Author - Michael Griffin

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Pro-Life, Pro-Family, Pro-Refugee
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Christ the King and this Election Season

Pro-Life, Pro-Family, Pro-Refugee

Like many people, I experienced the vitality and vigor of the pro-life movement, marching with others in the streets this past Friday, January 27th — in my case in my home town of South Bend, Indiana.  In Washington, DC, the marchers heard Vice President Mike Pence proclaim that, at last, “life is winning.”

The untruth of that claim brings me to tears.  After that appearance, Pence joined the president to sign the order imposing a four-month ban on all refugees, an indefinite ban on (the most vulnerable) Syrian refugees, and a halt to the arrival of even those who have already been vetted and approved for a visa to enter the country.

This order is personal for me.  Through the work of my parish, and then the help of lawyers obtained through the migration office of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a family who came as refugees from Iraq has been working for over two years to obtain a visa for the matriarch of the family, who faced significantly higher and longer layers of vetting because she had been a teacher in government schools.  The others could not miss the chance to flee when they were approved, and it has been a very tough two years.  She is alone, in poor health, has no way to earn a living, and is isolated from those she loves the most.

Finally, last month the visa was approved.  Her beautiful family–husband, two daughters and their husbands, each family with five little kids in our local schools, 15 total, waiting for one more–were all overjoyed.  I was overjoyed. (See this story in the South Bend Tribune of February 1, 2017.)

And now this.  On the same day that these leaders claimed the pro-life mantle–the same day!–this order comes down.  I think of the effect on this family and on tens of thousands of families in very desperate situations, including thousands of others also already vetted and approved.

I want to emphasize here that I am not making the connection to the pro-life movement as a rhetorical device.  I have been a public and staunch pro-lifer my whole life. Like many others in the movement I opposed the previous administration’s numerous attacks on the right to life, including the HHS mandate.

But the politics of this week will in the end erode, not build up, a culture of life.

And the policies of this week, in particular the executive order of Friday, deserve robust condemnation—especially from Catholics.  We are the tradition of faith and reason. Not only is this order unchristian but it is also irrational. Of the terror attacks that have occurred in the U.S. since September, 11, the number of perpetrators from the list of banned countries is precisely zero.  Why was Saudi Arabia not on this list, or Russia, both of whom have been home to terror perpetrators in the U.S.?

While there are more eloquent ways to state the opposition to this ban, I think that the faith and reason test is simple and clear.  Indeed, if our Thomistic tradition teaches us that grace perfects nature, then what we are seeing is how irrationality perverts faith.  And indeed, I dare say that some outside of our Catholic, pro-life fold are waiting to hear from more of us about why our faith—faith in the person and teachings of Jesus—is not quite as offended by the present actions as it was by the previous administration.

And so this is a call. In your parish, or university, or city, consider making it known you wish to join—in the name of the pro-life movement—the display of repudiation for the unjust and unchristian orders of this week.  The point will not be to grandstand and feel good about being more righteous than the administration.  It will be to try to seek some legislative, judicial, or cultural remedies for the sake of our communities’ many refugee families and immigrants in vulnerable legal statuses.

Perhaps you can meet with officials. Perhaps you know someone in a position of influence. We must have hope that some aspects of this order, and the direction toward which it leads, can be walked back if enough people resist. Whatever we do, I hope it involve praying together and saying loudly together: “this is not the culture of life.”

Two days after the order was signed, I brought the beautiful Iraqi family to a gathering of faithful people, people from the Church, who prayed with and over this family.  What they witnessed was not an “issue” but an encounter with real people, people who themselves are afraid but whom we have no rational basis to fear (I was grateful when they explained the layers and layers of vetting they received).

Lastly, in addition to having no rational basis to fear this family—or their matriarch whose reunification with her family is now in question—we do in fact risk losing the grace which God is offering to us. For the words of Christ himself tell us that in encountering the refugee we encounter Him.

Christ the King and this Election Season

I want to start with a confession.  I am a political junkie.  And so, while I have no principled affinity with the major presidential candidates, still I check Politico and Five-Thirty-Eight to follow the race. I rationalize my habit by using Aristotelian maxims of being a “political animal,” but this year that was not quite enough justification.

And so I have exercised my political nature by diving a bit deeper into three voices on the periphery of our major media frenzy.  I want to share a few thoughts about these voices, and what they might mean during this time of focus on politics.  And this blog—dedicated as it is to elevating conversation even beyond the national arena—is a fit place to share what I am learning.

And so take a moment to move beyond Republicans and Democrats.  Rather, these players go by the names of “Tradinistas,” “Integralists,” and the American Solidarity Party.  At the end, though, for fellow junkies, I will share what these three political animals have to do with Election 2016.

First, the Tradinistas.  These young Christians promote the social “kingship of Christ.”  Clearly, that have looked at modern society and seen the way it represents a kind of anti-Gospel of exclusion, violence, and vice.  Their response is to turn to “traditional orthodoxy” in order to suggest a “politics of virtue and the common good,” while being clear-eyed that this will mean “the destruction of capitalism” and the establishment of a socialism marked by robust subsidiarity.

Greater social control of labor and wealth, especially when it ensures workers, local communities, and families have more access to personal property, is needed to combat the inequality and exploitation of global markets, where decisions are made based on the priority of capital.  As I examined the Tradinista Manifesto, I found myself appreciative.  No doubt, the vision seems abstract and impractical—especially when the current choice for president involves two super-capitalists—but the Tradinista response at least gets to the heart of the problem.

The second voice that garnered my attention this election season came from The Josias, a website full of interesting and thoughtful essays that promote Catholic integralism.  Integralism is, like the socialism of the Tradinistas, built on a commitment to the truth that Christ is king not of a cordoned-off spiritual realm but rather of all life, including the socio-political realm.  The integralists thus believe that political principles and structures—which should promote the natural good of human life—ought to be subordinate to theological principles and  ecclesial structures, which extend natural goodness toward our ultimate end of communion with God and the saints.

Writers at The Josias are complex thinkers and recognize that a variety of models can perform the “integration” necessary to help communities pursue the two-fold path toward goodness and holiness.  I certainly am not sounding the bell for a Catholic monarchy—even as depressing as I have found our choices this election,.  But it is hard not to pause for a moment, think of our candidates and global leaders, and wish that more of them had the moral vision offered by the Church, in particular of someone named Pope Francis!

I do believe that we Catholics should always be on guard against triumphalism—the Gospel indicts us all, not just Democrats and Republicans.  Yet we might also take a look at Catholic Social Teaching and say: “that might be about the best vision of justice on offer in the world today.” Of course, many will say “fine, but that still is not a practical option in this election.”

Or is it?  The third voice I have been following is the American Solidarity Party.  These folks—shall we call them/us “the Solids”?—are committed to a pro-life, pro-family and pro-peace and justice vision.  Check out their platform and you will find no daylight between it and the social doctrine of the Church. They do not run as candidates seeking an establishment of Catholicism as an official religion, but to me they do show that if you get the ultimate end of persons right—we are made for communion—then you also are on the path to a pretty good politics.

Their presidential ticket, Mike Maturen and Juan Munoz, has mainly write-in votes as its option, but is actually on the ballot in the swing state of Colorado.  Still their goal in 2016 is more modest: to begin to develop the party as a real alternative, much like the Greens have hoped to become for liberal progressives.  Will see more of the Solids—or how about “Virtue-crats”?—in coming local and national elections?  The answer to that may depend on the very people reading a blog like this.

And where does this leave a political junkie like me?  I write this on election eve, though many may read it after that fact.  And like many friends, I have gone back and forth about my votes.  When folks have asked what I will do, my musings about tradition or integralism or a third party seem at first not to help much.  But now that I have learned more from these voices, I am in better shape to share three conclusions which may even approach the realm of practical.

First, go to the polls—and consider the write-in option.  One thing I like about that option is that if there is any writing at all on a ballot, it gets counted by hand.  That means that somebody actually reads it.  Why not even share a brief sentence like “hoping for more pro-life and pro-peace candidates.”  Your ballot, or other votes for listed candidates, will not be dismissed. That would be illegal—and besides, the people who work on Election Day take very seriously making sure every vote counts.

Second, let’s go back to the idea that Christ really is King of our social and political lives.  Here we have to remember that clearest of lessons from the Gospel: the kingship of Jesus does not emerge in the expected ways.  This time of year, it’s true that many eyes (especially mine) are on the political structures that are up in the air. But our neighborhoods and social circles are also political structures, too, and they may be up in the air waiting for our involvement.  At least we could help redeem these places.

Third, let us use this moment to widen our capacity for political options.  It has been a long time since I really dived into Catholic integralism, or Catholic socialism, or even the viability of Christian Democratic parties.  But standing here, in the middle of the American “democracy,” seeing that of all the women and men capable of leading us we have “chosen” the two most established and flawed political and economic insiders… well, if that’s not a call for considering a few more voices, than all we have left is Politico, Five-Thirty-Eight and a pretty boring sense of politics.  Or we can join the conversation, the movement, to see what principles and shared visions emerge when we look to Christ as king not only of heaven but of earth too.

© Daniel Philpott The views expressed in this forum are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent those of Daniel Philpott, CCHR, or the University of Notre Dame.