‘Are you celebrating?” The Uber driver’s question took me a little off guard. And then he may have gotten an earful from me. He was talking about the election. And my answer was “no.” There is nothing to celebrate when New York City was boarded up for Election Night, with the threat of violence looming on the chance that Donald Trump won reelection.
There were literal fires around Washington Square Park during election week. I watched one viral video of a woman spitting in the face of a police officer simply trying to keep the peace. I’m grateful when police are around, because people are being crazy. I’ve never gotten as yelled at in my life as I have in recent weeks in Manhattan. People are on edge. My inability to find Excedrin Migraine in drugstores seems about right. Election week included hovering helicopters late into the night, a buzzing sound that wouldn’t quit. Of course, then there is all the noise we willingly subject ourselves to. Turn off cable news, please, for the love of your heart and soul and mind and peace.
And so now we will have the second Catholic president. That’s a tragedy and a scandal. The second Catholic president, the president of a party that has the most radical abortion agenda — and as the one legit pro-life Democrat, Congressman Dan Lipinski, is leaving, having been primaried out of his seat by the abortion lobby. Joe Biden will have a vice president who I’m not sure thinks I’m fit to be an American. Some of my greatest loves — innocent unborn human life, the Knights of Columbus — she thinks were disqualifiers for judicial confirmation.
And I don’t even know if I blame Joe Biden. He’s certainly had more than his fair share of suffering in his life. And I’ve got to wonder who has said what to him to inform his public positions. And he certainly wouldn’t be the only Catholic who has not read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We have a long tradition here in the United States of Catholics being either chameleons or turtles, as Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard law professor and former ambassador to the Holy See, has put it. We blend in with the culture, or we hide, hoping no one notices us. That’s not the Christian call, however. We need to be inundating people with the Beatitudes, showing we are Christian by our love. You’ve heard of Confirmation? We’re given the gifts of the Holy Spirit anew, sacramentally. Shouldn’t that make for some pretty courageously wise people? Instead, we get distracted by things that are not the ones for which we are going to be judged. The measure of our lives is love. By the way we are living our lives today, would anyone know it?
“President-elect Joseph Biden” came around the same time as the long-awaited report from the Vatican on Theodore McCarrick. One of the most well-known and well-traveled — often in rooms of influence — churchman of Biden’s political life turned out to be evil. Maybe by the time you read this column, I will have finished the document, more than 400 pages, but I find it impossible to read any other way than slowly and prayerfully. It’s about McCarrick and the people he tortured, but it’s also about a poisoned culture. And it’s not just what is known as clericalism that is the problem. On the way to Mass at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral one gloomy fall morning, I noticed the words “good in bed” on a store window. It turns out it’s about sleepwear for women, and it’s way more modest than the sex toys in the window down the block from St. Joseph’s in the Village, not too far away. You’ve got to wonder whether the creepy, perverse, oversexed nature of so much even in what should be the holiest places, and whether looks with eyes of lust toward even innocent children and young people (I’m thinking of seminarians), are cries for help, a longing to be liberated and oriented toward God. We want to know that there is something more than the current immiseration. Also on the way to Old St. Patrick’s is a mailbox with a unicorn decal of some sort that declares “I Hate Everything.” More than one person is feeling that, and there are more Google results for that expression than I had hoped. What are we going to do about that? Joe Biden or a Vatican report is not going to fix it.
In the report, the late Cardinal John O’Connor, archbishop of New York and the founder of the Sisters of Life, dear friends of mine, is reported to have done the right things with respect to what he knew about McCarrick. I couldn’t help but hear Cardinal O’Connor’s voice. He loved a poem called “The Annunciation,” by Father John Duffy, which includes this line: “And nothing would again be casual and small.” Isn’t that the lesson of 2020 — so many brushes with death and violence? Don’t be looking for things to go back to “normal” when 2020 ends. They will not. They should not.
Cardinal O’Connor said that the most beautiful words of Jesus were “Father, forgive them for they know now what they do.” He said that the Sisters of Life exist to live and teach this. Pray for forgiveness for all who contribute to a culture of death — and many of us do in one way or another. Life, light, love. Those are the things to celebrate. It’s not a political mandate. It’s more important than that.
This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.