set aside” a teaching because this election is “too important.” If we think we have to vote for a certain party, despite their particular evil, we had better be prepared to also work to reform that party and not give that evil a free pass.

Otherwise, we will not be working for Christ. We will be working for unholy politics, regardless of what others may or may not be guilty of.


(§) For my non-American readers, “Blue” is the color currently associated with the Democrats. “Red” is associated with the Republicans. Yes, there are other political parties. But barring some sort of act that outrages the electorate in a way that catapults a minor party into a major one while a major party collapses (it happened once when the issue of slavery destroyed the Whig party and launched the Republicans). Unfortunately, dualistic thinking is the norm here.

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