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!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Elections and other stuff

President Obama. The past few weeks have certainly been interesting, and not just politically. The American people have spoken and in doing so have elected Barack Obama as our next president. With the exception of Mr. Obama himself, how many people one year ago would have dared to predict this outcome? Back then, if you'll recall, most of the "smart" money was on Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani as the likely nominees of their respective parties. Just shows how smart the smart money really is.

I'm not going to address the politics of the campaign and its results, other than to say the American people often send mixed messages. In electing Senator Obama as their next president, they chose the senator with perhaps the most liberal voting record, and yet in all three states where same-sex marriage was on the ballot, the people voted to define marriage in the traditional way. I suspect that many people who voted for Senator Obama did so out of emotion, without considering such mundane things as his voting record or his public stances on specific issues. When it comes to electing people, voters tend to choose the most likable candidate; but when faced with a clearly defined issue such as same-sex marriage, they often instinctively know how they should vote. I really believe they simply liked Barack Obama more than they liked John McCain, and seemingly bought into Obama's campaign slogans and his promise of "change" without any real understanding what this change might involve. Even the president-elect himself doesn't seem to have a solid grasp on what he plans to do once he takes office.

One of the changes Obama did address during his campaign was a promise to sign a Freedom of Choice Act which would remove any and all restrictions on abortion up to the moment of birth. It would also prohibit parental notification for teens requesting an abortion. In effect it would overturn virtually all the state and federal laws that pro-lifers have managed to enact over the years. I would guess (hope?) that most people who voted for Barack Obama did not realize what this campaign promise would lead to if it were kept.

I did not vote for Senator Obama. I could not; and in fact I have never been able to vote for any pro-abortion candidate in any election. I believe that the Church's magisterial teaching on this subject is right on target: to vote knowingly for a pro-abortion candidate when an alternative is available is seriously sinful. And considering the number of Catholics who ignored this teaching, I guess folks just aren't all that concerned about their salvation these days. The parable of the sower comes to mind. It would seem that for many Catholics the roots of their faith run very shallow indeed.

At this point about all we can do is wait and see, and pray that our new president will undergo a change of heart when it comes to abortion, marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, and other life issues. Remember, with God all things are possible. I can't stress this enough; prayer is always our best -- and not simply our last -- resort.

The myth of human power. Maybe this is a good time for us to reflect on the fact that God is indeed the Lord of History, that ultimately He calls the shots in our world. Just because we like to play God doesn't mean we are gods. Just because we can decide which innocent human life is allowed to continue living and which will be killed, doesn't mean that we actually possess the authority to make these decisions. Life is a gift. It's not a gift from the President or the Congress or the U. S. Supreme Court or the United Nations. It's a gift from God to each individual human being. For us to treat that gift with total disdain and to ignore its true source is to replace God Himself with the idol of human power. 1,500 years ago St. Augustine preached and wrote against the vanity and futility of the cult of human power, and we apparently have still not learned.

Bishops speaking out. I must admit, I was surprised at the number of U. S. bishops who publicly spoke out in the final days and weeks of the campaign to remind their flocks that human life is sacred and that abortion is an intrinsic evil that may never be supported. I was surprised because so often in the past many bishops have either remained silent during the political season or stressed that abortion is just one issue among many that we, as voters, should consider when casting our ballots. Rarely did one hear the words "intrinsic evil" and "abortion" uttered in the same breath.

Of course some bishops continued to make the same sort of vague, dampened noises this time around as well, but that's to be expected. Like the rest of us, some bishops are simply moral relativists, the sort who still cringe whenever they hear the words, Humanae Vitae. Others are image-obsessed pragmatists whose overriding priority is to maintain friendly relations with the media, the politicians, and the big donors in their communities. And I suppose some are simply weak. But perhaps this is changing. Perhaps a growing number of our bishops have decided that enough is enough, that Catholic politicians who consistently legislate in direct opposition to Church teaching should be called to task.

Those bishops who did speak out in strong support of life should be commended. I guess my only complaint is that I didn't hear very much from them during the primaries or the early months of the national campaign. But our bishops can't do everything. We, too, have a responsibility to speak the truth and remind others that God's love extends to all, and especially to the most innocent and helpless among us. Sometimes the faithful have to set the example and remind bishops, priests, and, yes, even us deacons, that God's expectations of us are higher than we think. Pray for us all.

God's peace...

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