“A people who will not be ruled by God are destined to be ruled by tyrants.”
Even though Penn was a Quaker who was harshly critical of other faiths, in particular those that profess a belief in the Blessed Trinity, a great many Americans from all manner of religious confessions – Catholics included – readily accept the underlying truth of this statement.
In 1998, Pope John Paul II sounded a related warning in his Encyclical Letter, Fides et Ratio, and it too enjoys a great deal of cross-denominational appeal:
“Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery.”
While Americans from all walks of life find it easy to embrace statements such as these, coming to agreement as to how best to apply the ideals of truth, freedom and the Sovereignty of God in our governance has proven far more difficult.
For faithful Catholics who are willing to follow the guiding hand of Holy Mother Church, however, the challenge is considerably less daunting.
In 2002, for example, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger issued what is called a “Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life.”
“Democracy must be based on the true and solid foundation of non-negotiable ethical principles, which are the underpinning of life in society” (Doctrinal Note – 3).
In other words, the freedom that is enjoyed by those who govern, and are governed, in a representative democracy such as our own is not absolute; rather, it must be exercised — whether in public office or in the voting booth — in a way that conforms to the objective moral order which comes to us from God.
Even so, opinions can and do at times vary as to how best accomplish this goal, and so a process of discernment is always necessary in weighing our political choices.
“The legitimate plurality of temporal options is at the origin of the commitment of Catholics to politics and relates directly to Christian moral and social teaching. It is in the light of this teaching that lay Catholics must assess their participation in political life so as to be sure that it is marked by a coherent responsibility for temporal reality,” the Note continues (ibid).
Even though we are presented, both as voters and as candidates, with a variety of political options as it relates to the challenges we face as a nation, the constant beacon which must guide each and every one of us is the light of truth that comes to us from Christ through His Church.
Straightforward? Absolutely. Piece of cake? Not so much.
It takes true humility, the assistance of God’s grace and an act of the will to conform ones political choices to the mind of the Church, but make no mistake about it — that’s exactly what faithful Catholics are called to do.
Complicating matters further, however, is the fact that the cast of characters on any given ballot — their positions having been measured against the teachings of the Church — can sometimes look a whole lot more like a lineup of scoundrels than a menu of upstanding citizens!
With this in mind, faithful Catholics recognize the need to pray the Lord of the harvest to raise up candidates that not only have the background and experience necessary to lead, but also a sincere desire to apply the ideals of truth, freedom and Divine Sovereignty as the Church understands them in the way they propose to govern.
Kind of like imagining all of the great things we might do if we hit the lottery, improbable as that might be, let’s indulge ourselves for just a moment to consider what that “ideal candidate” might look like.
I would suggest that he or she would first and foremost be an unashamed, fully committed and visible member of the Catholic Church. A humble person whose worldview is informed by faith and by Holy Mother Church and Her teachings; a person who draws strength from Holy Mass and the Sacraments that Christ gave us. This individual would not only talk the talk in public, but walk the walk in private; and the life that he or she lives would provide an example that is worthy of emulation and one of which all Americans can be proud. This person would necessarily have the heart of a servant, and the candidacy itself would be an answer to a call; marked not by ambition, but by a willingness to sacrifice.
In sum, this “ideal candidate” would be an individual who is governed in life, and who would govern in office, in full recognition that all authority comes from God and that Christ Himself is King!
Now, just to be clear, we certainly don’t want to belittle candidates of other confessions, but neither should we be timid about our desire for a leader who, like us, recognizes that Christ has chosen to remain uniquely present to His people through the sacred liturgy, the Sacraments and the doctrines of the Catholic Church, and who is gratefully and willingly nurtured by the same.
Can you even imagine what an incredible blessing it could be if the candidate just described actually existed and ran for President of the United States? Then, it would seem, the Catholics of this great nation would at long last have an opportunity to become the electoral force-to-be-reckoned-with that we really ought to be!
Now, I’m not talking about those “Catholic-in-name-only” types who paved Barack Obama’s road to the Oval Office where he incessantly wages an unholy war against Christ and His Church; neither am I thinking of just raw numbers. No, ours is a spiritual battle, first and foremost.
Imagine the impact it could have if even a modest army of faithful Catholics were storming Heaven daily with prayers of intercession, offering Mass intentions and Holy Communion while invoking the Blessed Virgin Mary’s help on behalf of another faithful Catholic who has answered the call to lead our nation back from the brink of godlessness and all of the turmoil that naturally comes with it.
What a blessed and historic moment it would be!
Well, my friends, that time is right now, and the candidate we’ve been praying the Lord to call into service at this critical juncture in our nation’s history is already here; his name is Rick Santorum – a man whose track record as a leader and a legislator speaks for itself much more eloquently than I can.
I’m much more interested, in any event, in the substance of the man — the husband, the father and the son behind his vision for America’s future, and I’m inspired to help him bring that vision to fruition.
I’ll be very candid with you — before prayerful reflection altered my outlook, I was initially somewhat ambivalent about Rick Santorum’s candidacy. My thoughts were not entirely unlike those of a devout Catholic friend who shared the following in an email:
“I have mixed emotions. Rick Santorum is one of the smartest, most qualified candidates in the race. His policy ideas reflect a genuine faith, but I’m not sure he has the charisma, you know, the ‘it factor’ candidates seem to need nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great choice from a Catholic perspective, but I worry that he may not have enough ‘mainstream’ appeal.”
Thankfully, my friend is also humble enough to consider other points of view, and I’d like to share part of my response:
There isn’t a faithful Catholic among us who would ever say that an outpouring of prayer and sacrifice joined to the Most Holy Eucharist and offered on behalf of another faithful Catholic can’t overcome the kinds of challenges Rick Santorum’s candidacy faces.
Well, it’s one thing for us to say we believe in the Lord’s power, it’s another to demonstrate it, and that’s exactly what we’re being challenged to do.
If you recognize the truth Rick Santorum has been given but you believe he needs help in delivering the message, I agree. So did every single prophet the Lord ever asked to speak in His name, and guess what — He never failed to come to their aid through an outpouring of grace, and our prayers can help facilitate it in this case as well.
That, however, is only part of the equation — the hearts and minds of the people to whom the messenger is speaking is the other. There are many sincere, God-seeking people in the “mainstream” who have a real hunger for the truth, even among those who don’t profess Christ. They too will benefit from our collective prayers for the grace that is necessary to receive the truth when it is presented and to act on it, even when the messenger seems less than titillating by worldly standards.
Barack Obama has shown us exactly what we can expect from a “charismatic” campaigner who denies the Kingship of Christ. We asked the Lord to call forth a faithful candidate, we didn’t ask for a showman, and God delivered. The Lord knows precisely what is needed from here, and that in my estimation is for the people of this country to place their trust in Him.
Think about this; if God had raised up a candidate who is “ready for primetime TV” as ordinary men so conceive of such things, we might just fall into the trap of trusting the person more than the Lord, and isn’t that the bottom line cause of every single problem we have ever had in this world?
My friends, believers and followers of Christ both Catholic and otherwise, as well as God fearing people of goodwill from various other faith traditions, are painfully aware that we are standing at a crossroads in America. If something doesn’t drastically change, our children’s future promises to be rife with problems that are even graver than our own.
It’s the economy, stupid!
Sure, the “laws of economics” are important, but bumper sticker slogans don’t even come close to telling the real story. As Pope Leo XIII warned the world over 100 years ago, it’s really about God’s law!
Christian morality, when adequately and completely practiced, leads of itself to temporal prosperity, for it merits the blessing of that God who is the source of all blessings; it powerfully restrains the greed of possession and the thirst for pleasure — twin plagues, which too often make a man who is void of self-restraint miserable in the midst of abundance; it makes men supply for the lack of means through economy, teaching them to be content with frugal living, and further, keeping them out of the reach of those vices which devour not small incomes merely, but large fortunes, and dissipate many a goodly inheritance (Rerum Novarum – 28).
Rick Santorum gets it. He understands that when we strengthen our moral fiber and strengthen our families, we strengthen our economy and we strengthen our country — not on the surface, but from the backbone out.
He’s the only candidate in the race who consistently and without trepidation addresses the great moral issues we are facing and their relationship with everything else that threatens our way of life – be it abortion or marriage, healthcare or jobs, national security or energy.
Rick Santorum understands that our freedom doesn’t come from the government; it comes from God and is the inalienable right of every single human being, created in His image and likeness, from conception to natural death.
He’s the one candidate in the race that isn’t shrinking from the fact the greatest enemy we face is a spiritual one; ours isn’t a battle of Left versus Right, it’s a matter of Good versus Evil and our trust is in the Lord.
In the weeks to come, I’m going to invite you to get to know Rick Santorum better and to join me in an initiative that will allow us to demonstrate our own trust in the Lord’s saving power by supporting his candidacy for President, so that together we might pass along to our progeny a United States of America that once again resembles “One Nation under God.”