Avoiding Extremes – A Post-Election Reflection

In the aftermath of the recent election I have noticed a tendency toward extremes. I’d like to point them out and counsel something of a via media.

There is no doubt that we have been through a difficult and painful election cycle. There were many strong, acidic, and even hateful things said by the candidates and their supporters; the knives were surely out. Even within the parties there were strong differences. It is clear that we are a very divided land.

And thus there are very different reactions to the results. Sadly, at least among the most vocal, two extremes are apparent. Some see catastrophe while others think that all of our country’s problems will be solved. Some demonize; others canonize. Neither extreme is helpful or accurate.

To those who see catastrophe and those who see utopia, I would point out that this is not the first political earthquake in the United States nor will it be the last. But we did not elect an autocrat; we elected a president. And like others before him, he is going to have to deal with our political process within a divided land. He will encounter resistance and will be forced to negotiate and compromise; the founding fathers deliberately designed it this way. Previous elections considered as great upheavals (e.g., the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and the 1994 shift to a Republican majority in the House of Representatives) did bring about change, but not overly dramatic change. Whatever the campaign rhetoric of the candidates, political reality tends to temper the results.

To those who would canonize the President-elect or any political leader, or who would see him as “God’s choice,” I say, beware. Some people can become inordinately devoted to a candidate, so much so that they seem to believe that he or she can usher in the Kingdom of God! Every leader is flawed, some more deeply than others. Frankly, Donald Trump is a hard man to categorize—politically or otherwise. Mr. Trump’s campaign promises are in accord with the Church’s position on abortion and religious liberty, but he is not with us on other key matters such as euthanasia, immigration, and likely LBGTQ-related issues. I’m sure that we will have to deal with his administration and Congress on an issue-by-issue basis. That a candidate is right on certain important issues does not mean that we should be unquestioning of his views on others. When we grow too devoted to a candidate, reflection often shuts down and we don’t issue the challenges we should. This is true with respect to political parties as well. No party perfectly reflects Catholic teaching; Catholics in both parties have many reasons to challenge their candidates and the parties with which they are affiliated. And yet there is only marginal evidence that such challenges take place. Mr. Trump is not aligned with the Church on some important issues. Even those who support him and are pleased with the outcome of this election should be prepared to issue challenges. I will be publishing an article at the National Catholic Register with more detail in this regard.

To those who would demonize our next president, I admonish that no Christian should succumb to the temptation to use the sort of vitriolic language we saw during the campaign, both from the candidates themselves and their respective supporters. There are legitimate concerns about the character and behavior of the President-elect as well as his stated views and policies, but comparing him to Hitler or using demonic terms to attack the man and/or his family is lamentable. Neither should the language and behavior at some of the anti-Trump rallies over the last few days infect our own speech and conduct. The scriptural stance from St. Paul regarding our leaders is clear: I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all men for kings and all those in authority, so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior (1 Tim 1:1-3). And remember—when St. Paul wrote this, Nero was Caesar! When it comes to Mr. Trump, we ought to skip the invective and start the prayers.

Finally, with all this outward focus on the federal election cycle, it is time to rebalance our priorities. For most Americans, Washington is a world far away. Perhaps now is the time to devote more attention to the things and people closer to home. We ought to tend more the vineyard of our own soul. The problems and sins of the world are not isolated to Washington; they exist in our own souls, too. We should focus more on our families and communities and seek to improve them; Washington should not get all of our attention. Washington is not irrelevant, but neither is it all-important. It is time to find the proper balance.

These are just a few of my thoughts as a pastor. Avoid the extremes and find a via media, a middle way.

17 Replies to “Avoiding Extremes – A Post-Election Reflection”

  1. The election is over. Trump is flawed, but he is not Clinton and for that I thank God. The behavior of Clinton’s supporters, paid and unpaid is reprehensible, but in total keeping with the DFL and Clinton and those who do not follow Christ. Let us pray that without our government actively working to create division and discord, we will move on to become a more united people. May the Lord open the hearts of all of these people who are so far from him and may He have mercy on all of us.

  2. You say he is not “with us” (the Church) on immigration, and yet I fail to see how his policies on immigration are anything more than areas of prudential disagreement with the Church, (as opposed to the USCCB and their involvement in the immigrant-resettlement-industry). Remember, as William Kirkpatrick in his “Crisis” article says, ” The Church has a long history of protecting the West against the incursions of armed jihadists. That experience may yet prove of value in resisting the advance of cultural jihad.”

    That being said, I agree that neither mourning nor rejoicing in this new president is called for. However, we should permit ourselves some joy from the fact that we were diverted from a certain bullet named Hilary. A box of crackers could have defeated someone so deeply mired in evil as Hilary Clinton. That Trump won so narrowly, and that his own serious public sins are not disavowed by him is a matter of great concern and should be the occasion of great vigilance. And we should regret that so many post-abortive women (and men) could not be pried away from Hilary and share in the Year of Mercy, because there was such a disappointing alternative. And because the Church’s bishops failed to speak the truth about the certain evil of one candidate.

    1. So what is your prudential judgment on immigration? Would you think to deport all 11 million? Or Just some? Should just Muslims be refused entry? Or Mexicans too? What common sense reforms would you advocate? The view of the Church is not 100% specific in terms of these issues. SO there are prudential matters, but the overall stance is one of welcome and taking care of immigrants.

      I also hope you would agree that what ever prudential stance you would take should be rooted in the scriptures and the Teaching of the Church. I hope that by “prudential judgment” you do not mean that Catholics can just hold whatever view they want. I have written on this before, about a year ago. See here: A Catholic Reflects on Immigration

      But just a quick sample of the 100 Scriptures on immigration I sample here are a few:

      When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God (Lev 19:33-34).

      You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt (Ex 22:21).

      Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts (Mal 3:5).

      I was a stranger and you welcomed me … (Mat 25:35)

      He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt (Dt 10:18-19).

      Give counsel; grant justice; make your shade like night at the height of noon; shelter the outcasts; do not reveal the fugitive; let the outcasts of Moab sojourn among you; be a shelter to them from the destroyer (Is 16:3)


      Anyway, the hope is that our prudential judgments are rooted in Scripture and Church Teaching (See Catechism at 2241)

      1. My Faith has taught me that Scripture must be understood as Dei Verbum has revealed to us [Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution]. You do not have Scripture without Sacred Tradition and Magisterial Teaching.

        “10. It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.”

        The Catechism says that the more prosperous nations are obliged to the extent they are “able.” Able is a qualifying term.

        2241 The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
        Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

        Open borders seems to be supported by the some very powerful, wealthy, liberals, and progressives. Extremes are usually a really, really bad idea. Metaphysics has a principle: things are received according to the mode of the receiver. Disposition is critical to what a person is able to receive and an immigrants disposition is critical to a prudential judgment in these cases. What is the “disposition” of the person seeking to immigrate? Is it truly “security”? Is it truly for the “means of livelihood”? If there are reasons to believe, or facts to support that a particular immigrant is seeking immigration for jihad, or a free ride we are certainly not “obligated” to fulfill those wicked desires.

        The Catechism goes on to make clear it is the political authorities who are “responsible for” the common good – meaning they’re going to have to answer to God whether they took seriously that responsibility or not. We can listen to the opposing voices on both extremes and offer an opinion but they’re the one’s that have the responsibility – that they ought not abdicate. They would do well to ensure their reason is enlightened by The Faith. My point is that we should be encouraging the political authorities who are responsible for the common good to DO THEIR JOBS COMPETENTLY PROTECTING AMERICANS AND STRIVING FOR THAT COMMON GOOD! Doing the right thing sometimes is unpopular and lonely – those are costs of authentic leadership. Do you care whether your people live —- or die? Authentic leaders should pick up their Cross daily in many and various ways to pay that bill. Political authorities are not going to be able to point towards this, that, or the other person or Prelate and say – it’s his fault! That did not work out so well for Adam blaming Eve. They are supposed to have a “professional competency”. If they don’t have it – they’d best ask God for it and search – it – out. Nemo dot quod non habet – no man gives what he does not have. As part of that professional competency the political authorities should be gathering all the facts then making prudential judgments on the “common good,” for Americans.

        Immigrants have certain clear “obligations,” which go directly to their disposition. They’re obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them. Do they in fact have this disposition? It was said that Tashfeen Malik [terrorist involved in slaying of 14 people in San Bernardino California] wrote social media posts that endorsed jihad and expressed disdain for America though that did not stop her “admission,” into the country legally! How much the more should we concern ourselves with the “disposition” of those lawlessly seeking to come to America? This suggests vetting was lacking or grossly incompetent. Moving towards competence is a good thing – a dim intimation of the Good, True, and Beautiful – convertible terms for God Almighty. All ‘good’ that truly is subsists in Him, Who is the Good – Goodness Infinitely – God.
        The Catechism says that Immigrants are “obliged” to obey it’s laws and assist in carrying civic burdens. Perhaps that should be said again – ‘Immigrants are “obliged” to obey it’s laws.’ God is a God of order – not chaos. God is a God of Law – not lawlessness. There is nothing unjust about having and obeying laws that seek to ensure an orderly immigration that seeks the common good. At a minimum we should make clear from this point forward “illegal” immigration [disobedience to our laws] will not be tolerated – period. That equates to securing our borders. Political authorities should not act like “permissive parents.” There is such a thing as “false compassion,” which Archbishop Fulton Sheen spoke well on. Those who came here illegally AND —-AND then involved themselves in gang activity (MS-13), jihadist propaganda or pursuits short of crimes, or other crimes while here – would most certainly not be allowed to stay. If they have family here then their family would be OFFERRED assistance in going with their loved one so as not to break up their family. We should fix – meaning tear down the old immigration policies if they’re rotten, and start over so that it’s easier for those “properly disposed,” including those fleeing danger, to be welcomed and to become Americans. I believe that “balance” is a very important Catholic principle – and it applies to both how we view Donald Trump as our president and also how we discern who is welcomed into America. Gandalf in Lord of the Rings was right in telling that monster: You shall not pass! I can only imagine Gandalf telling that beast at the bridge; Welcome, come on in, and devour my friends. I think not! You shall not pass! With a willingness to die Gandalf’s response was good, true, and beautiful! It seemed at that moment, that Gandalf loved them to the end. A dim intimation of what our King, Lord, and Savior did for us. Defense of self and others is a “grave,” the Catechism says it is a “grave” duty for those who are responsible for others.

        [In part] 2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others…

        1. Todd, this is really good.
          And Deshawn Washington has a good point about the propagandists in Corporate/State Media. They are the High Priests of the Secular NWO.

      2. Definition of a sojourn is a temporary stay. Definition of invasion is an intrusion or encroachment. Definition of citizen is a person owing loyalty to and entitled by birth or naturalization to the protection of a state or nation. Prudential is to be wise in practical matters, careful for one’s interest. The fundamentals of our constututional government were founded and based on Western Christian values. Sharia law is contrary to the laws of our constitution government. Assimilate is to take in, understand and become similar. When you sojourn legally or illegally into this country and fail to assimilate to our constitutional way of govenernment you are encroaching on the citzens of this country and intruding. That would be the definition of an invasion. Those who fail to protect and uphold the laws and freedoms of this country will have neither. A refugee is one who flees in search of refuge, as from war or political oppression. We learned in the founding of this great nation that you can’t run from political oppression, you defeat it. We have fought for our freedoms and western culture in order to preserve and protect it paying the ultuimate price with the lives of our family citizens. These refugees for the most part are people who want to bring their cultures and their belief systems and settle in this country.That is the definition of jihad because they by the very nature of the mosque are religious zealots. If you can’t believe that then just take a look at what is going on in Europe.

      3. Trump engages in hyperbole to make points. It sounds like you have been reading the “news.” There is no news. Its a propaganda! If you are actually reading the NYT or the WAPO or listening to NPR, you are getting secular religious propaganda.

        Trump understands that we have to secure the border. We have a right to let in people who we want to let in. This is the most generous country on the face of the earth. Open borders are sinful. We have a right to defend ourselves.

        I don’t think you know what is going on in Germany. You wont get it from the NBC. THey are over run. Is it right to let in people at a rate that they cant assimilate? Its as if Paris, Belgium, Nice, San Bernadino, Orlando never happened. How do you think those peoples famillies feel? It costs you NOTHING to say let in everyone. Grow up. There are dozens of terror plots of Somalis being foiled every month. What do you tell their victims?

        It cost you nothing to say “let everyone in”. You will see the next terror attack and say, “its terrible, thats wrong.” And they you are back with your open border magnanimity. No thank you.

        This whole I’m not republican I’m not democrat I’m catholic is such a cop out. Democrats are all pro choice. Catholics are unable to vote for a democrat.

      4. Msgr. Pope,

        I appreciate your views shaped by the Gospel and informing our Catholic world view. Which publications do you read to form your perspective on the world?

        Felix B.

  3. I happen not to agree with Trump’s wall as a solution, nor do I see necessarily see mass deportation as a solution. I am simply saying that immigration is not on the same list as abortion. To imply that it is is to weaken the understanding of abortion as an intrinsic evil.

    Sorry to be so rigid, but some things do need walls around them.

    As far as USSCB goes, they would do a lot better to help men step up to their role as protectors and providers, instead of holding the coat for Big State while he has his way with women, pays them off with welfare, and sticks the stupid little taxpayers with the bill. This support of the family is the solution to poverty and the path to true prosperity, and to the confidence of the people in the Church.

  4. The teaching in the bible about how we treat strangers that come into our lands follows what Christ said: Love your neighbor as yourself.
    This does not mean that a sovereign nation cannot make laws for itself to limit or even stop immigration if it so deems necessary for cultural or self defense interests.
    This coincides with what Trump has said about deporting illegal immigrants that have committed crimes first as well as limiting and aggressively screening people trying to enter our country from lands that we know harbor and protect terrorists.
    To me, this is common sense.
    Most people don’t know this but there was a time during the 1900’s that the USA stopped all legal immigration for the purposes of integrating existing immigrates and allowing time for them to assimilate into our culture.
    Multiculturalism is a poison that will bring down a nation just as effectively as an invading army.

    1. You are spot on about multiculturalism. THe left is a suicide cult. And just because you think abortion is wrong, doens’t mean you are not a multiculturalist

  5. I see little support among Republicans for food assistance, medical care for all, fighting pollution, National Parks and Monuments, and other popular programs. Their popular support will wither if they go too far right.

    1. Securing our border is “too far right?”

      Do we have right to defend ourselves? THis is the suicidal left that would prefer monument and spotted owl protection to human lives. Its the fruits of atheism.

  6. Here is a story from YESTERDAY. 5 miles from my house, Father Pope:

    “On Halloween night, somewhere between 2:15 and 3 a.m., 26-year-old Roberto Carlos Flores Sibrian crashed into a young woman’s car with his SUV on a dark Northern Virginia highway. Rather than call for help, Sibrian proceeded to haul the young woman from her car, drag her into a nearby ditch and rape her for two hours.

    When he was done, Sibrian fled the scene, leaving behind both his shirt and his victim in the ditch. Battered and bruised, the woman was finally able to call for help.”


    THe bishops and you are all telling people what is popular (racism sexism homophobia islamophobia climate nonsense) and the people that this effects are being ignored.

    THATS why Trump is president.

    WHy is every bishop not lambasting excommunicating Biden Pelosi and that Kaine? Because its not popular. Its easier to whine about “undocumented migrants”. (what a abuse of the english language that euphemism is)

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