Responding Like Catholics

Until the end, I held out hope that Sen. John McCain would somehow pull off the upset. Alas, the election came down to the economy, and as is usually the case, the voters pinned the blame on the party whose man is in the Oval Office.

For those of us Catholics not motivated solely by the economic crisis, it is a sobering — even dismaying — moment. The man with the most hostile record ever on life issues is going to be president on January 20, 2009. The man who promised to sign the misnamed “Freedom of Choice Act” as his first act in office, the man who supports mass-production of human embryos for destructive “research” purposes, and the man who steadfastly opposed providing medical care to babies who survived abortions is now going to be the most powerful man in the world. Moreover, I am convinced that, given the budgetary constraints, President Obama will have to satisfy the hard left with non-pecuniary rewards like FOCA, the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and the like.

Toss in the fact he comes fully equipped with massive majorities in both houses of Congress and has worshipful coverage from a free press that smacks uncomfortably of a state-run propaganda arm, and it is easy to give into an angry despair and lash out.

Orthodox. Faithful. Free.

Sign up to get Crisis articles delivered to your inbox daily

Email subscribe inline (#4)

A few weeks back, a libertarian commenter suggested precisely this approach over at Instapundit:

This is surely small of me, but if Obama wins, I plan on giving him as much of a chance as the Democrats gave George Bush. I will gleefully forward every paranoid anti-Obama rumor that I see, along with YouTube footage of his verbal missteps. I will laugh and email heinous anti-Obama photoshop jobs, and maybe even learn photoshop myself to create some. I’ll buy anti-Obama books, and maybe even a “Not My President” t-shirt. I’m sure that the mainstream bookstores won’t carry them, but I’ll be on the lookout for anti-Obama calendars and stuff like that. I will not wish America harm, and if the country is hurt (economically, militarily, or diplomatically) I will truly mourn. But i will also take some solace that it occurred under Obama’s watch, and will find every reason to blame him personally and fan the flames.

In other words, bring on the “1-20-13” bumper stickers and Obama trutherism. While I can understand the temptation, this is nothing more than an unusually juvenile form of anarchism, unworthy of a responsible citizen of the republic. More importantly, it is a non-starter as far as Catholics are concerned. As St. Paul said in 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

Then there is Paul’s citizenship charter in Romans 13, which begins with this admonition:

Let every personbe subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority?

This is not a call for quietism, as the Church states in the Catechism (2234-2243). Section 2242 sets out in black and white the limits of what any state can command from its Catholic citizenry. However, the Magisterium is equally clear that we have to listen to what Wordsworth memorably called the “Stern Daughter of the Voice of God” — duty:

It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community (2239).

Please note that the emphasis here is in the original. As you can see, corrosive partisanship is not on the list of duties. As Catholics, we are held to a higher standard, and we need to meet it. Given how polluted the public square is these days, we have no choice.

Finally, if Scripture and Tradition are leaving you particularly unmoved today, let me offer pragmatism: Shrill, bitter, and paranoid is no way to go through life, son. Nor are they a blueprint for a reversal of electoral fortune. Obama did not campaign on a mantra of bitter, vindictive gloom, and there is a simple reason for it: Nobody wants to be in the same room with a guy who spews this kind of talk, let alone vote for him.

Obama is our next president, like it or not. Our marching orders are clear: Pray for him and our country, work with him where possible to achieve the common good, and fight like a Maccabee when he oversteps his bounds — all the while remembering that November 2010 and 2012 will be here quicker than we think.


  • Dale Price

    Dale Price writes from Detroit. Visit his blog at

Join the Conversation

in our Telegram Chat

Or find us on

Editor's picks

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00

Orthodox. Faithful. Free.

Signup to receive new Crisis articles daily

Email subscribe stack
Share to...