“The Word of God is simple, and seeks out as its companion a heart that listens.” Cardinal Carlo Martini
The TV talk shows are filled with chatter about how the two presidential candidates will do in tomorrow’s debate.
More to the point is how we, the viewers, will do.
Based on the (over) reactions to both the first Presidential debate and to the Clash of the Two Catholics, we seem to view these events more as jousting matches or as Shakespearean theater as it was first performed, on bare stages to rowdy audiences.
The willingness to say just about anything, regardless of whether it is anchored in fact, coupled with shameless bluster appear to be all that is needed to achieve the triumph of illusion over reality. The movement of the polls after the first debate suggest that viewers were willing to accept performance as promise –and reticence in the face of false attack and false pretenses–as retreat.
Ann Romney was right when she said, “This is hard.” She was referring to her husband’s determined run for the Presidency. But she could just as well have been referring to the burden that every voter bears. It is indeed hard to bring critical intelligence and a strong sense of who we are –as citizens, as people who have families, friends, relatives and neighbors, as members of a community– to how we respond to what the candidates offer.
Wonkiness is NOT next to godliness
The US Bishops set Catholicism back as a force for social justice—and turn Catholics away– every time they point to contraception and women’s exercise of their reproductive rights as over-riding “intrinsic evils.”
In threatening to withhold Communion from politicians who have chosen not to inflict their Church’s position on their constituents, the Bishops have made the sacrament a political weapon. The late Cardinal Carlo Martini who passed away recently at the age of 85, observed that “The sacraments are an instrument of healing. They are not an instrument of discipline.”
Thankfully, Sr. Simone Campbell and other faith leaders have reminded us of the priority all faiths place on compassion for those in need. That, not the relentless pursuit of monetary success, is what Catholic social doctrine is about. Vice President Biden’s understanding of that was clear. His Catholicism is a very un-wonky Catholicism of the good neighbor. Ryan, on the other hand, has tethered his thinking first to Ayn Rand and then, improbably, to Aquinas. If it sounds forced, it probably is forced. Wonkiness is not next to godliness.
This past Sunday, the Gospel told the story of the man who wanted so very much to follow Jesus but could not bring himself to give up his great wealth to do so.
Cardinal Martini referenced this same Gospel story in an interview published after his death. He lamented that the Church appeared afraid to keep up with the times; that it was 200 years behind.
If we need the comfort of wise Church leaders to help us sort out who might best use the power of government to respond to the needs of the 100%, this is who we should be listening to. Cardinal Martini challenges us to think:
“Well-being weighs on us. We find ourselves like the rich young man who went away sad when Jesus called him to be his disciple. I know that we can’t let everything go easily. At least, however, we can seek people who are free and closest to their neighbor, like Archbishop Romero and the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador. . . .
Neither the clergy nor ecclesiastical law can substitute for the inner life of the human person. All the external rules, the laws, the dogmas, are there to clarify this internal voice and for the discernment of spirits. . . .
We need to be with people who burn in such a way that the Spirit can spread itself everywhere.”
The real test as we watch the second Presidential debate is what discernment we bring to it. Will we be able to see who burns in such a way that the Spirit can spread itself?
This is one of those elections where the business of church and the business of poltics have indeed clashed to the point of emeshment. I see why folks originally talked about the division of church and state. We need to pray for what will keep us alive on this earth in a positive form of ethical energy and spiritual calm for the next few centuries and it surely won’t be a based on the election system we currently have. I love what an older man told me the other day: “our daily world issues spin so fast now and we cannot afford to have our politicians putting that on hold to run for office for a full year and collect so much money that could be used elsewhere for a greater good. We need to limit what we spend and only offer about 3 or 4 months for political campaigning so we don’t miss a beat.”
I like that thinking. Human nature is what it is and people who don’t agree to things have found loopholes forever and will continue to find them. If they had not found them, we woud not be facing some of the same issues we thought were resolving like integration, racism, poverty,civil liberties, rich getting richer, etc. The American ingenuity and American individualism continue to astonish me when we all work together for causes that are humane and compassionate. So Universal Truths are a standard that all peoples around the world can strive for where the beauty of music, art, agricultural and technological creativity expressed in ways to solve problems like finding water, food, and education and eliminating diseases become our goals and not the daily frittering over focusing on the specks in each other’s eyes.