Turning the Page, Moving Forward
A NOTE FROM OUR PUBLISHER: President Joe Biden has spoken often about the need for unity — this is critical today when our nation is so bitterly divided. Americans must strive to come together, but achieving this will be difficult. Unity can't mean compromising deeply held religious beliefs especially regarding human life.
Americans have long been united by our Judeo-Christian heritage and the idea that every human life is sacred, valued, and should be treated with dignity.
Indeed, this was the message of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birth and legacy we just celebrated with a national holiday. King, together with so many other African Americans, preached and peacefully protested against racism — and for civil rights. The dignity and worth of the person were at the core of King’s push for reform. It’s also at the heart of another effort for reform. For more than four decades, hundreds of thousands of Americans have gathered together in the nation’s capital to mourn the loss of more than 60 million lives due to abortion. The March for Life is a call for the nation to recognize anew the dignity and worth of every human being. By our Catholic witness we profess that God is the author of all life and the dignity of human life must be held as sacred.
While different in their political causes, the March for Life and Rev. King share a similar principle: Human dignity and unconditional love for each other are necessary for any just society or nation. As King said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
The March for Life and King’s leadership of the civil-rights movement have another thing in common: their commitment to nonviolent protest. Despite the enormous evil of racism and the personal attacks he and his family faced (such as when segregationists bombed his home in Montgomery, Alabama), King never called for revenge or retaliation against those who committed such vicious, racist acts. Instead, he employed ideas, facts, words and peaceful protest to confront such grievous wrongs: “We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts.”
For 48 years, the March for Life has been a peaceful protest marking the tragic loss of millions of innocent babies as well as celebrating the value and worth of every human life.
As we look back at the outrageous attack on the U.S. Capitol, we are reminded that our democracy cannot endure, nor can we be a nation true to our Judeo-Christian roots, if we resort to this behavior. Without equating them, whether it was this heinous attack on our democracy, or some of the protests that turned violent and destructive over the summer: Violence should never be used to resolve political or cultural conflict.
Pope Francis made this exact point during a general audience in early June of last year. While mourning the tragic death of George Floyd, condemning racism, and calling for an end to the violence that ensued in our cities, he said: “At the same time, we have to recognize that the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost.”
Sadly, the Trump era ended with the tragic mob-driven riot in the nation’s capital aimed at the heart of our democracy. Those horrific events have put a deserved stain on President Trump’s legacy and will historically overshadow what was accomplished by his administration.
As Americans we must now turn the page and move forward. President Joe Biden has spoken often about the need for unity — this is critical today when our nation is so bitterly divided. As Americans, we should strive to come together, but achieving this will be difficult.
Last October, I wrote that the choice before voters in the November election was really more about a vision of America and less about the persons seeking the office. In that column I noted that one “view of our country holds that the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom should be protected, that people of faith should not be discriminated against for their beliefs, and that all Americans, including those not yet born, have a God-given right to life.”
The other vision of America, I argued, sees “traditional religious and Christian values … as a form or vehicle for discrimination, not a central element of the country. Abortion isn’t just celebrated; its export with taxpayer dollars is an article of faith. ... Contraception in this view is a fundamental right that outweighs even the constitutional religious-freedom rights of nuns like the Little Sisters of the Poor. Conscientious objection is dismissed, and religion is seen as something to be subverted and brought into the progressive fold, not something to be celebrated for what it is and what it believes. In fact, traditional religious beliefs are seen as a major threat to the country, and religious values are seen as out of step with the newfound progressive ‘American’ ones.”
Donald Trump has returned to private life and Joe Biden is now president, yet those profound differences in vision for the United States still remain. President Biden campaigned as a Catholic and throughout his career has often cited his Catholic faith as his guidepost, yet the vision he articulated as a candidate and which is guiding both his administration and his party puts him squarely at odds with many of the Church’s teachings, especially on the preeminent issue of the defense of unborn life.
Biden has said repeatedly over the past few months that the words a president uses matter. In his inaugural address, perhaps the most often-repeated word used by the president was “unity.” As Catholics, we understand the profound importance of unity, but “unity” cannot come at the expense of compromising our most deeply held religious principles, especially in regard to human life.
The pursuit of “unity” will require much prayer and careful discernment.
In this moment that marks the start of a new presidential administration, let us come together to pray for President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and all of our elected officials. Let us pray that our nation can find a path forward that values the voice of people of faith in public life and discourse.
May God bless you.