Tuesday, September 1, 2020

When Catholics Disagree on Politics: A Reflection on the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wally and I don't always see eye-to-eye on politics. Thankfully, that's not a prerequisite for good, Catholic marriage! 

Despite disagreements on policies, programs, or candidates, we still find common ground in our faith. We're both discouraged by political polarization within the Catholic Church. We're both frustrated when political parties claim sole representation of our religion. We're both disheartened when Catholic leaders in formal relationships with the Churchour bishops, priests, nuns, sisters, and brotherspledge allegiance to secular American politicians (across the political spectrum). 

As we talked through this Sunday's readings, our conversation kept returning to religion, politics, and the temptation to cloister away from people who disagree with us. 

The Old Testament reading warns us to "dissuade the wicked from his way." (Ezekiel 33:7-9)

How many times do we justify political condemnation of "the other side" as concern for another's soul [when, let's be honest, we just want to win an argument on social media]?

Then the Psalmist admonishes, "Harden not your hearts." (Psalm 95)

How often do we assume "the other side" has hardened hearts — but surely not ourselves? 

In the New Testament reading, St. Paul teaches, "Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:8-10)

How tempting is it to claim the higher ground of love and assume any other viewpoint is motivated by vice? 

And then, in the Gospel, Jesus addresses how to correct someone we believe to be in error: "...take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church…" (Matthew 18:15-20)

How simple is it to find two or three Catholic friends who agree with us and are ready to condemn anyone who doesn't? How quickly can we flip through our Bibles, Catechisms, encyclicals in attempts to prove another Catholic wrong in politics? 

I know I'm guilty of all of these thoughts and actions. A helpful antidote is loving, praying and living with a Catholic who sees the world differently. We don't have to agree about everything for our prayer, as Catholics, to be effective. Jesus doesn't offer us political or secular power in exchange for our prayers anyway. He offers us something far greater:

"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:15-20)

When we gather together in prayer, even with all our differences, Jesus offers us himself.

And isn't that why we're Catholic in the first place?


  1. I'm surprised to see no reference to Church teaching on the subject matter. The united States Conference of Catholic Bishops give us a very clear guide, based on the Social doctrine of the Church A must read for all Catholics
    https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/all-catholics An excellent source to share with friends of all faiths. Clear teaching based on the dignity of the human Person.

    1. Thank you very much! Yes, the link you shared is a great non-partisan, truly Catholic resource for conscientious voters. Here's a PDF of "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," the document cited in your link: https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/upload/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship.pdf