Today is the day we’ve waited for.
I woke up to find that, after an impossibly long week, Joe Biden was declared the winner of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes and the presidency.
I’ve been celebrating all day, mostly by listening to bad music and posting snarky things on Twitter. I’ve been watching, almost in disbelief, as the media quietly dismissed his ludicrous threats to challenge the results. It really is beginning to feel like it’s over.
But I’m also more than a little sad and angry, just looking back at the past five years or so, since Trump began his unlikely rise to power, and looking around today. I’m not sad about the way Donald Trump behaved. He’s done everything I expected him to do. I’m sad and also angry about how my fellow Catholics have behaved, and are behaving now.
I’m not really sad or angry that many Catholics disagreed with me and voted for Trump. We’re allowed to have political disagreements. No one is required on pain of sin to agree with me. I’m not the Church and neither are they.
I am very, very sad and angry about the Catholics who looked at that famous con artist and concluded that he was their savior, and who treated him like an idol. I’m beyond furious with the Catholics who randomly decided that it was a mortal sin to do anything other than vote and campaign for and glorify Trump. I’m deeply disturbed by the abusive behavior they committed in his name.
I believe in calling people out, loudly, in public, for their public scandalous behavior. Frank Pavone and Abby Johnson, for example, commit the sin of scandal when they abuse people in public while proclaiming that they’re the voice of the Catholic Church in defense of the unborn, and I will combat them, vigorously, in public for that. I am especially harsh when I find public Catholics trying to paint abusive behavior as virtuous and somehow “Catholic.” And I believe that the same kind of treatment redirected at me is fair play. I expect to be criticized and debated for what I say in public. I can take what I dish out.
I will only call people out for what they mean to be private if it is dangerous and presents a threat to other vulnerable people. It’s appropriate in that context. In others, it’s not.
I don’t believe in spiritually abusing people; shunning, bullying or intimidating them; or trying to hurt their families. But that’s not what Trump’s Catholic disciples believe. They do that and call it righteousness.
Just when Donald Trump was rising to power, I got thrown out of the secular Carmelite aspirancy a week after my blog post demanding accountability and reform in the pro-life movement went viral. That might have happened anyway and for a number of reasons; it wasn’t a good group for me in retrospect. And I can’t even be sure that the viral post was the reason for it because they cattily refused to tell me the reason. But it hurt immensely. That’s where this began.
Next, we lost our parish.
That was a parish I felt was my refuge from the trauma I’d experienced in the Charismatic Renewal. I loved it there. I deeply respected the pastor. I expected that Rosie would receive her first confession and first Holy Communion there. And then one of the parishioners was in my blog combox telling other commentators I was a “textbook narcissist” and accusing me, falsely, of saying that everyone who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 was a racist. That’s how it started. It ended several months of awkwardness and bullying later with the pastor bawling Michael out at the doughnut social, saying that my blog was “grave scandal.” We did not go back. That parishioner was still, the last time I checked, going around libeling me on social media and threatening to write articles about me for conservative publications “but it would only add to her victim complex.”
We haven’t belonged to a parish since then, just fulfilled our obligation at any church we could walk or get a ride to. And now, thanks to COVID, the obligation is dispensed and it’s too dangerous to go to Mass anyway. I watch it on livestream, usually a Mass from Canada where the sermons don’t involve United States politics. I pray to God Rose can start receiving the sacraments once we have a car and can go to a parish where nobody knows us.
I had a traditionalist Catholic group that disapproved of my views steal and mock my facebook profile pictures, making jokes about how I must be lying about being a rape survivor because I’m too ugly and how a rape would improve my disposition. I felt very alarmed and in danger. One of the people in that group was a person I considered a friend here, a lady who goes to the Latin Mass, a lady whose children Rose had played with; she even came to one of Rose’s birthday parties. Another friend showed me screenshots of her commenting in the group, warning about how they had to be careful to identify any moles who might tell me what they were saying, and then she was liking photos on my facebook timeline after not talking to me for several months. I blocked her.
A troll stole a profile photo that had a picture of Rosie in it and started impersonating me on social media, saying horrible things to get me into trouble with my daughter’s face.
I had commentators with Latin screen names and crusader helmet profile pictures tell me I was in mortal sin, that I ought to abstain from Communion, that I was leading good Catholic women astray, that I was calumniating priests by asking their bishop about their canonical status.
A Catholic troll on Twitter started a harassment campaign screenshotting private facebook posts and tweeting at bishops and Catholic celebrities to call me “Penis Girl” and “crybaby,” and trying to recruit people to call Social Services to take my daughter away.
A member of the Knights of Columbus mocked my sexual orientation to the same priests and bishops on Twitter as well. He has very similar grammar to the anonymous troll.
All this harassment was because I don’t believe that American conservative politics are something a Catholic should support without question, and because I call out Trump and his disciples when they sin publicly and scandalously. And I’m far from the worst case.
I watched friends I care deeply about fired from their jobs in Catholic media and at Catholic universities for calling out the abusive, dangerous, sinful behavior of Donald Trump and his enablers and for not being conservative enough or not being pro-life in the right way. I watched their families suffer. I couldn’t do anything to help.
I watched friends I love deeply and respect with all my heart, leave the Church. They stopped believing because of the horrendous example of United States Catholics.
I am still here.
I will not leave Christ, because Christ has never left me.
But it has been an exhausting five years, from the advent of Trump to his defeat today. Of course he’s not gone yet, and his disciples won’t disappear even when he does. But still, he’s been defeated today.
I have been so happy today, to see him voted out. I’ve been happy to think of all the people even more evil than he is, such as Stephen Miller, leaving with him. I’ve been thrilled to see the news media that enabled Trump in the first place dismissing his rantings about illegal ballots. I’ve had a great deal of fun sharing memes on Twitter and laughing with like-minded friends.
But I’m also angry at everything we’ve been put through, by Catholics who honestly thought it was their duty before God to idolize a cruel, abusive, licentious, mammon-worshipping racist with no conscience and to sacrifice their fellow Catholics on his altar. This wasn’t lively debate. This wasn’t heated discussion. It was abuse, against me and against my family, and against the families of so many people I love.
Tonight I watched Biden’s acceptance speech.
Joe Biden is not a man I admire. I find him to be a mediocre centrist politician. But I considered his campaign promises, and decided he was a much more acceptable option than Donald Trump. He may bring back down the abortion rate that Trump drove up. He may be able to reunite some of those families that Trump tried to torture and destroy at the Southern border. He may staunch the raging pandemic which Trump downplayed, that has already killed nearly a quarter of a million Americans. Most appealing, unlike Trump, Biden looks to me like a man who genuinely loves his family and has suffered real grief. So I decided to vote for him. But I don’t idolize him. It would be a sin to do so. And it would be a sin for me to abuse someone just because they evaluated all their options and made a good faith effort to choose the least problematic candidate, but ended up voting for somebody different than I did. Someone else doing something I think is a mistake, does not mean that person sinned, and it’s spiritual abuse to say differently. There is no one Catholic option, in politics as flawed and corrupt as the United States’s. We all have to do our best.
Joe Biden is a Catholic like me. I disagree strongly with how he interprets some of the teachings of our faith, in his job as a politician, and I agree with how he interprets others. I don’t know that he’s an example of heroic virtue. But he a repentant sinner who bears the Seal of Baptism, like me. He goes to Mass, like I wish it was safe for me to do right now.
Tonight, Biden gave hopeful, optimistic, incredibly trite remarks about what he hopes to accomplish in his presidency. I was alternately smiling and on the verge of tears. I feel justified in my choice to vote for him, even if I hadn’t before.
He quoted Ecclesiastes about “A time to heal.” He didn’t recite the entire passage, which is “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”
Then he started reciting the lyrics to an unbelievably corny hymn, one we used to sing at Franciscan University from time to time: “On Eagle’s Wings.”
And I smiled.
Christ doesn’t belong to the right wing. They think He does, but He doesn’t. He doesn’t belong to the Left Wing or to me or to you or to anybody else either. We belong to Him. He is the sole Judge, the King, the most intimate Lover Who dwells with us in the high and low places, in the times of searching and giving up and keeping and throwing away.
I hope I can come to believe in a time to heal– a season where we who dwell in the shelter of the Lord can recover from what we’ve done to each other. I don’t think Joe Biden will be the catalyst for that; I hope the Holy Spirit brings about that time, and soon.
I’m just glad that this particular season of American politics seems to be drawing to a close.
May this be a time to build, and the end of the time to tear down.
Image via Pixabay.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross.
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