As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What I Want to Say About the American Election

This is not a post about who I think people should vote for.  I'm not an American, so I can't even vote.   But over the past few months I, like much of the world have been following the election coverage.  And I've talked about it - a lot. I have strong opinions, like probably most people, because this is a very polarizing election.  A lot is at stake, especially for religious people.  This is not a post about who you should vote for, or who I would vote for.  It's about how you treat people who do not share your political views.

I'm a Catholic, so my whole perspective on this election is encompassed by that.  You would think that it would be easy for Catholics to agree with each other, but surprisingly it isn't.  I must preface this by saying that anyone I have ever spoken to in person has always treated me with dignity when we speak about politics, and I think this says a lot about their moral character.  I have always been well received among my friends, and for that I am so grateful.  But I'm seeing a lot of things online and in discussion forums that I find particularly disheartening.  It is the attempt to remove people's ability to make a free choice by using religion as a way to define "the Catholic vote."  People align themselves with the Republican Party (under Donald Trump) but seem to have difficulty leaving it there.  Many want to take it a step further, to deem Trump the pro-life choice, insinuating that voting for anyone but him is a vote against life.

I've seen all the arguments back and forth, the reasons for voting one way and the hesitancy about not feeling comfortable with one choice but feeling there is no other to be made, and honestly I can understand both sides.  I am so grateful I don't need to make the choice because I would find it so very difficult.  For some people, it's not - they know exactly who they want to vote for, and they are confident in that.  I think that's good, but I know it's not the case for everyone.  A choice that may seem crystal clear to one Catholic may be very complicated for another, even though both have identified the protection of life as the primary election issue.  It is a mistake to assume that if someone does not vote for Trump they are somehow selling out on this - many are concerned that aligning with Trump could do great harm to the pro-life movement.  I'm not saying this to try to convince anyone of anything, but simply to shed light on the fact that there are two ways of approaching the same situation with the same outcome in mind (this article on Ethika Politica gives a good example of this).  Again I'm not saying this to shut down any debates, but simply to dispel the myth that if you are pro-life and you don't vote Trump, you've somehow compromised yourself.  What I really want to show is that there is more than one way to vote pro-life.

If you have a priest, bishop, or someone in authority that you trust, absolutely ask them for their counsel.  I think it is wise to surround yourself with people who will point you towards truth, and help you at moments when things do not seem so clear.  What I don't feel good about is the way this is translating to our judgement of other people and their discernment process.  More and more people are looking for someone to give them the right answer, instead of being an original presence in the face of a problem that does not have a clear answer. I have been so dismayed to see how much people (advertantly or otherwise) are trying to take away others' choice in this election by making them feel that the only moral vote is a vote for Trump. Pope Francis has advised people to, "Study the proposals well, pray, and choose in conscience." , and I think if God gives us the freedom to discern we should not try to take that away from others (even if that's not our goal). Should we encourage others to stand up for life and for the unbornAbsolutely.  Should we inform and help people develop their conscience? You bet. But we should never try to assert ourselves over another person (especially using the church) - the church herself does not do this! If Trump were truly the only choice, if voting against him would be a mortal sin, the Church would say something. Many good and holy people will vote for Trump, for good and holy reasons. But many others may not, and we need to allow them the freedom to discern that.

Many have rightly pointed out that while the Pope has instructed people to vote their conscience, it is important for our conscience to be well-formed.  This is absolutely correct, and I think we should be talking about the issues surrounding the election, learning as much as we can, and weighing it all against the teachings of the Church.  However I fear that sometimes people are less concerned in helping others to form their own consciences, and more with explaining how they themselves have formed THEIR conscience. They make the mistaken assumption that anyone with a well-formed conscience will come to the same conclusion as they have, and that not voting for Trump means your conscience is not well-formed. In the end, in most cases, if the person they are trying to convince says they will vote for Trump, that's all that matters, as if it is the yardstick for how Catholic someone is. It is a deeply personal, moral choice, that many are agonizing over. 

I wonder if people had been more firm about Trump in the first place, if he would have been made to step down. In Canada politicians resign over things they said 20 years ago, but Trump has said so many disgraceful things during this campaign (which EWTN's Raymond Arroyo asked him about and he said he's not sorry for, because it's an election campaign and people said bad things about him too). I wonder if we have the candidate we do because we didn't speak up in the beginning? I have often said I wish Mike Pence was the candidate for Presidency, it would make this whole situation so much simpler. Then again, maybe the Lord doesn't want it to be simple. There are lots of good things coming from the fact that people have to wrestle with this decision. We must allow people to come to their own decision, and trust the Lord to guide it all. Of course we need to be talking about the issues most important to us, especially because so much is at stake. But we need charity and humility - we need to accept at the end of the day that someone else's well-formed conscience may not necessarily vote the same way ours will, and that God sees it all, and will bring about His glory.

This is not an easy decision.  In the words of Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood Director turned Pro-Life Activist, "We are a nation that kills over a million innocent babies every year. We systemically dehumanize the elderly, the homeless and the differently-abled. We have the two candidates we deserve. God help us."  And maybe that's the point.  If the candidates were perfect we might forget just how much we need the Lord, now more than ever.  One way or another I will be praying for our neighbours to the south as this election draws to a close.  And I am confident that God will watch all of us, no matter the outcome. 


If, like me, you are not an American but want to participate in this election somehow, the Knights of Columbus began a Novena for the election on October 30, which will conclude the evening before the election.  Please join me in reciting this prayer daily for our American brothers and sisters.

Most Holy Trinity: Our Father in Heaven, who chose Mary as the fairest of your daughters; Holy Spirit, who chose Mary as your Spouse; God the Son, who chose Mary as your Mother, in union with Mary we adore your majesty and acknowledge your supreme, eternal dominion and authority. 
Most Holy Trinity, we put the United States of America into the hands of Mary Immaculate in order that she may present the country to you. Through her we wish to thank you for the great resources of this land and for the freedom which has been its heritage. 
Through the intercession of Mary, have mercy on the Catholic Church in America. Grant us peace. Have mercy on our president and on all the officers of our government. Grant us a fruitful economy, born of justice and charity. Have mercy on capital and industry and labor. Protect the family life of the nation. Guard the precious gift of many religious vocations. Through the intercession of our Mother, have mercy on the sick, the tempted, sinners – on all who are in need. 
Mary, Immaculate Virgin, our Mother, Patroness of our land, we praise you and honor you and give ourselves to you. Protect us from every harm. Pray for us, that acting always according to your will and the will of your divine Son, we may live and die pleasing to God.  

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