As 2016 comes to a close, what are we to think?

“… An ethic that is not just selectively prolife has to address the full array of life issues, especially those that threaten the most vulnerable people in our society and elsewhere.”

As Christmas approaches and 2016 comes to a close, what are we to think?

It was certainly a year of many surprises. A year when the established order of Western Europe and the United States was blindsided and derailed by a juggernaut whose power and reach it had failed to appreciate, especially in a ‘post-truth’ era, fueled by social media.

Confounding the pundits, Britain backed Brexit and the USA turned Trump.

Underpinning both movements was the rhetoric of intolerance for the stranger and a willingness to point the finger at new immigrants and refugees as a threat to an already insecure future.

It was a time when there needed to be a strong moral compass, articulating, from a Catholic and Christian perspective, the promises offered in Mary’s Magnificat, especially as we approached the end of the Holy Father’s ‘Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy’:

“God’s Mercy is from age to age…

He casts the mighty from their thrones

and raises the lowly.

He fills the starving with good things,

sends the rich away empty…”

The juggernaut may be on its way to France, Germany and the Netherlands where elections are due in 2017.

So, what lessons, if any, might we learn, from this apparent lurch to the right? How do we respond to a neo-nationalism that runs contrary to the universal values of loving ones neighbour, irrespective of race, nationality, gender or religion? How do we counter a growing anti-immigrant movement because our Christian faith asks that we recognize the face of God in all?

On 21 November 2016, Commonweal magazine, published a thought-provoking reflection by Stephen J. Pope, a professor of theological ethics at Boston College, author of ‘A Step Along the Way: Models of Christian Service’ (Orbis, 2015).

Many of the issues he raised in relations to the US election, vis-à-vis the need for robust and unequivocal Catholic leadership, are relevant to Europe and are certainly worth our consideration.

Pope is critical of single-issue Catholics who voted for Trump on the basis of his dubious stand on abortion. He also analyses the role the Catholic vote in the USA contributed to the election of the 45th President of the United States. His incisive analysis and critique is both fascinating, uncomfortable and challenging:

“Some Catholics supported Trump in the hope that he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would eventually overturn Roe v. Wade. Many critics doubt the sincerity of Trump’s prolife commitment because for most of his life he advanced a pro-choice agenda. In any case, Catholic moral tradition gives primacy to the right to life, but it does not hold that ending legalized abortion outweighs all other goods at stake in an election taken together. An ethic that is not just selectively prolife has to address the full array of life issues, especially those that threaten the most vulnerable people in our society and elsewhere. Laudato si’ acknowledges anthropogenic climate change as a massive threat to the right to life, not a hoax. Reducing the right-to-life to one issue, then, and voting for a reprehensible candidate on the basis of that issue alone, is profoundly un-Catholic.”

Stephen J. Pope’s full article may be accessed here:

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