A time for choosing in politics

In his homily during the “Extraordinary Moment of Prayer” March 27, Pope Francis addressed the Lord Jesus this way: “You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.”

In that moving homily, Pope Francis invited us during this long Lent to convert and hope in the Lord. In doing so, we turn away from sin and live in solidarity with others.

Already, we see in this coronavirus crisis creative models of hope and solidarity, even in the political realm. Here in Minnesota, state legislators have worked collaboratively to put aside differences and pass legislation to help those who are working on the front lines to address coronavirus and those most vulnerable to its effects: health care workers, the unemployed, the disabled, the elderly and the homeless.

God willing, we will be able to contain this virus and rebuild together. But we must take this opportunity to continue to build on a foundation of solidarity and human dignity. Much, including our politics, cannot go back to the way it was before. It is, as Pope Francis says, a time for choosing.

True and false choice

The slogan “my body, my choice” is dead. Coronavirus killed it. This pandemic has made clear that, like with all our choices, what we do with our bodies and the spaces we occupy with them have an impact on others. And in a global village, we are all connected.

So much of modern life is driven by an ethic of consumption, in which we demand a plethora of choices to satisfy needs, both real and perceived, and expect instant gratification. Yet we cannot structure a healthy society around the maximization of consumer choice and the ongoing liberation of the willing self.

In fact, our political culture is so bereft of a sense of solidarity and the common good that decades of financial deregulation, the re-working of other regulatory structures to favor big business and political insiders, and the disintegration of civil society and traditional social norms have led us to a place where the solution to a major crisis is the erection of a police state and the printing of fiat money.

We have ourselves to blame for bringing the consumer culture to politics. Increasingly, citizens view legislators as consumer-satisfaction agents, who are responsible for giving them what they want, regardless of its effect on others or the harm it may do to themselves — more legal forms of gambling, recreational marijuana, even assisted suicide. The mere fact that someone wants a certain type of legislation allegedly gives it legitimacy.

This “get mine” ethos of our political life is the enemy of solidarity. It sees the good as essentially private, locating it in one’s own satisfaction. It fails to see us living within a fabric of relationships, where we find both our happiness and our well-being.

Coronavirus could help us recalibrate and re-evaluate our relationships — familial, social, ecclesial and economic. We thought we were independent so long as the global supply chain worked. But what happens when it does not? Who can we lean on then? Can we afford to not be in right relationship with those around us?

It is a time for choosing.

Choosing a politics of solidarity

This fall, Americans will go to the polls to elect new legislators and officials. Perfect candidates don’t exist, and we will always disagree with each one on some issues. But we must identify real leaders who are focused on fostering a society of right relationships, and who promote solidarity with the unborn, the disabled, the economically disenfranchised and the vulnerable, rather than choose those who cater to what they believe is the latest desire of 51% of political consumers.

We cannot become ambivalent or discouraged by what seems like the limitations of the moment. We must embrace the hope that we can build stronger solidarity — solidarity that starts in our homes and communities but that is reflected in our political choices.

Pope Francis concluded his March 27 homily as follows: “Embracing his cross means … finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.”

Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

Action Alert

Catholic schools have endured numerous costs in helping to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including transitioning to alternative learning platforms and additional sanitation measures. As the federal government provides education stabilization assistance to all schools, and the state considers its own forms of COVID-19 assistance, nonpublic schools need to be included. As Catholic schools played their role in responding to closure rules and guidance from the state, they should also be part of aid packages to mitigate those costs.

Call legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Walz and ask them to treat nonpublic schools equitably in COVID-19 education assistance programs.

Governor Tim Walz: 651-201-3400
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka: 651-296-4875
Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent: 651-296-4166
Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman: 651-296-4280
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt: 651-296-5364

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