Demanding more of our politicians and parties
March 6, 2020
Last month Dr. Charles Camosy, associate professor of theology at Fordham University, wrote an opinion piece in the New York Post. According to his biography, Camosy specializes in Catholic social teaching at Fordham and tries to apply a truly Catholic world view to his politics.
In his article, he announced that he was resigning from Democrats for Life. The reason? It’s not as though Camosy was unaware that the Democratic Party’s platform has been “about as extreme as it could possibly get,” he explained. The platform insists that abortion should be legal at any point during pregnancy – even right before birth – and that it should be funded by taxpayer dollars, a position which only 13% of the American public supports.
No, the last straw for Camosy was former Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s response to the head of Democrats for Life Kristen Day. During an Iowa town hall meeting, she asked if the candidate would be willing to reach out to “21 million” pro-life Democrats by softening the party’s position. He refused.
After this answer, and other similarly disappointing exchanges with party leadership, Camosy wrote about his resignation saying, “The party gave me no choice.”
The same day the good professor’s op ed appeared, Feb. 6, Arthur C. Brooks was the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Brooks is the former head of the American Enterprise Institute (a conservative think tank), a Harvard University professor and a devout Catholic. He was asked to speak at the breakfast because of his recent book “Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from Our Culture of Contempt.”
In it he attempts to meld social science about forgiveness with the teaching of Jesus and other religions and philosophies. He notes that the anger that Americans feel toward one another these days resembles the anger between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Both sides, he observes, consistently presume the worst motives of the other, making reconciliation impossible. So we need to love our enemies.
After Brooks finished his remarks, President Trump, who had been acquitted by the Senate of high crimes and misdemeanors the day before, came to the podium and proceeded to ignore everything Brooks had just said. Rather than love or forgiveness, the president attacked his political enemies, some of whom were sitting just a few feet from him, accusing them of duplicity and hiding behind their religion. He did exactly what Brooks said we shouldn’t do. Which is perhaps why at the end of his remarks he did ask for forgiveness saying, “I’m sorry, I apologize. I’m trying to learn …. It’s not easy, folks. I’m doing my best.”
These two incidents on the same day reminded me of what I’ve said before about placing our hope in princes, or parties, and about how we as Catholics should approach questions around politics. As things stand now, we will not find a major political party that fully reflects our beliefs and values as Catholics. However, we still have an obligation to participate. So what to do?
I’m not condemning anyone who wants to work within the current party system. But may I suggest that we Catholics be more intentional about demanding better from them? It seems as though the scourge of low expectations has lasted far too long when it comes to our parties and candidates. Can’t we, indeed, shouldn’t we demand more from them?
In the meantime, let us pray with Dr. Camosy and Dr. Brooks for greater Christian values in our public square, values that reflect a truly Catholic charity for our neighbor.
Deacon Omar Gutiérrez is director of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith in the Archdiocese of Omaha. Contact him at email@example.com.