The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Elections and Disintegration

The above is a strange title but it's just the outcome of a some equally strange thoughts that bubbled up in my brain earlier today as I thought about our upcoming presidential election. It really started a few evenings ago when I was thinking about what took place in Greece -- specifically in Athens -- about 2,500 years ago.

Athens, for a good three or four hundred years, was a pretty marvelous place. Ordinary citizens were given a major role in the political life of Athenian society. The creative genius of the people flourished in this open atmosphere, a creativity from which we still benefit today. But something went wrong, as something always goes wrong with every society. Athens, faced with overcrowding and subsistence farming, expanded overseas through colonization. And then there was the remarkable victory over the Persians. With these events came a marked change in societal attitudes, a change driven by pride and greed. Moral leadership cannot exist once pride and greed take hold. And so the still seemingly great Athens found itself facing the revolt of its neighbors led by Sparta. During the Peloponnesian Wars hatred and injustice and barbarity led to a steady loss of freedom and creativity. Ultimately, the old Athens disappeared, becoming just one more nation that crumbled into nothingness as a result of war and violence.

Not a pleasant story but it got me thinking about our own nation. Internally we have lost any sense of morality and with it the moral leadership our nation once exerted. The best example, of course, is how we murder our unborn babies at a horrific rate, discarding their tiny torn bodies in the garbage. And there is virtually no outrage over this. Oh, some politicians call themselves pro-life and wring their hands publicly -- particularly at election time -- over the "issue" but do absolutely nothing.

Sadly, the Catholic Church in America is in pretty much the same state. Yes, some bishops write pastoral letters and occasional editorials in their diocesan newspapers on the evils of abortion, but that's about it. Most still schmooze with the pro-abortion politicians (especially the Catholic ones) and talk a lot about "conscience" and "seamless garments" and "a multitude of critical issues." But in their moral cowardice they seem far more concerned about capital campaigns and maintaining their tax-exempt status than they are about the modern slaughter of the innocents going on right under their noses.

I wonder what a bishop thinks when he realizes that his Catholic flock votes for pro-abortion politicians at virtually the same rate as the rest of the population. Does this bother him? Does he think that perhaps he's not doing what Christ commanded him to do? Or does he just write it off as another symptom of societal change over which he really has little control? And how about Massachusetts, a state that I believe is at least 50% Catholic, voting for homosexual marriage? The bishops of Massachusetts should be embarrassed and ashamed. Of course, when bishops turn a blind eye to blatant homosexuality among some of their priests, I suspect the average layperson won't care much about a radical redefinition of the sacred bond of marriage.

And greed? Oh, my, do we have greed. Indeed, it seems that our economy now runs and thrives on greed. No return is high enough. No profit big enough. No lottery payoff great enough. No government program or handout expansive enough. Yes, as greed eventually pervades every level of society it destroys a nation just as effectively as a devastating war. Indeed, national collective greed usually leads to war because of the hatred it engenders in others. And to think that some people don't believe in original sin.

No society can long survive this massive loss of moral direction. When the good is redefined as that which is most useful and when justice becomes that which serves the current special interest -- when these things happen, the society is in serious decline.

That's why this election will be so critical and so interesting. I don't know whether our nation will or can restore itself to what it once was, or remake itself into something else, something different but good. I suspect not. I'm neither smart enough nor prescient enough to call that one. But it would appear we're at a crossroads of sorts, because the choice facing us as Americans is a real choice. It's not a perfect choice, because no choice between two human beings is ever perfect, but it is nevertheless a real choice between a culture of life and a culture of death. I believe that the Lord of History is giving us an opportunity to redeem ourselves as a nation, to do as Moses commanded God's chosen people: to choose life.

I hope we make that choice. Pray for our nation, for those we have elected to office, for our judges. And pray for our bishops that they have the courage to be true shepherds.

Now that I've criticized those bishops who have avoided criticizing our anti-life politicians, I should thank the bishops of Florida for their election year statement reminding us that we may not in good conscience vote for candidates who consistently support intrinsic evils like abortion. I'm also pleased to note that the bishops of Kansas City published a similar joint pastoral letter on the upcoming election. Click here for the EWTN news story. Let's hope that the pastors of Florida's parishes, along with those of the archdiocese of Kansas City and the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, listen to and preach the bishops' words from the pulpit. Click here for the complete pastoral letter. And we should also thank our US bishops for their public corrections of the grossly inaccurate comments of two pro-abortion politicians, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. Sadly, correction seems to have no impact on those who place politics above all else, even the lives of innocents and their own salvation. One more piece of good news is the talk Bishop Jaime Soto gave to the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries. Read the story here.

I don't mean to sound pessimistic, because I'm not. Despite all these worldly concerns -- and the rise and fall of governments and nations are truly worldly concerns -- we can look to the future with hope, because we have a loving God who is always in charge, a God who is true to His promises. Yes, being here in the world today is a good thing. Give God thanks for the fact of your being.

Oh, more thing: Check out the website It's worth a visit.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

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