Msgr. Charles Pope is currently a dean and pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, where he has served on the Priest Council, the College of Consultors, and the Priest Personnel Board. Along with publishing a daily blog at the Archdiocese of Washington website, he has written in pastoral journals, conducted numerous retreats for priests and lay faithful, and has also conducted weekly Bible studies in the U.S. Congress and the White House. He was named a Monsignor in 2005.
The recent election brings important openings and opportunities to the Church in terms of announcing the gospel. But there also remain significant and serious problems to be sober about. Our culture’s steady march away from biblical teaching and into moral darkness has been going on for many decades now, and this is not going to be stopped by one election cycle.
The most immediate benefit, if Mr. Trump is true to his word, is that the Supreme Court will not be utterly lost. Had Mrs. Clinton won, it seems quite certain that the court would have shifted sharply to the left and there would have vanished what little remains of the last legal speedbump slowing the steady onslaught of the agenda of the left.
As we know, even if the legislative process in this country were strong (and it is not), much ends up in the Court anyway, especially the moral issues of most concern to Catholics. All the recent decisions that were rendered 5 to 4 would have quickly become 6 to 3. There would be little or nothing to prevent the left from fully enacting its agenda, which grows ever darker and more deadly.
For those of us who have sought to limit the slaughter of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and euthanasia, there would have been little to stem the bloody tide. Religious liberty too would likely have eroded even more quickly than it has in these past years through judicial fiat and executive orders.
Yes, it would have been a very bleak outlook for Catholics and others who are conscientious objectors to the growing cultural darkness and agenda of the so-called progressives, who have used every means to imposed their agenda on us.
So the election results have permitted this legal speed bump of the Supreme Court to remain, unpredictable though it is.
But all this said, we must remain clear that our culture is in very bad condition. Some of this was demonstrated with the passage of yet another euthanasia bill, this time in Colorado, and by several marijuana bills.
Further, there is no evidence that the decline into sexual confusion will abate. Traditional marriage remains in nothing less than a crisis with high divorce rates, low marriage rates, single parenthood, cohabitation and so on. Same-sex “marriage” is already here and polygamy is on the way, already working through the courts.
Secularism and atheism are still on the rise. There is also the rise of the “nones,” some of whom call themselves “spiritual but not religious,” some who simply live secular lives but have some vague belief in a god somewhere. And this illustrates the departure (even by those who say they believe) from revealed religion into highly personalized notions of God. Many speak of the “god within” and of “the god of my understanding.” So we live in a culture where many people think they have a perfect right to invent their own “god” and worship it. We used to call this idolatry.
The list could go on, but the bottom line is it none of these things make for a healthy culture. And it remains true that we in the Church have a lot of work to do in re-proposing the gospel to a cynical and unbelieving age.
It may help that we will spend less time being hauled to court than we did with the last administration. But my fear is that we will relax, rather than get busier. If the Lord has granted us a reprieve from the worse-case scenario, it is not for our pleasure and so we can enjoy repose. It is so that we can get to work, doing what we should always be doing: being Catholic and announcing the gospel.
Let’s remember a few things:
1. The election was very close, particularly in the popular vote. Nearly fifty percent seemed uniformed or unconcerned with Mrs. Clinton’s heinous stand on abortion — including her promise to end the Hyde amendment and increase of funding to Planned Parenthood, even after its scandalous selling of baby parts. In every critical and nonnegotiable moral issue of our time, Mrs. Clinton stood foursquare against our Church’s teaching. She declared that “religion must change,” and, according to emails of John Podesta, she headed a party that infiltrated the Church in order to sow seeds of dissention and division. That fifty percent of our country either disregarded this or saw other issues as more important is sobering. And that any candidate gets any support at all who steadfastly supports, even celebrates, the dreadful practice of abortion that has resulted the death of almost 60 million children, is shocking. It shows we have a lot of work to do.
2. Further, there is no clear indication that President-elect Trump is with us on all the non-negotiable moral issues. At best, he is soft on the agendas of the LBGTQ community. He seems to support euthanasia, and so forth. Lay Catholics and pro-life voters must remain vigilant, hold him accountable for what he has promised, and seek further movement in his views. His views on capital punishment and immigration, while less doctrinal, also put him in tension or opposition to the teachings of the Catechism and the growing consensus of Catholic bishops and popes of the past 75 years.
3. We can expect federal judges at the lower levels to continue advancing the agenda of the left, further cementing the redefinition of marriage, knocking down common-sense limits on abortion, and requiring the funding of abortion, contraceptives in health plans and the like. After eight years of appointments from the current administration, it seems clear that they will continue advancing a moral agenda that is odious to Catholic and Biblical teaching. It also seems likely that they will go on using the force of law to attempt to compel our acquiescence, and compliance in these areas along with newer ones as well such as transgenderism and all its stranger than fiction demands. Not all these cases will even reach the Supreme Court, and even there the record is shaky that these odious laws will be overturned.
4. Our opponents will continue to decry our religious objections as mere and thinly veiled bigotry and hate, intolerance and all manner of phobias. As such they will try and apply existing hate-crime and civil rights legislation against us. Many federal judges will be happy to oblige their demands for fines, more expansive laws to seek to compel us to violate our conscience. Attempts at further restrictions on religious liberty will surely continue in the local, state and federal courts.
This list could go on, but these realities depict serious cultural problems that have been brewing for decades, and have reached a kind of boiling point in the last five years. This election will not likely stop the steady march of unbelief, secularism, greed, sexual confusion and promiscuity, and breakdown of families.
It will help to have the Supreme Court in better hands, but do not be deceived my fellow Catholics that all is now well. Many dark forces are well-entrenched in this culture and we must engage the battle for souls. Do not relax and take your ease. If God has given us an extended chance and kept some options open for us we thought might close — thank you Lord! But all the more reason to use the opportunity he has given.
Please be Catholic, truly Catholic, authentically Catholic. Manifest your joy in the Lord and confidently proclaim his freeing moral vision, cherishing it more than all the gold in the world.
Stay at work and prayer my friends!