The sin of pride is one that I myself must be careful around. I may have had times where I struggle with my self-confidence, but when it comes down to it, I like to be right. I am proud of my life and the person that I have become, warts and all. I know that overcoming struggles and short comings is a life-long process, but it is not easy for me to admit when I am wrong or when I have gone a little far down the wrong path. When I read Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement a few weeks ago, I felt nothing but a strong admiration for him. I have since prayed many times for him to have strength and the courage to follow the path that must have been an incredibly difficult path to discern. My first thoughts were “His health must be really serious for him to have decided to step down.” Then I got out of bed and had to read about the world tearing him apart.
I heard all sort of crazy rumors as to why he was abdicating. I saw Catholics take it personally and talk about how abandoned they felt. I saw many that supported our Pope, and many mock him. Social media is a gift and a curse, friends. Then, I saw this:
This Time cover photo is hauntingly beautiful. It is just a shame that it was ruined with that subtitle. There is something laughable when you being to whittle down over 2,000 years of Tradition, history and theology to “politics.”
My Catholic faith is a part of my identity. It is responsible for defining my moral compass, how I parent, my relationships with others, and to a degree, my politics. It encompasses me, and it is not something that can be set aside or taken off like a piece of jewelry. It is a constant. My political views are not a constant in the same way. I have no party affiliation because there is not a political party that captures my political views fully. It seems silly to think that a political affiliation could define my life in the same way that Catholicism defines my life.
I invite you to examine Exhibit A and Exhibit B.
Exhibit A: The definition of politics. In every definition of the word, politics relates to society or government. It is specific to the laws of the land, and to a degree the rights and freedoms of the citizens of the land.
Exhibit B: The definition of religion. It is true that religion differs from person to person, and that there are many forms of various personal and institutional religions, but someone’s faith life expands beyond laws, freedom, or social constructs.
So why does it feel as though the definitions are becoming interchangeable?
Many would scoff if someone told them that their religion was their political affiliation. Is it that far from the truth? As our belief in God dwindles, what takes its place? Moral relativism plays a dangerous role. American politics and the media play with emotionally charged subjects that they really have no business playing in, but that is what receives attention. It is one thing for a government to have laws relative to contracts between citizens, it is quite another for them to tell me who I can be married to. My marriage is sacramental: graces were bestowed on me and my spouse in a ceremony in my Lord’s house: I committed my life to my husband and our family in front of God. It is not something that can be terminated. Then I signed a piece of paper that my state recognized as a legal contract between us that can be undone whenever one party wants to terminate the contract. There are many other examples, but you get the picture. My faith is encompassing, while politics are politics. It seems the more we begin to rely on the government to create fairness, the more of a religion it becomes.
There seems to be a myth in the secular world that the Catholic Church will change Tradition, dogmas or beliefs based on who is pope. There are many myths about the Catholic Church out there, but this is one that seems to be quite pervasive. If the Church changed beliefs with every new leader, she would not have lasted 2,000 years. There will be differences among our leaders. John Paul II was an economic intellect and wrote the Theology of the Body. Benedict XVI writes in great detail about object truth and relativism. Different popes bring different strengths; they do not change the core of the faith.
This is about as organized as I am capable of being on the subject today. Are politics and religion interchangeable?