SOTUS 2020

SOTUS 2020 February 4, 2020

Welleman: Sick Sam / Wikimedia Commons

When talking abut the State of the Union (that is, of the United States) in 2020, nothing better represents that state than the fact that Trump has been impeached.  Nothing he can do will ever remove that from his record. He has been impeached. Those complaining about the process of impeachment should study how a Grand Jury is organized and conducted, because once they learn that, they will see the process in the House was much fairer than that which is often used to conduct a Grand Jury. And as much as they cry about it, how much they whine about it, how much they try to get revenge for it (especially against those who didn’t kowtow to Trump within the Republican party itself),  Republicans have to face the fact that Trump has been impeached. And he has been impeached for serious abuses of  his authority. The Senate, run by Republicans who have no interest in protecting the United States from an out-of-control President, will not remove the President. No one expected them to do so. But what they have done is show us the corruption which lies within the Republican party and the lengths Republicans will go to defend the indefensible. Many of the Republicans themselves admit this, as, for example, Rubio, which can be seen when stated that Trump had done what was claimed, and that it was an impeachable offense, but he would still not vote to remove Trump from office.

With the President impeached, with Republicans knowing and admitting that Trump did as was claimed, but with Republicans doing all they can to ignore Trump’s wrongdoing and push on with their agenda, we clearly see the decline and fall of the United States before us.  But in such a situation, those who have power tend to use it for themselves, selling out everyone else in the process. And this is exactly what we see coming from the Trump administration – and with the Republicans actively helping Trump. The United States is being dismantled. Long-established protections for the common good are being removed so that the United States can be looted. And make no mistake, it is being looted. Its natural resources are being destroyed, its people are being undermined, and the federal deficit is in freefall as it radically increases due to the rules and regulations established by Trump and the Republicans.

The United States is in poor health. It is not yet utterly destroyed, but it can quickly enter a death spiral if its decline is not soon halted. What might be amazing to some, but should not be amazing to anyone, is that the destruction of the United States goes hand in hand with the grave injustices promoted by those in authority. The poor and needy as being undermined; the elderly and the disabled are being told they are not worth helping;  the postal service is under attack; public lands are being destroyed for the sake of profit; protections set up to keep American waters clean are being removed; and, despite grave moral concerns, the Trump administration is even looking to use landmines in the future. What is clear in all of this is that the common good is not Trump’s interest, which of course, explains why he has no problem with the breakdown of the United States, for to be interested in the good of the United States as a whole requires interest in the common good.

From a Catholic perspective, none of this is acceptable. The poor and needy are at the forefront of Catholic Social teaching:

Here I would like to indicate one of them: the option or love of preference for the poor. This is an option, or a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness. It affects the life of each Christian inasmuch as he or she seeks to imitate the life of Christ, but it applies equally to our social responsibilities and hence to our manner of living, and to the logical decisions to be made concerning the ownership and use of goods. [1]

As St. Hildegard of Bingen said it, those who promote the pride of the rich over others are blasphemous as they harm the image of God in the poor: “Through the pride of his riches the rich man rules over other men, whom he can harm, and treats them badly, just as if they were not fellow creatures, and in this way the good name of mankind (that man is the image and likeness of God [cf. Gen 1.26]) is blasphemed.” [2] And this is exactly what is being promoted by the Trump administration and his Republican allies. They have no interest in the promotion of the poor, those whom Scripture suggests are at the heart of God’s care and concern. Rather, they seek to benefit those with wealth. And this, as St. Isidore understood, perverts justice: “Justice is quickly violated by gold and a guilty person fears no blame that he estimates he can redeem with money. The love of money fills the mind of a judge more than the righteousness of justice.”[3]

Likewise, the environment, the common home of humanity (and the rest of nature as well), must be protected. Christians believe God gave humanity stewardship over creation in order to help elevate creation. Ignoring its destruction, or actively destroying it, is a sinful abdication of our responsibility. We must not, we cannot, accept the status quo, or worse, returning to the past when there was little to no environmental protection. The world is in dire straights because of our abuse of it, and unless we take our responsibility seriously, the destruction which happens to the environment can lead to the extinction of humanity in the near future. Christians must care about the web of life and do what they can to preserve biodiversity and clean up the damage done to the environment.  Thus, Pope St. John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew in their Common Declaration on Environmental Ethics, said:

God has not abandoned the world. It is His will that His design and our hope for it will be realized through our co-operation in restoring its original harmony. In our own time we are witnessing a growth of an ecological awareness which needs to be encouraged, so that it will lead to practical programmes and initiatives. An awareness of the relationship between God and humankind brings a fuller sense of the importance of the relationship between human beings and the natural environment, which is God’s creation and which God entrusted to us to guard with wisdom and love (cf. Gen 1:28).[4]

And, as water is central to the environment, making sure it is clean is an important part of the Christian duty to the world. While the Trump administration is removing regulations which help protect the purity of our water so businesses can make a profit, Popes have made it clear we must protect such natural resources and prevent their commodification: “We are also concerned about the negative consequences for humanity and for all creation resulting from the degradation of some basic natural resources such as water, air and land, brought about by an economic and technological progress which does not recognize and take into account its limits.”[5]

And, as Pope Francis understood, those who feel the impact of this more than others, are the poor who deserve our primary focus and attention:

One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances. Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, are a significant cause of suffering and of infant mortality. Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls. It is not only a question of industrial waste. Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.[6]

And what can be said about Trump’s consideration about landmines, other than it demonstrates once again his nihilistic attitude towards the world? Catholics have long been working hard to stop landmines from being used. Their use has long been determined to be immoral. Pope St. John Paul II saw the Ottawa Treat of 1997 as a victory of life over death:

This milestone marks a victory of the culture of life over the culture of death for the entire international community. The Holy See has supported it from the beginning, signing and ratifying the Ottawa document on 4 December 1997.

Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go before the world can be freed of these terrible, treacherous devices. I pray God to give everyone the courage of peace, so that the countries which have not yet signed this important instrument of international humanitarian law will do so without delay, and that the work of mine removal and the task of rehabilitating the injured will continue unabated.

May men and women walk together on the paths of life without fearing the threat of destruction and death![7]

Ten years later, Pope Benedict XVI said there was much more work which needed to be done, but his hope was that landmines would eventually be completely outlawed:

Today, the eighth Assembly of States opens in Jordan, which signed the Agreement on the prohibition of the use, storage, production and transfer of inhuman anti-land mines and called for their destruction. The Holy See is among the principal promoters of this Agreement, adopted about 10 years ago. I therefore whole-heartedly express my wish and encouragement for the good outcome of the conference, so that these explosives, which continue to claim victims, many of whom are children, may be completely outlawed. [8]

There is much more which can be said about the United States and the sickness which has taken it over. What is clear is that it is being run to the ground by people who have no desire to follow through with good government. Government is about the establishing of justice, not self-interest. Government is about the common good, not about what people in power can get from being in power. Government is about helping elevate those who are the most vulnerable in society, not by ignoring them and working for the elite. A government which is for the common good will make for a much healthier nation. A government which is run like a criminal operation will not only self-destruct, it will take many people, and possibly the nation itself, with them in its destruction. The United States is sick. We need to cure that sickness before it is too late. “You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality; and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land which the LORD your God gives you” (Deut. 16:19 – 20 RSV).

[1] Pope St. John Paul II, “Sollicitudo rei socialis.” Vatican translation. ¶29

[2] St. Hildegard of Bingen, “Letter 378” in The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen. Volume III. Trans. Joseph L Baird and Radd K Ehrman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 165.

[3] St. Isidore of Seville, Sententiae. Trans. Thomas L. Knoebel (New York: Newman Press, 2018), 206. Who are Trump’s judges in the Senate? The rich elite who follow the dictates of avarice over justice.

[4] Pope St. John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew I, “Common Declaration on Environmental Ethics.” (6-10-2002).  Vatican translation.

[5] Pope St. John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew I, “Common Declaration on Environmental Ethics.”

[6] Pope Francis, “Laudato si’.” Vatican translation. ¶29.

[7] Pope St. John Paul II,” Angelus, 28 February 1999.” Vatican translation.

[8] Pope Benedict XVI. “Angelus, 18 November 2007.”Vatican Translation.


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