A Catholic President?
It forms the core of my identity.
During a talk to a political science at Greensboro College in North Carolina, I said that I, indeed, believed in “separation of church and state” – but in the way that it was originally intended.
That is, the settlers originally coming to America had been part of a system where the King of England had coopted the Church of England in, well, an unholy alliance. And things got tremendously skewed.
So when the colonists broke away from England and formed the U.S., they didn’t want any formal church running the country. Thus, the concept of: “separation of church and state” was enacted.
The U.S. became, instead, a Republic. And a republic is a form of government where power resides in the people who then elect politicians to represent them.
Now these politicians can be, say, people of faith who let their sense of spirituality drive their decisions. Or not.
I’m the former.
During a talk to a theology class at St. Meinrad’s Seminary in Indiana, I said my faith is the most important thing to me. And my decisions flow out of that. Whether that’s how I act as a husband or father, how I act in my community at large, how I act as a politician.
You can’t separate that.
Or at least I can’t.
So what does that look like for me?
The Catholic Church teaches we are to have a personal relationship with Jesus – and we are to follow what He taught.
One of the main things he taught is something the Catholic Church refers to is a: Consistent Life Ethic. That is, one is to have deep respect for life from the “womb to the tomb,” as they say. This means Catholics should stand against anything that would, say, end life prematurely, whether abortion, euthanasia, pollution, unjust war, poverty…
Jesus taught, for instance, that we are to help the poor. The Catholic Church has coined the phrase “Preferential Option for the Poor.” That is, we are to treat the poor as a top priority.
So on a personal level, as one example, our family, for a time, moved from the rural, and largely peaceful, small town of Bluffton, Ohio, to a dangerous, hardscrabble area of Cleveland. (At the time, Cleveland was the poorest metropolitan area in the country.)
We joined with a group of what are called Catholic Workers to help house the homeless, to feed and clothe the poor, to coach Rec. Center sports teams for kids often in desperate straits down there…
Extrapolating all this out, as president I’d back all sorts of creative, and comprehensive, programs to shift the decaying inner cores of our cities in dramatic ways. So not only would the poor get way more help, but it would also pay tremendous spiritual dividends (the way my faith sees it) for all those who help shift this around.
It’s a spiritual no brainer.
And here’s another…
The Catholic Church unequivocally teaches that all abortion is wrong. Period. The church also considers this to be “murder,” and it is considered a “mortal sin.”
As a Catholic, I’m called not only to believe that – I’m called to try to stop abortion. And I, and my family, have proactively tried to do that in as many ways as possible.
It is my belief, for instance, that abortion in America won’t end until a grassroots dynamic and sustained climate of protest is created, like what happened in the South to end Segregation.
To that end, our family has protested abortion on street corners, in neighborhoods, and in front of abortion clinics. In fact as we’ve traveled, we’ve stood in solidarity with people protesting in front of abortion clinics in Bakersfield, California; Ocala, Florida; Fargo, North Dakota; Marquette, Michigan; Billings, Montana… to name a few.
And as president, I told the Lewiston Argus newspaper, also in Montana, that I would be doing the same – with the hopes of ramping up this protest climate exponentially.
And for those current so-called “Catholic politicians” who say they don’t personally believe in abortion, but they defend others “right to choose,” well, an analogy.
This would be akin to someone in Nazi Germany saying: “Well, I don’t personally believe in killing Jewish people, but I defend the rights of others – including Hitler -- to kill Jewish people.”
And speaking of the Holocaust…
Some six million Jewish people, and others, were killed in Germany. In America, we have now killed 55 million babies in their mothers’ wombs.
And how do they die? A New York medical student who was once pro-choice, before seeing his first abortion, explains for the website LIFESITE:
The cervix was held open with a crude metal instrument and a large transparent plastic tube was stuck inside the woman. Within a matter of seconds, the machine’s motor was engaged and blood, tissue and tiny organs were pulled out of their environment and into a filter. A minute later, the vacuum choked to a halt. The tube was removed, and stuck to the end was a small body and a head attached haphazardly to it – what was formed of the neck was snapped. The ribs had formed with a thin skin covering them, the eyes had formed, and the inner organs had begun to function. The tiny heart of the fetus, obviously a little boy, had stopped – forever. The vacuum filter was opened, and the tiny arms and legs that had been torn off of the fetus were accounted for. The fingers and toes had the beginnings of their nails on them. The doctors, proud of their work, reassembled the body to show me. Tears welled up in my eyes…
We are a society gone absolutely mad.
A fact not lost on a Catholic farmer in northwest Ohio, who had recently put up a number of huge granite stones on his property near a rather well trafficked rural route. In order, the stones read: Rwandan Genocide: One Million People; Sudan Genocide: Two Million People; Nazi Holocaust: Six Million People; American Holocaust (Abortion): 55 Million People.
I asked him why he’d gone to so much trouble with such a time consuming and graphic display.
He said it was simple. He didn’t want to be standing at judgement at the end of his life, with God saying to him: “You know, you we’re kind of lukewarm.”
I had told a reporter in Wisconsin that I didn’t want to be lukewarm either, or for that matter lying on my death bed looking up at my kids one day and saying: “You know, I knew all this stuff was going wrong. But I was too busy making money.”
Another thing that’s been going awfully wrong of late, and something my faith calls me to proactively deal with as well, is: global warming. It’s actually becoming a pro-life issue. No world. No life.
As Catholics, we’re called to be good environmental stewards of God’s creation.
Pope John Paul II appeared before the United Nations urging much better, and unified, environmental conservation standards to curb greenhouse gasses. Pope Benedict wrote a book explaining why it is our duty to protect all aspects of God’s environment.
And then there’s St. Francis, who would have been, I’m sure, nuts about global warming and the gluttonous First World lifestyles that have led to it.
In fact of late, the Vatican has defined a new set of sins for the age of globalization because of their collective “social resonance.” And one of these new sins is: “Damage to the Environment.”
So if global warming is real, and people are, say, already dying of drought and famine from global warming in more arid countries, then my lifestyle can well be considered a moral issue. Sometimes a grave moral issue.
While sitting in on a graduate class at the University of Notre Dame where these issues were being debated, I said if people are dying of global warming in those arid countries now, metaphorically it’s like us in the First World, with our exorbitant energy use, turning and firing slow motion bullets at these people. And in a very real sense, as Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds, aren’t we ‘gassing’ the planet?
It got awkwardly quiet in the class.
Anyway, as a practicing Catholic, I’m called not only to live a moderate life when it comes to energy use, I’m also called, like with abortion, to proactively curb it on as many fronts as possible.
To that end, our family created a Kyoto Protocol Home Zone. Where we bicycle places locally a majority of time, cut back the heat in the winter, don’t use hardly any air conditioning, recycle practically everything…
In our campaign, we did an End Global Warming Bicycle Tour. And as president, I would push for a tremendous shift to green energy now and to make up any energy shortfall, we’d ask the American public to sacrifice – like people sacrificed for the war effort during World War II. And when you think about it, it this is a war. A “War on the Environment.”
And speaking of war…
The Catholic Bishops in America have said the U.S. amassment of large stockpiles of nuclear weapons, in the face of so much worldwide poverty, is an absolute: social justice travesty.
I’m on the same page with the Bishops.
It currently costs $50 billion a year just to maintain our nuclear arsenal. An arsenal that could blow the world up hundreds of times over. Meanwhile, more than one billion people live in deplorable slum conditions worldwide, 24,000 people starve to death every day according to the UN, and more than one billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water.
Besides the bishops, as president, I would also look to my daughter Sarah for consultation on this issue. When she was around 10-years-old, or so, she asked me why America didn’t have just enough nuclear weapons to blow the world up once – and take the rest of the savings to help all these people who needed help around the world?
The Catholic Bishops, incidentally, have also come out with a statement about immigration. They have said in the face of so much poverty, violence and political oppression… in a number of countries south of our border, sound spirituality would call us to reform the U.S. Immigration System in such a way that it was as quick, and user friendly as possible.
Jesus calls us to “welcome strangers” and gave us the Good Samaritan story, which is often cited in Catholic literature in regard to the immigration issue. That is, the guy who finally helps the guy lying in the road – is actually from another country.
On a campaign border tour of the slums of Juarez, Mexico (at the time, the most dangerous place in the world to live), we spent time with a Catholic priest who had moved to Juarez from a small town in Illinois. (He would go into the back alleys of Juarez at night to rescue kids.)
He said his faith had called him to the streets there. And he said U.S. policy that closes off the border to people in such dire need is nothing short of a tremendous spiritual mistake.
And these days, in America, we are making a lot of tremendous spiritual mistakes.
We are dismembering millions of babies in their mothers’ wombs. We are allowing virtual war zones to develop around our kids in our inner cities – and now also in our schools in general. We are majorly contributing to gassing the planet, accounting for untold, and mounting, tragedy worldwide. We are closing the border to frantic moms, dads and little kids trying desperately to escape violence and political oppression… We are spending billions on nuclear weapons to protect ourselves, while yet another little starving child in Uganda looks up frantically at her mom for food that’s not going to come.
And politicians have the nerve, actually we all have the nerve, to intone: “And God Bless the United States of America.”
Given all this, wouldn’t it be time for, oh I don’t know, maybe a Catholic president with a Consistent Life Ethic, who was living his faith in such a way that it would transpose into a set of policies to dramatically change all this, quick.
I think so.
Oh, and I’m Joe Schriner, and not only do I approve of this message, I’m off to Mass – on my bicycle. And may God fix me and you. And may God fix the United States of America. Quick. (Have I mentioned that quick part before?)