Columban Center Responds to the Election

At the beginning of 2016, Pope Francis invited Catholics and people of good will to observe a Year of Mercy with acts that bear witness to the justice, mercy and compassion of God in the midst of a broken and suffering world.

He has set an example, in word and deed, and shown us, during his visit to the United States last year, what that justice and mercy looks like: visiting prisoners, welcoming refugees and migrants, embracing the poor and vulnerable, caring for creation. In a word, “building bridges,” not walls, honoring our cultural diversity and celebrating the diversity of creation:

“In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good becomes a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters.” (LS 158)

We have just been through one of the most contentious and polarizing electoral campaigns and national elections in our history. Traditions of civil discourse and mutual respect were discarded, the real grievances of working-class families struggling to build a decent life ignored, and the very fabric of our society shredded by shameful words and actions attacking the dignity of women, immigrants, people of color, people with disabilities, veterans and their families, and Muslims.

As we look toward the future, let us remember what unites us, rather than divides us, and who we are as a people so that we call forth the best, not the worst, from each other.

Fifteen hundred years ago, St. Columban, the patron saint of the Missionary Society of St. Columban, said: “A life unlike your own can be your teacher.”

The challenges before us are enormous, particularly as we face the prospect of a new Administration and Congress that will be challenged to prove its commitment to these basic tenets of Catholic social teaching: respect for the life and dignity of the human person; promotion of policies that support family, community and participation; respect for the rights and responsibilities of all; option for the poor and vulnerable; respect for the dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity; and care for God’s creation.

This is the “platform” to which we are dedicated as Catholics; these are the values that define our Catholic identity, values we share with Christians, Jews, Muslims and other faith traditions, and with people of good will throughout our country and the entire world.

The earth is experiencing the warmest temperatures on record; tens of millions of people are seeking refuge in other lands, including our own; millions of men, women and children have been killed in cruel wars, especially now in Syria; and the gap between rich and poor, between those who have work and those who do not, between those who take life for granted and those who can take nothing for granted, is growing.

As Catholics, as Christians, as people of faith, as Americans, it is imperative that we be defined not by despair, but by hope. As the late great historian Howard Zinn reminds us: “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.”

This is surely a defining moment in our history. How will we respond to the challenge? Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si’, asks these two questions:

“What is happening to our common home?”

“What kind of world will we pass on to our children?”

Moving forward, let us choose life and policies that promote life so that immigrants and refugees, victims of war and poverty, the poor and future generations, and our common home, may flourish and give praise to the Creator of us all.