The Challenge for Catholics

Post-election editorial: The results of this year’s elections have furthered the growing concern among faithful Catholics regarding the direction of our country.

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The results of this year’s elections have furthered the growing concern among faithful Catholics regarding the direction of our country.

No doubt, there’s due cause for electoral gloom, but our faith must enlighten our vision of the next four years and beyond.

The Nov. 6 election results seem to have outlined clearly, for Catholics in the U.S., the great challenge of the New Evangelization. Though difficult, it’s a positive challenge, first identified 50 years ago by the Second Vatican Council, to re-evangelize the modern world.

Anniversary-year reflections of that monumental council couldn’t be timelier for Catholics today seeking to renew their hopes for the United States. And similarly poignant are the Church’s current Year of Faith and the just-concluded Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization in Rome, as they urge us to face daunting cultural and societal realities with a reinvigorated faith.

Of course, the bad news of Election Day is real: Given President Obama’s unapologetic commitment to the federal contraception mandate, abortion and same-sex "marriage," his victory on Nov. 6 is profoundly troubling.

It means a continuation of his administration’s aggressive infringement of religious freedom as well as the promotion of a redefinition of marriage.

Further, Planned Parenthood and other abortion lobbyists apparently succeeded in framing opposition to abortion and contraception as "a war on women."

Understandably alarmed by this false and ugly charge, many single women — a key demographic — mobilized decisively for Obama.

The Democratic Party’s ongoing control of the Senate opens the door to the further entrenchment of the culture of death through the confirmation of additional pro-abortion-rights U.S. Supreme Court justices like the two Obama appointed during his first term, Sonia Sotomayor (one of six Catholics on the court) and Elena Kagan.

Collectively, the election’s outcome might suggest a significant diminishment in both faith in God and support for the culture of life on these shores — comparable to the powerful secular currents that have left so many churches shuttered in Western Europe.

Still, there is some very good news. The outcome of some state ballot initiatives was favorable — euthanasia was defeated in Massachusetts, and a parental-notification law was accepted in Montana. Pro-life Deb Fischer won a Senate seat in Nebraska. And, on the religious-liberties front, there’s hope in the courts where Catholics and others have filed legal challenges against the contraceptive mandate (see commentary on page 1) and where defenders of marriage are rallying to oppose legal efforts to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

We have all been inspired by the courageous labors of our bishops, pastors and laypeople who have sought to defend marriage, life and religious freedom over a tough, hard-fought election year.

Many Catholic leaders and advocates were disappointed by the election outcome, yet our faith reminds us that our labors will not always be rewarded — at least not in a timely fashion.

During an address before the German parliament, Pope Benedict affirmed that the Church is most truly herself when she is stripped down to the essentials, yet still fights for what is right.

Here, the Pope may be offering a vision of our own future, reminding us that the faithful must not fail to defend the truth — in season and out.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, following his service in Rome as general relator of the recent synod, remarked on the deep sense of hope that pervaded the gathering, even as the Pope and other Church leaders spoke of a "tsunami" of secularism that has "washed across the face of the Western World," sweeping away any adherence to "natural law, the common good."

Despite the gathering darkness, Cardinal Wuerl stressed, the members of the synod were positive, united and pastorally intent on finding creative ways to recover the moral knowledge that’s been lost in recent decades.

Practical notes of hope can also be heard, loud and clear, in the Vatican’s post-election comments.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokesman, expressed hope that America’s re-elected president will serve "law and justice for the good and development of all people and respecting essential human and spiritual values while promoting a culture of life and religious freedom — always so precious in the tradition of the American people and its culture."

And the final word about the re-election of our president goes to the Vicar of Christ, Pope Benedict.

In a congratulatory message, delivered through the apostolic nunciature in Washington, the Holy Father expressed "his hope that the ideals of freedom and justice, which guided the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, may continue to shine out as the nation progresses."

Let this be our hope, too.