In his second inaugural speech, in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln delivered a message of compassion, hope and fortitude to a nation consumed by the Civil War. “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations” (www.ourdocuments.gov).
President Lincoln’s eloquent words apply in many ways to our situation today, in the aftermath of a presidential election that divided us as a nation but also as families, relatives and friends. Archbishop José Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, shared equally eloquent words in a post-election statement calling us to unity, dialogue and prayer.
“Now is the time for our leaders to come together in a spirit of national unity and commit themselves to dialogue and compromise for the common good,” the archbishop of Los Angeles said in his statement issued Nov. 7. “As Catholics and Americans, our priorities and mission are clear. We are here to follow Jesus Christ, to bear witness to His love in our lives, and to build His Kingdom on earth. I believe that at this moment in American history, Catholics have a special duty to be peacemakers, to promote fraternity and mutual trust, and to pray for a renewed spirit of true patriotism in our country.”
Notice that the hard work ahead is our responsibility as U.S. citizens in collaboration with legislative leaders elected to local, state and federal offices. Archbishop Gomez calls us to “conduct ourselves as people of virtue and self-discipline” and to treat one another with charity and civility “even as we might disagree deeply in our debates on matters of law and public policy.”
Archbishop Gomez invoked the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patroness of the U.S. We need her help “to work together to fulfill the beautiful vision of America’s missionaries and founders — one nation under God, where the sanctity of every human life is defended and freedom of conscience and religion are guaranteed.”
Two weeks before Election Day, letter writer Wally Beck urged Catholic Messenger readers to study the platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties, the USCCB’s Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, and the Iowa Catholic Conference’s (ICC) legislative principles. Beck noted there are no perfect candidates and no perfect platforms, a statement that would likely generate agreement.
Election Day has ended, but our discernment of the things that divide us cannot end. Read both parties’ platforms (Republican, https://tinyurl.com/je9d2ga) (Democratic, https://tinyurl.com/shr2rhw). Compare and contrast the principles in each platform with Faithful Citizenship (https://tinyurl.com/y2j2ytfk) and the ICC’s legislative principles (https://tinyurl.com/yydxq9of). Then, prepare to follow up with elected leaders at the local, state and federal level, now and in the coming year and beyond. Our advocacy, conducted in a thoughtful, respectful manner, can change hearts and affect legislation. It requires patience and diligence.
“I am of the belief that while voting is important, we have a lot of work to do in the political process that is equally as important,” says Tom Chapman, the ICC’s executive director. Visit the ICC website (www.iowacatholicconference.org) for legislative updates and other resources in preparation for a new session of the Iowa General Assembly in January.
President Lincoln advised the U.S. citizens of his day “to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” We do so by responding to the call of Archbishop Gomez “to be peacemakers, to promote fraternity and mutual trust, and to pray for a renewed spirit of true patriotism in our country.”
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor