Freedom, Discourse, and Violence. I’m sure we were all horrified by the attack on a group of Republican politicians in Alexandria on June 14. We pray for all those who were injured in the attack, especially our fellow Catholic, Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
But we also pray for the repose of the soul of the assailant, who was himself shot and killed during the attack. We remember the words of Our Blessed Lord: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
This is perhaps one of the hardest parts of our religion to accept and practice. But it is essential: Jesus died not just for you and me, but for the salvation of all; not just for His Blessed Mother and St. John, but for Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate. He died for His friends and His enemies, because He loved them.
This is the rule of life for all Christians. It does not mean we won’t have enemies—people who oppose us, hate us, or even try to harm us. And it doesn’t mean we can’t defend ourselves from, or fight against, our enemies. But it does mean that when we can’t do so with hatred or malice, that love and reason must be our guide and our restraint. So that, for example, when the shooter was shot in Alexandria, we love him by not executing him while he is lying on the ground struggling to live, but we stopped shooting when he was defeated and rushed him to the hospital to try to save his life.
A lot of people are talking about the causes of this shooting. Most people (rightly, I think) blame the increasingly incendiary language and strident atmosphere of our political debates today. Many then proceed to blame different people or factors for starting the escalation. Blame is spread all over the place. So much so that within hours after the initial show of unity and comity immediately after the shooting, party leaders began the blame game again.
Can we stop this escalation of violent words, and of violent words into increasingly devastating physical violence? It seems to me that the only way this can happen, is if we all put into practice Jesus’ command to “love our enemies.” Because it also seems to me that we are not about to put aside the things we’re arguing about: at its root, it seems both sides see themselves as defending fundamental morality that cannot be set aside.
For example, some folks (myself included) believe that the most basic moral and human values are under assault, and that without them our society will collapse into ruin, and even damnation; values about the meaning and role of family, marriage, parenthood, and sexuality, and to a lesser extent property rights, economic freedom and the rule of law. And on the other hand, other folks believe those values are all fundamentally wrong, and even evil, fundamentally rooted in bigotry and hatred, and must be defeated, and that the “progress” against those values made in the last few years must not be turned back, lest we fall into a state of absolute evil and oppression.
The problem is, since we’re dealing with so many fundamental values on both sides, there really is very little room for compromise, and folks can easily think that their side must win at all costs, including physical violence and death.
The only solutions, short of all this, are true tolerance (patiently living with things you dislike or disagree with, even as you may work for change), forbearance (refraining from escalating conflicts when not necessary) and reasoned discourse, (good faith, reasoned efforts to discuss the issues).
Which is why our Founding Fathers, in a stroke of divinely inspired wisdom, enshrined in our Constitution, the fundamental rights delineated in our First Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
With these guarantees of God-given (or “natural”) rights, our nation has flourished over two centuries, as embracing these rights we have provided a peaceful atmosphere for people with differing but strongly held values, desires and goals to disagree, discuss, and reason with each other, and even to convert each other.
But what if someone disagrees with the First Amendment, and wants to take away our free speech, or religious liberty? Do we fight them? We must. But then do we resort to violence, verbally or physically?
The only answer is to fight for our rights and our values/beliefs, but always governed by the principle that we must always “love our enemies.” Which means, we fight them, but we constrain ourselves to use only the force absolutely necessary. I hope and pray that peaceful words and activity–perhaps strong, clear and impassioned, but still peaceful–can still be effective in winning the battle for our nation’s future. With God’s grace.
During this fortnight for freedom, let us pray for that our country will always protect our most fundamental rights, especially religious liberty, and that we may exercise those rights according to Christ’s law of love.
Fortnight for Freedom. We continue our observance of the “Fortnight for Freedom” to pray for the protection of Religious Liberty, through July 4 (Independence Day). Please join us at home, after Masses and in this week’s Wednesday Holy Hour!
Corpus Christi Procession. Despite the understandable conflict with various Father’s Day celebrations, our Corpus Christi procession last Sunday went very well and we had crowd much larger than I expected. I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to make it all come together, especially as the lazy days of summer set in. Thanks especially to Patrick O’Brien (and his family) for his overall coordination, not to mention sweat labor. Thanks to Julie Mullen (and her family) for decorating everything. Thanks to the Choir, Ushers, Knights of Columbus and Altar Servers for their hard work, especially in the hot sun. Special thanks to Jane Steele for her work as sacristan for the procession, and for other recent liturgies. And, as always, thanks to our parish staff for their support.
Choir Takes the Summer Off. As is our custom, our choir takes the summer off after the Corpus Christi procession. I can’t begin to express my gratefulness and appreciation for all the beautiful music they have provided us with this last year. Parishioners and guests are always telling me how wonderful our liturgies are, and then they always add, “especially the choir.” The Mass is not about the music, but the music our choir provides is definitely about the Mass, and helps so many of us to more deeply enter into the solemnity and reverence of the Holy Sacrifice. Thank you, choir members, and especially Elisabeth Turco (director) and Denise Anezin (organist), and have a great and restful summer. But come back to us in the fall, ready to help us give worthy worship to the Lord.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles