In the realm of politics, so many issues are debated with great fervor and intensity. Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about immigration, government control/spending and, of course, the economy. As the political season kicks into high-gear, let’s take a moment to remember the most important issues facing our country today:
Not that other issues aren’t important at all (especially when we’re seeing unemployment rates above 10%!!), but for over 37 years, under Democrat and Republican presidents alike, our country has legally sanctioned the murders of tens of millions of unborn children. Unless something is done about this atrocity once and for all, we are a nation marked for death. Likewise, the family is the smallest social unit. As such it is an institution fundamental to the life of every society. (JP II, Letter to Families, 17). We can see today how marriage, the nucleus of the family, is being attacked both socially and legally. And religious freedom? Fuggedaboutit!
As far as Catholic political action is concerned, I know it can be frustrating voting every year and seeming like it never really gets us anywhere. If you’re in a bit of a political funk (who isn’t?), I highly suggest reading Archbishop Chaput’s book Render Unto Caesar. It’s encouraging, very historical, not at all what I was expecting, though he did manage to add this towards the end:
Understanding the moral differences among social issues is crucial. Not all evil things can or should be illegal. Not all issues have the same gravity. A healthy culture can tolerate some forms of evil in the interests of social peace. Nonetheless, some acts are so evil that tolerating them itself becomes a poison that weakens the whole of society…
In our day, sanctity-of-life issues are foundational – not because of anyone’s “religious” views about abortion, although these are important; but because the act of de-humanizing and killing the unborn child attacks human dignity in a uniqely grave way. Deliberately killing the innocent is always, inexcusably wrong. It sets a pattern on contempt for every other aspect of human dignity. In defining when human life begins and what is and isn’t a human person, the logic behind permissive abortion makes all human rights politically contingent.
Many social issues are important. Many require our attention. But some issues have more weight than others. Deliberately killing innocent human life, or standing by and allowing it, dwarfs all other social issues. Trying to avoid this fact by redefining when human personhood begins is simply a corrupt and corrupting form of verbal gymnastics. And this habit is not the special reserve of our political leaders. The challenge to American bishops as teachers is most forcefully shown by the mail many of us receive from our people in the pews. Quite a few American Catholics feel comfortable in the role of lions when they lecture the church to keep silent about immigration reform or abortion. But they turn into kittens when it comes to demanding the real change of direction from their own political parties and leaders on the very same issues. Persons who claim to be Catholic under such circumstances are deluding themselves. They want the eternity insurance of faith but refuse to pay the premium it involves. (Archbishop Chaput, Render Unto Caesar pp. 207 & 211-212)