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“Jesus Christ is the fixed point for the Catholic.” That was the final answer of a post-election discussion at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, that addressed several hard political questions..
How can Christians affect politics in a divided country in the midst of a disputed election? Is the faith forgotten? Is the Church a spent force? Will the world forever slip away into further chaos and confusion?
Fielding these questions were Christianity and Politics author Chad C. Pecknold, a theologian at Catholic University of America, and Get Out Now author Mary Rice Hasson, the Kate O’Beirne Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. The Nov. 5. event was a preview of the spring Symposium for the New Evangelization.
The March 19-20, 2021, symposium is designed to help Catholic leaders and Benedictine students transform culture in America. The theme for the conference this year is “Destroyer of the gods: Catholic culture vs. the Idols of Secularism.”
Does the 2020 election show that the devotees of lesser gods overpowering the Church in our time?
Hasson and Pecknold said the Church is alive and well, and shaping the public conversation to this day. Catholics’ job is the same as it has always been: to tap in to the one power that can transform the culture — God made man in Jesus Christ.
Hasson began the evening by laying out her program for what she called the “Three Es” that make up a lay person’s duty in Christifideles Laici, St. John Paul II’s 1988 post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the vocation and mission of the laity.
Those three Es, she said, are Educate, Evangelize and Everyone. Study the truths of the faith that most impact contemporary issues, introduce people to Jesus Christ, and consider this your duty no matter who you are.
Hasson has been called on by the Holy See to address the U.N. the Status of Women for three years and is a Consultant to the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.
She described a dire situation in the world today in which one third of young people consider themselves to have no faith, and there is widespread acceptance of the “Decent Man Myth,” which tells us that “being nice” is more important than doing what is truly good.
Pecknold spoke next. He is frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. He has appeared as an invited guest on radio and television shows from NPR’s “All Things Considered” to EWTN News Nightly.
He explained the history of the Catholic vote. “If you talk to your grandparents or great-grandparents about their politics they will almost always be Democrats,” he said. “Catholics understood that their force was a force of unity. They helped shape the New Deal coalition, basically on the views of Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo’s document on the rights of the worker against the abuse of capital.”
Pecknold said that this old alignment started to crumble when John F. Kennedy and Mario Cuomo promised to keep their religion private, and continues with Biden calling his faith a “comfort” instead of an organizing principle.
Today, Catholics are slowly realigning, he said, becoming more likely to vote Republican and to see its moral vision as more in line with Church teachings.
The discussion that followed addressed many issues:
The final question was posed by a Benedictine College student who asked what young people should do to have a positive impact on the culture.
“Go to Mass,” was Pecknold’s surprising answer. “It’s only at the sacrament of the altar that you have a real fixed reference for reality. In the flux of everything that is changing around you, the fixed point is Jesus Christ.”
Hasson agreed. “I would add adoration,” she said. “We are a faith of presence, the real presence. It matters to be in the presence of the Lord. Be in his presence. Let him do the work. Let him change you.”