The results of the election verified something that has been increasingly clear over a number of recent election cycles: politically, anyway, we’re divided just about in half.
Nationally, in terms of popular vote, out of all those tens of millions of votes cast, the margin was less than 5%, just like it’s been the last three presidential elections. In fact, in the 21st century, five of the six presidential elections have ended up that way.
In the states, many tilt solidly to one side or the other, with elections coming down to just a few “battleground” states with razor-thin margins of victory.
And that same split is visible in the church. In the past election, reportedly those who self-identify as Catholic were also split almost exactly down the middle in terms of whom they voted for.
It’s clear that any path forward has to involve some kind of authentic reconciliation in the truth amid those divisions.
Fortunately, our faith gifts us with this ability. We have a coherent, beautiful, humane social doctrine that is more sane and good and inviting by far than any of the competing ideologies in our world, and which can help purify them all, affirming what is true in them and amending what isn’t. We have a vision of Christ the King who helps us not to “put our trust” in worldly leaders. The church has a long memory and experience of many different kinds of rulers, including not just every American president since George Washington but a whole world of rulers, good and bad, from saints to tyrants and despots.
And it’s striking how consistent our duties as Catholics remain toward civil leaders whether we consider them good or bad. We pray for them, especially for their well-being and their success in doing good. We support them when we can out of service to the common good. And if they should do evil, we resist them to the extent we must — when conscience and our higher loyalty to God will not permit us to do otherwise — such that one might, like St. Thomas More, be the king’s true subject, but God’s first.
It’s not too early to begin praying for our elected leaders — all of them, the ones we voted for and the ones we didn’t.