By Mary Susann Wake
We are coming up on Holy Week in the Year of Mercy. We are also in the middle of a particularly ugly election, which is, I believe, threatening to derail many of the things that are good in a free and civil society. People on all sides are displaying signs of unease and sometimes a down right feeling of impeding doom. My Facebook newsfeed, which represents people of all political persuasions, is filled with a good deal of angst, my neighbors are filled with angst, the news reports are all filled with angst, and the list could go on. The juxtaposition of Holy Week with this phenomenon has struck me as brilliant and Providential. I see the hand of God reaching out to us in mercy.
I am a Conservative Catholic. I have been a Republican all of my life because the Republican Party, for all of its faults, has been the best political vehicle for the building of a civic order that best protects the sacred value of human life from conception to natural death, the protection of marriage between one man and one woman as an institution which is a fundamental building block of society, and the protection of private property, especially small businesses, as the best means for allowing people to secure a livelihood and have a place to live in dignity.
Of course, the Republican Party isn’t perfect. We are all sinners. We are all affected by pride, greed, and desire for power. Politicians are perhaps more tempted than the rest of us. But I only say “perhaps” because I perceive in the pro-Trump movement a quest for power by people who feel disenfranchised. I understand that feeling. I have been feeling for a long time unease that my political party doesn’t reflect my core values well enough. I don’t like political shenanigans. If you had told me a few years ago there was going to be a revolution in the Republican Party, I would have thought I would be on the side of the revolutionaries. But now that we are here, I find myself revolting against the revolution for many reasons that I hope to address at a later date.
Right now I want to focus on my own sins and my own need and expectation for God’s grace and mercy. I now see that much of my animosity towards the Republican Party springs from my own failures. Specifically, it springs from the fact that I don’t have the virtue of prudence—that hinge of all virtues that helps us to act with right moral judgment in particular circumstances. I desire it, I can explain it, I recognize its necessity, but I don’t have it. I have wrapped my talents in cheesecloth and buried them under a pile of farm chores, drowned them in milk and vegetables. I have avoided errors in speaking by not speaking, instead of making the effort to speak in all truth and charity. This is not right judgment.
Because I lack the virtue of prudence, I most likely fail to see the value of the virtue when others display it. Instead of recognizing when political leaders are making difficult prudential judgments, I accuse them of caving. Instead of recognizing the possibility that they made the decision that was in fact better for the common good than the one I would have made, I think they are just plain bad politicians. Maybe the politicians need to change, but I certainly do. Just because someone else chose to act and made a mistake in their acting does not mean that they are worse then me who failed to act. God had been giving me the grace to see this even prior to my sudden political reawakening.
So when I woke up, just before Holy Week in this Year Mercy, to the political disorder that is wrecking the Republican Party, in the midst of the gloominess that pervaded my soul I also saw that I was just where I should be: standing at the foot of the Cross in need of God’s mercy. May I humbly suggest that all of us, no matter what our political persuasion, do an examination of conscience about how we act or don’t act in regards to the good of the public order and bring our sins to be washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb? We are all sinners. Your sins are likely different from mine. If we all make this examination of conscience with a will to change ourselves, then we can set about reforming the political order and expect good results. If we don’t do it, if we spend all of our time looking at the faults of the other side, be they Democrat or Republican, pro-Trump or anti-Trump, no matter who wins elections we are all going to loose a truly free and civil society, and we will deserve what we get.
“Wash, make yourselves clean, take your wrong-doing out of my sight. Cease to do evil. Learn to do good, search for justice, helped the oppressed, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, let us talk this over, says the Lord; though your sins by like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Is. 1:16-18).