Editorial: The perspective we need heading into the election

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We have heard from a number of readers in recent weeks after we published four points of view on the election. Some appreciated the effort at charitable dialogue; some did not.

Those who did not appreciate one piece in particular — a column by Sam Rocha that presented a case for Catholics to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden, which ran alongside three other essays, including one by Carson Holloway presenting a case for Catholics to vote for President Donald Trump — mostly managed to keep their tone and language civil. Some did not.

It was a reminder of how high the stakes of this presidential election can feel. Watching the talking heads on TV, or even talking to our neighbors, it would seem that our country is approaching impending doom, regardless of the outcome. The terms “facism” and “socialism” are being tossed about as if they are inevitable next stops on the way to the complete combustion of our democracy within the next four years.

Our country is rife with division and, on any given day, can seem like a powder keg ready to explode. We won’t list the many examples for this; you are all too aware of them. “The threat of political violence after an election has never been higher in modern American history,” said Seth Jones, a former U.S. counterterrorism official, in an interview with Time magazine. It would be naive to think that, come Nov. 4, the challenges of this election cycle, or this political and cultural moment, will vanish. No matter the outcome of the race at the top of the ticket, we must prepare ourselves for stormy waters ahead.

With all that in mind, we are here simply to say: Peace be with you.

It is critical that Catholics cast their ballots with properly formed consciences and a desire to uphold and defend the common good. As Pope St. John Paul II reminded us in Christifideles Laici, we are “never to relinquish [our] participation in ‘public life.'” But how we enter into political dialogue or action also is critical. We are called, as Pope Francis states so eloquently in his recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti, to fraternal love — to treat our brothers and sisters with the dignity that is owed to them as children of the same loving Father.

While we may not have control over the Electoral College, we can make a difference in myriad small ways. As we head to the polls, whether voting early or on Nov. 3, we can offer a smile (even behind our masks) to those in line. We can speak a word of gratitude and kindness to those who have sacrificed time and risked health to volunteer at polling places. In the midst of family political debates — where we know tensions can spring up all too easily — we can insist on calm, civil dialogue. On social media, we can bring perspective and patience to a realm prone to, at best, snarky comments and, at worst, deeply sinful exchanges. We can pray novenas, recite Rosaries, fast or offer other acts of sacrifice and penance to make Christ more present in our nation. In word and in deed, we can obey the command of our Savior as he calmed the churning sea: “Peace. Be still” (Mk 4:39).

This does not mean we should abandon our values. It also doesn’t mean that we cannot actively advocate for our political views. On the contrary, we should make our voices heard, especially concerning the dignity of the human person and the protection of life from conception to natural death. Before, during and after the election, there is much we can do and should do to contribute to political life and uphold the common good.

But as we share the truth, we should do so in charity always. As we seek to persuade, we should do so by honoring the dignity of others. Such a response is nothing less than our responsibility as members of the Body of Christ.

So don’t despair. Don’t lose heart. Don’t let the headlines, the pundits, the tweets and the polls go to your head. Don’t give into frustration, to nasty rhetoric, to anger or violence. Because the truth is that elections come, and elections go. Political leaders come, and political leaders go. Jesus Christ is eternal. May his peace be with you.

Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young

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