For our readers in the United States, the mid-term election is a huge story. A historic set of victories for Republicans across the country may be interpreted as a rejection of the immoral and oppressive policies of current office holders.
By nature, 1P5 is a non-political website targeted at Catholics not just in the United States, but around the world. By legal organization, we are in the process of obtaining 501(c)(3) status, which puts significant restrictions on our political speech. We have to stay away from any appearance of political campaigning, and frankly, we’d like to keep it that way. However, insofar as civic duty, the issues facing society, and public policy play a role in Catholic life, we may touch on these topics from time to time.
Today I would like to issue a word of caution to our readers about the enthusiasm they may be feeling over the results of yesterday’s election: “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.” (Psalm 146:3)
In his book [easyazon_link asin=”B003YMO85E” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”onep073-20″]What I Saw in America[/easyazon_link], G.K. Chesterton observed:
America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism, and it does also by inference condemn atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived. Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly. The point is that there is a creed, if not about divine, at least about human things.
It’s an interesting claim, and it’s at least partially correct. I’ve made no secret in my writings elsewhere that in the American context, my political philosophy is almost involuntarily libertarian. I’ve had other Catholics tell me that Libertarianism is evil, to which I can only respond: Nonsense! That’s like saying the law of supply and demand is evil. These things are tools by which we approach and understand real-world forces. Libertarianism, if embraced as a universal good or a societal ideal, presents some problems. Left unchecked, it could easily lead toward amoral anarchy. But placed within a civic sphere where an overarching secular government grows increasingly antithetical to moral living — like we have in most countries in the Western world — and Libertarianism is just the thing to starve the beast. Shrink the government! Cut off its funding! Reduce its power! Force it to be fiscally responsible! Limit its ability to make war! Give the power back to the people, since, in nations like the United States, that is where the power is legally vested.
But this is where we begin to run afoul of authentic Catholic thinking. If America is disestablishmentarian by design, society — including government — owes obedience and recognition to the Social Kingship of Christ. Not just personally or in the homes of citizens, but on a national, state, and local level. From the encyclical Quas Primas, by Pope Pius XI (with my emphasis):
Thus the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men. To use the words of Our immortal predecessor, Pope Leo XIII: “His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ.” Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In him is the salvation of the individual, in him is the salvation of society. “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.” He is the author of happiness and true prosperity for every man and for every nation. “For a nation is happy when its citizens are happy. What else is a nation but a number of men living in concord?” If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ. What We said at the beginning of Our Pontificate concerning the decline of public authority, and the lack of respect for the same, is equally true at the present day. “With God and Jesus Christ,” we said, “excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation.”
Chesterton’s assertions notwithstanding, the Establishment Clause of the American Constitution makes clear that God — in the specific, non-deistic sense — and Jesus Christ particularly, are excluded from political life in our nation. And that makes it a hard argument to say that America is built on a creed. Creeds are specific. General and vague belief in a creator is not.
Which brings us back to the present moment. Political ideology is to America as dogmatic theology is to the Church. And so for many American Catholics, the notion that if they vote for the right guys, and if those right guys win, then everything will be fine. They particularly seem to believe after every Republican victory that the American abortion machine will grind to a halt.
This is an enormous deception.
I’ve argued in the past that we have a serious problem with abortion politics in this country:
This is not a problem government can fix. We cannot slap a law on this gaping intellectual and spiritual wound and think that our society will survive. The country is divided roughly in half on the issue of abortion, which leads to the second point – using our current approach and tactics, we do not have the political will to change the law of the land.
Some have discussed a Human Life Amendment. While noble, this would invariably fail to garner enough votes to pass muster. A constitutional amendment outlawing abortion would require a simple majority vote in both houses of Congress and a two-thirds majority passage by the 50 states. And even if an amendment were able to be drafted that would bring in more of the fence-sitters, it would surely include exception clauses for rape, incest, and life of the mother. If such an amendment were to pass, we would then transition from a jurisprudence that interprets an implicitright to abortion within the 14th Amendment to one that grants an explicit right under specific circumstances, even if it outlaws it in all others. This is a toehold in judicial precedent that can be exploited and expanded over time.
Others rely on what I like to call “judicial roulette” – voting for any presidential candidate who might have a chance at installing a justice on the Supreme Court, who in turn might vote pro-life if a new challenge to Roe comes before the Court. But of course, there’s the problem of the judicial litmus test. Both Justices Alito and Roberts had to be extremely circumspect in their positions on the abortion issue, with Roberts going so far as to re-affirm that “Roe is the settled law of the land” during his confirmation hearings. We don’t know for certain how they would vote even if they had the chance, and yet they are considered pro-life victories in the arena of judicial appointments.
History is more sobering. Five of the justices that decided Roe (Burger, Brennan, Stewart, Blackmun, and Powell) were Republican appointees. Similarly, five of the justices that upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (Blackmun, Stevens, Souter, O’Connor, and Kennedy) were also Republican appointees – with Blackmun being the only common justice between the two decisions. Nine pro-abortion Republican justices in the two major abortion cases to ever come before the Supreme Court, each time comprising the majority? Forgive me if I have little confidence that the next Republican president will pick someone who will turn the tide.
Even if we were to go out on a limb and assume Roe could be overturned, would it mean abortion would once again be illegal in this country? No. Overturning Roewould create no federal ban on abortion rights. It would simply return the issue to the individual legislation of the states in accordance with the 10th Amendment.
There’s a good deal more to the article and a follow-up piece here. You may want to read those if the excerpt hasn’t already bored you to tears. The larger point is that the political machine in this country is NOT going to solve the moral problems that plague us, which bleeds up through our increasingly awful jurisprudence. Again, these are arguments I’ve made before. I’ve written about how we’ve lost the war on so-called “gay marriage”, how we fail to demand intellectual honesty about abortion, and how we wound up in the thick of all of it because of our acceptance of contraception.
And now we add to these problems the suppression of religious liberty (itself a flawed concept according to perennial teaching; but just as workable as libertarianism in the current societal context), the moral impositions of the Affordable Care Act, the ongoing questions about political targeting and scandals and spying and misappopriation of funds and the failures to protect American lives overseas or take care of soldiers when they’re in trouble, at home or abroad.
The problems we face are legion.
This election, as exciting as it is to believe in it as a turning point, only tells us one thing: Americans are fed up with the way things are, they’re scared about the future, and they are willing to latch onto anything that looks like change. So the question becomes: will they get what they asked for, or is this just another example of the political pendulum swinging in the opposite direction, only to fix very little and wind up with an opposition victory a few more years down the road?
The course we are on is unsustainable. Not just as a country, but as a world. And there are numerous prophecies about what will happen if men do not repent. Consequences not just spiritual, but temporal. Two of the most notable:
Our Lady of Fatima, July 13, 1917:
“You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.
“To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”
Our Lady of Akita, October 13, 1973:
“As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and priests.”
“The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.
“The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them”
I emphasized the corresponding passages in those two quotes. Again and again we hear this sort of thing, not just from Mary, but from other visionaries and saints. With a rising Islamic threat, European economic instability, and an increasingly aggressive Russia, many Catholic prophecy watchers are starting to bite their nails.
We need conversion, not just elections. We need to reform the Church and our interior lives, not just immigration and welfare. As Catholics, we must remember that no matter what governments say, there is no possible separation of authentic belief in Christ from the civil sphere without disastrous consequences. All graces flow to the world through the Catholic Church. As it becomes increasingly isolated, diminished from within, and oppressed from without, the world grows more dangerous by the day.
God will provide. He loves His children, but His ways are not our ways. Right now, the temptation to look to our civil leaders for answers may be growing again in some of us after a period of serious political fatigue. I would advise that we do not let down our guard, or assume too much. We are not out of danger. The sweeping victory of those individuals many of us may consider “the good guys” is not going to forestall the storm. In fact, if our overreaching government sees this as a rebuke, which they surely do, it may even expedite worse political defeats to come.
I advise again to follow even more closely St. Peter’s admonition which is the source and inspiration of 1P5:
“Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist ye, strong in faith.”
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.