I’m a bit confused these days on where my religion hits my politics. I’m probably not the only Catholic confounded in this area these days.
A little background first. I was a Democrat for many years. Raised in a blue-collar working town with an immigrant (and naturalized) father and a mother from a large Catholic family, it was somewhat natural. In my later years in high school and into college, my parents’ became a bit more affluent through hard work at good jobs and solid money management. While they retain many of the same values, they also became more conservative.
Like many Catholics, I stayed Democrat for many years, turning a blind eye to the party’s support of abortion, atheism, same-sex marriage and its excuses for urban crime. Then two things happened. One, I had kids. Second, I watched my party boo God on live tv. I became an Independent. I truly believe neither party deserves my allegience, nor do I feel either represents any majority of American voters. I mean, really, how do you squeeze billions of people into one of two groups subscribing to predetermined ideas on everything?
On many issues, I see that I now skew conservative. Particularly on social issues and finance. I’ve always been one to believe in being charitable to others, even when it’s obvious that poor decision making led someone to need. If I were a Republican, I’d likely earn the dreaded Rhino label.
Today, I stumbled upon the Catholic “rules” for voting as published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In the sense that it was clarifying about our responsibilities in voting as Catholic Americans, in some ways I couldn’t help but be slightly uneasy.
That uneasiness comes from the great debate over immigration and refugees in the United States. I understand that Jesus called us to welcome foreigners and strangers and treat them with dignity. And I’m all for welcoming those who truly are fleeing violence and war. But I think recently, as we’re seeing in Europe, some are less refugees of war than they are purpatrators of violence and fear among those that would show them mercy.
This is where my confusion sets in. When terror is hiding beneath the call for aid and rescue, who are the real victims? Again, I understand the call to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. And I realize that God calls us to this task even for those who are being less than honest. Yet aren’t we also called to protect our families, our friends, and those around us who are more naive to those who would harm them?
As Catholics, a group that is dedicated to giving, are we in uncharted waters when our charity is returned with violence, rape and an overall disrespect for the values that provided the aid in the first place? Does God really want us to place ourselves and millions more in danger while we ignore the inevitable? Or would he rather we use our resources to stop the spread of terror and preserve the human dignity of others, like the women being assaulted all over Europe?
I’m not silly enough to see a black and white simple solution to any of the messes the world currently finds itself in. If there were easy answers we’d hopefully have instituted them by now. But as a Catholic faced with choosing a new leader in the near future, how do I decide whose dignity holds more value in our world? Is it fair to allow others to experience injustices like rape and personal violence while our leaders ignore the elephant in the room?
Do our Catholic leaders need to fine tune our call to charity if it indeed leads to greater suffering and strife?