Showing posts with label partisan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label partisan. Show all posts

Thursday, September 9, 2021

It’s Iimi! “CINO” Evil!

In this episode, Daryl and Sean are fighting over which faction is less faithful to the Church, flinging around the “CINO” epithet.

“CINO” (Catholic in name only) is one of the epithets used in Catholic infighting. Like the “You’re only anti-abortion, not pro-life” mantra, it is an accusation that the person labeled is not following Church teaching in some area. The problem is, true or not, we also have the obligation to follow Church teaching. If we will not, we will also be judged for not keeping His commandments (See John 14:15).

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Partisan Trap

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

Every time Americans change Presidential administrations, there are laments and cheers from Christians based on the fears of what the new administration will do or hopes that we will finally be free of the old administration. Since every administration has moral and some immoral planks in their platforms, both reactions are understandable.

The danger is failing to recognize that one’s own side has immoral planks and failing to stand up to them. We tend to treat those failings as “unimportant.” We might use evasive language to make it sound like we care about those issues while neither saying nor doing anything meaningful about them. Instead, we focus on the issues the other side fails on, elevating them to unforgiveable sins while we “criticize” our own side by “praising with faint damns.”

Think of it. When is the last time you have seen a Catholic who supports Democrats who condemns his party’s support of abortion with the same anger as he condemns the Republicans for other violations of social justice? When is the last time you saw a Catholic Republican denounce his own party for violations of social justice with the same vehemence he uses for his political opponents over abortion?

Instead, Catholics of both factions come up with excuses and evasions to justify their inaction. The other side is worse! “The stakes are too high right now!” “Why don’t you say anything about X?” “That’s just a prudential judgment!” “This is the worst evil out there!” These things ignore the fact that we are called to convert the world, turning them away the things that damn souls. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) existed before the existence of the Democratic and Republican parties and will continue to exist long after the two parties have been forgotten in the dust of time.

The failures of Catholics to stand up to past administrations do not excuse us from standing up now. Repentance means turning away now once we realize we have gone astray. If others have played the hypocrite, it does not justify our playing one now

And that is the partisan trap in a nutshell. Convinced of our own righteousness, we think only the sinners of the other side need to repent and turn away. Tactics we condemn when used against us, we willingly take up and use against our enemies. But our Lord Himself told us, “For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (Matthew 7:2).

That warning makes perfect sense. If we know that X is wrong, and judge others for doing X in favor of their cause, do we really think God will give us a free pass for doing X in favor of our own cause? God will not accept “Whataboutism” as a valid plea. If we know something is wrong when used against us, we are without excuse if we use it when it benefits us. As St. Paul wrote (Romans 2:21-22), “[Y]ou who teach another, are you failing to teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who forbid adultery, do you commit adultery?

On January 20, 2021, one Presidential administration will end, and another will begin. Regardless of how we—or others—responded to the last one, we all have an opportunity to act rightly to this one, putting God and obedience to His Church first and standing up when the government acts wrongly. If we are silent, after all our angry words against others, we have fallen into the partisan trap and need to change, asking for mercy.


(†) As always, I list these dichotomies in alphabetical order to avoid accusations of bias.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

A Plague On Us? A Reflection

At that time some people who were present there told [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. He said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” (Luke 13:1-5 NABRE)


As the death toll rises in the United States, I’ve seen news reports of some religious figures calling the COVID-19 pandemic a punishment from God. Usually, these figures decide to blame their favorite targets as the cause of this punishment. This seems to be the sectarian counterpart to the secular blaming of their political foes for the wisdespread impact of the disease.


There’s not much we can do about the secular bashing. Partisans are going to do whatever benefits them regardless of whether it’s moral or not. But as Christians, we should not allow our Faith to be hijacked by people with an axe to grind. We need to be clear on some things before we allow ourselves to be sucked into the scapegoating game.


Chastisement happens when God inflicts something on us in order to bring about correction. As the Hebrews were told by Moses in Deuteronomy 8:5, “So you must know in your heart that, even as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD, your God, disciplines you.” Certainly God has made use of this to teach just how serious rebellion against Him was. But, as Jesus pointed out to the Jews, not everything bad that happens is a sign of God singling out a certain group. Some who die in disasters, wars, or plagues are no better or worse than those of us who remain.


When God sent afflictions (like the plagues of Egypt or the chastisements of the Hebrews), they targeted the guilty people. There were no innocents caught up among the casualties. When God punished the Egyptians, they were all guilty on account of their acceptance of the mistreatment of the Jews. When God punished the Israelites, they were all guilty. And God made sure that the guilty knew that the chastisement was coming so they might change their ways.


The problem is, when people take a sectarian approach to the COVID-19 crisis, they assume they are innocent and their opponents are evil, and God is simply striking down his enemies.


Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.


Tolkien, J.R.R.. The Lord of the Rings: One Volume (p. 59). HMH Books. Kindle Edition. 


Are there vile evils that are widely accepted as “good” in these times? Tragically, yes. Do some evil people get swept up by the disasters of the world? Yes. But some good people also get swept up by them. When we look at Church history, we see that many saints died because of their work with the victims of the plague. We would not say that they were part of the guilty chastised by God. In fact, Our Lord makes clear that not all the bad things that come are intended as a sign:


Jesus said to them in reply, “See that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will deceive many. You will hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for these things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place. (Matthew 24:4–7)


The one who tries to hijack COVID-19 to condemn his enemies in the name of God is behaving as one of these false messiahs.


We should be wary of assuming that whatever evil comes into our life must be a chastisement. In the Old Testament, for example, we had God warn the people through the prophets that something was coming in response to the evils and infidelities of Israel and Judah, reaching a point that poisoned the entire society. Books of the Bible (like Lamentations) showed the recognition that this was a punishment on all, not “the other guy.”


I find it significant that, when the Pope spoke on the pandemic in his Urbi et Orbi, he did not talk about God’s condemnation of evildoers. He spoke about keeping the faith in a time of fear:


Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.


Rather than using this pandemic as an excuse to condemn other factions as being to blame for it, we should use this event to consider where we stand before God. None of us can claim to be sinless. All of us need to repent of something. So, instead of attacking others as the cause of a chastisement, we should make a firm purpose of amendment before God until the sacraments are available again




(†) In saying this, I am not denying the Immaculate Conception. I am simply speaking of the rest of us who did not receive that extraordinary gift of grace.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Pharisee and the... Other Pharisee?

The Catholic social media erupted last night after Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg took aim at Vice President Pence, calling him unChristian on account of his political stances. The division was down party lines, but both sides were free with citing Our Lord’s words of not judging, while pointing out how the other faction supported things incompatible with Christian teaching. The problem was: both sides accused the other side of judging while ignoring the fact that they were judging as well.

Of course it’s not the point of my blog to make political endorsements or to side with one party as “God’s Party.” Rather, I write this to point out that both factions involved in this social media fight are playing the role of the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. By this, I mean that neither group is approaching God by saying, “Be merciful to me, a sinner.” Rather both sides are saying “I thank you God that I am not like that Democrat/Republican.”

Speaking objectively, there is no political party that is not at odds with Catholic teaching in some way, whether life issues, sexual morality, social justice, or other issues.  We, being called to be the light of the world and salt of the earth, have an obligation to reform the political party we affiliate with where it goes wrong. Unfortunately, what people do is play the tu quoque card—being quick to condemn the wrongdoing of the other side while downplaying the moral wrongs of their own party as unimportant so long as the “greater evil” of the other side exists. 

As a result, when the Church speaks out against one evil, she is condemned by the party who defends it and accused of being puppets of the other side. When she affirms that abortion and homosexual acts are gravely sinful, she is accused of being a “tool” of the Republican Party. When she speaks against unjust immigration and economic practices, she is accused of being a “tool” of the Democratic Party. Individual Catholics are adept at pointing out this hypocrisy on the other side while being blind to it on their own.

I want to make clear that Our Lord’s words on not judging means we can’t wash our hands and say, “Welp, that person’s going to Hell. No point in wasting time on him.” It doesn’t mean we cannot call an action evil.  In fact, God has warned us that we will answer for being silent. As God told Ezekiel (Ezekiel 33:8):

When I say to the wicked, “You wicked, you must die,” and you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. (NABRE)

Unfortunately, in our political climate, we do the opposite. We don’t speak out to save, we speak out to show our contempt. We say they are going to Hell for ignoring Church teaching X, while we’re focusing on opposing the greater evil first. The problem is, we define this by making the greater evil fit entirely in the political platform of our enemies while the lesser evil coincidences with our preferred party. 

This has to stop. Both parties are Pharisaical. The deadliest sin to us is the one that sends us to Hell, not the one we have no inclination to commit. Until we can see that and say to God “be merciful to me, a sinner” instead of “look at how bad they are!” we will be that Pharisee in the parable.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Partisan Fights

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen the Trump administration issue an immigration policy which was roundly denounced by the US bishops. In response, a certain faction of Catholics responded with “what about abortion?” The other day, Supreme Court Justice, Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. This was seen as a chance to overturn the inherently unjust Roe v. Wade. But a certain faction of Catholics responded with “we should focus on other policies that make less people seek out abortions.” A little bit of digging showed that these two factions strongly identified with one of the two major parties—generally showing that their stance was more partisan than principled.

Now I don’t intend to indict all Catholics under this aegis. I do encounter Catholics (notably, our bishops) who recognize that the Right to Life covers from conception to natural death and all stages in between. Recognizing and following the Catholic teaching means we will be at odds with our party of choice at least some of the time, and we must be willing to face our own party and say: No, you are wrong!

But instead of doing that, people are saying “Oh, the Democrats/Republicans aren’t as bad as those Republicans/Democrats! These issues you worry about aren’t as important as those issues!” That is partisan. That is being willing to sacrifice part of Catholic teaching when it goes against our political preferences.

What we need to realize is twofold:
  1. We must work to oppose legalized abortion.
  2. We cannot stop with opposing legalized abortion.
As St. John Paul II taught (Christifidelis Laici #38):

In other words, we absolutely cannot downplay the defense of life in favor of other issues—even though the other issues are also important in the eyes of the Church. 

But that being said, we cannot use his words to deny our obligation to work for justice on other issues. Our Lord Himself taught about what will happen to those who ignore the “least of these.”

So, both the person who denies the need to oppose abortion and the person who denies that we need to concern ourselves with the other issues are doing wrong. We cannot turn our backs in the name of “other issues” without being hypocrites.

I think the problem is people fall into the either-or fallacy. We think that the two positions are “support us” and “support everything evil our worst opponents stand for.” It over looks the possibility of rejecting the extremes or choosing a third option. This is how the Church gets attacked as being “liberal” by conservatives and “conservative” by liberals. Because people cannot conceive of the possibility they are wrong in part, they assume everyone who disagrees must be wrong.

We see the result of this. Look at how many Catholics argue that they need to take control of the Church from those who oppose them—assuming that the magisterium is being partisan while they are being unbiased. In fact it is the reverse. If we will not listen to the Church when Our Lord made it necessary (Luke 10:16, Matthew 18:17), we are not keeping His commandments (John 14:15). 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Proxy Wars: Replacing Moral Belief with Ideology

Whenever America is involved in a moral debate, whether a national tragedy or change in leadership, her people get into a dispute about what we must do. The goal we should strive for is to consider what we want to change and what needs to be done to achieve it. But instead of doing this, our tendency is to pick the “sacred cow” of of our preferred ideology and substitute it for this investigation. Then, if anyone should disagree with our solution, we accuse them of “not caring” and being willing to let the evil continue.

But this is unjust. The person who rejects an ideological solution might simply disagree with the means put forward and think another solution is superior. In that case, the infighting is counterproductive. It leads to nothing being done on the grounds that each thinks that the other solution has no value.

The other side of the coin is when a proposed solution is just, but threatens something else we support, the temptation is to downplay the value of that solution, claiming that it will not help us and might cause extra harm. 

These two things combined make finding the truth difficult. A legitimate solution can be attacked by those who don’t want to follow it, while supporters of an illegitimate solution can savage those with reasonable objections.

If we want to find a real solution, we have to be willing to set aside our ideological preferences and search for the truth about a situation. Once we find the truth, we can see what needs to be done in response. But if we start with our own preconceived notions on what must be done, more often than not our “one size fits all” solution won’t fit at all.

As Catholics must be the light of the world, the salt of the earth, the city of the world (Matthew 5:13-16), we have no excuse for adding to this confusion. We believe that God forbade bearing false witness. This means we cannot demonize those who have a different idea on how to best carry out Church teaching [†]. Because we believe we have a Church established by Our Lord, given His authority, and protected from teaching error, we must listen to what the Church teaches and base our political views on that teaching.

Tragically, we tend to label those teachings we dislike as “prudential judgment” as if a prohibition against doing X was a mere opinion and we were free to do X. This negates our witness that we have the truth for the whole world. If we denounce others for rejecting Church teaching that we happen to agree with while ignoring Church teaching we are at odds with, we are hypocrites. While the world may not be very good at picking up truth, it’s uncomfortably good in spotting when we don’t practice what we preach.

So, when there is a tragedy, when there is an election, when there is some sort of national crisis, Catholics need to stop confusing their ideological preferences with seeking out and doing what is right. We can’t replace that with scapegoating and assuming that whoever does not support our ideological ideas must be acting out of bad will. We need to be willing to sacrifice our political preferences in favor of doing what is right if our political preferences are wrong.

Unfortunately, it is easy to fall into the temptation of immediately thinking of the “other side” being guilty while never thinking that we might be guilty of the same fault. I’m not talking about moral relativism here. If something is objectively wrong, we have to reject that wrong even if it means incrementally taking it down when outright overturning is impossible. No, I’m talking about our tendency to sneer at the wrongdoing of others but ignoring our own failures and refusing to amend them. When we do this, we are no longer defending what is morally right. Instead, we are fighting a proxy war over ideology while pretending to be morally virtuous. And then we wonder why Christian belief is rejected.

So let’s stop using the moral teaching of the Church as a camouflage for our political battles. Let’s make sure our faith shapes our ideology and not the reverse. 


[†] Of course we must make sure that our “different idea” is not an attempt to evade Church teaching. God is not deceived.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Isn’t it Time to Go Beyond the Usual Arguments?

5. Christ’s redemptive work, while essentially concerned with the salvation of men, includes also the renewal of the whole temporal order. Hence the mission of the Church is not only to bring the message and grace of Christ to men but also to penetrate and perfect the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel. In fulfilling this mission of the Church, the Christian laity exercise their apostolate both in the Church and in the world, in both the spiritual and the temporal orders. These orders, although distinct, are so connected in the singular plan of God that He Himself intends to raise up the whole world again in Christ and to make it a new creation, initially on earth and completely on the last day. In both orders the layman, being simultaneously a believer and a citizen, should be continuously led by the same Christian conscience.
(Apostolicam actuositatem)

With yet another mass shooting and the inevitable arguments over whether laws should be passed, I think there’s one thing that never gets discussed: whether the 2nd Amendment itself needs to be amended. By this I mean it seems like proponents of gun control want to pass laws as if it did not exist and opponents of gun control want to use it to block any meaningful restrictions.

I think proponents of gun control need to offer ideas on how it should be reasonably be amended. I think opponents of gun control need to propose solutions on how to prevent mass shootings. But instead, people on both sides offer their same arguments that bring up the same counter-arguments and nothing gets done.

From a Catholic perspective, I think we need to move beyond partisan divisions and start *talking* to each other if we are to find a just solution that serves the public good. I would urge all sides to look at the situation without partisan lenses so we can find that just solution. But if we just point fingers and refuse to question ourselves, will that ever happen? Or will we just continue the circle of Shootings—Outrage—Forgetting?

As a Catholic, I think we need to break that circle and try to find just solutions, even at the cost of our political views.