With the election of Donald J. Trump as our 45th president, the long, divisive, angry campaign is finally over. The ballots have been counted, the yard signs will be packed away, there will be no more campaign rallies. But the hard work of governing remains.
As Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, the immediate past president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said: “The American people have made their decision on the next President of the United States, members of Congress as well as state and local officials. I congratulate Mr. Trump and everyone elected. … Now is the moment to move toward the responsibility of governing for the common good of all citizens. Let us not see each other in the divisive light of Democrat or Republican or any other political party, but rather, let us see the face of Christ in our neighbors, especially the suffering or those with whom we may disagree.”
Although a victor has been declared, we must recognize that the nation remains bitterly divided and faces many difficult and complex issues.
President-elect Trump made the issue of immigration one of the foundations of his campaign. He promised to round up the undocumented, deport them, and build a wall along our southern border.
The Catholic Church in the United States has long advocated for a comprehensive reform of our immigration laws, a reform that recognizes very clearly the country’s right and duty to secure its borders while also calling on our leaders to pass laws that recognize the humanity and dignity of the millions of migrants, desperate to find security and prosperity for their families, who have sought refuge in the United States.
As the debate over immigration heats up in the coming months and years, as it surely will, we pray that advocates on both sides will recognize the human dignity of all people touched by the immigration system, both those born in the United States and those moving here, as they search for solutions that promote the common good.
Another issue that no doubt will be contentious is health care. President-elect Trump and many of the Republican members of Congress have vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But repeal of what is commonly known as Obamacare will not solve the problem of improving access to health insurance and health care for the millions of working Americans who aren’t covered by a health plan through their job or who might be subject once again to being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
Health care reform is another issue where the Church in America has been on the battlefield for decades. According to the USCCB website: “Catholic teaching supports adequate and affordable health care for all, because health care is a basic human right. Health care policy must protect human life and dignity, not threaten them, especially for the most voiceless and vulnerable. Health care laws must respect the consciences of providers, taxpayers, and others, not violate them. Coverage should be truly universal and should not be denied to those in need because of their condition, age, where they come from or when they arrive here. Providing affordable and accessible health care that clearly reflects these fundamental principles is a public good and moral imperative.”
As the new president and Congress takes up the issue of health care reform once again, we pray that they will be guided by the principles laid out by the bishops of the United States.
Across the globe, there are many threats to peace, stability, religious freedom and human dignity. We pray that the United States will pursue policies that promote those four goals for all people through dialogue with our friends and foes alike. The world looks to the United States as a beacon of hope and freedom. In the face of difficult crises in every corner of the planet, we must not abdicate our role as a world leader carrying forth the light of the ideals and principles that have made our nation so proud and so prosperous.
It is clear that the next four years will be difficult as we address such complex issues in such a divided nation. But we, as Catholics, cannot retreat from the debate. We must continue to bring our belief in the sanctity of all human life, from womb to tomb, as a gift from God to the public debate. To make our Catholic voices clear and strong in the coming debates, we should educate ourselves about what the Church teaches and how those teachings should be applied to a whole host of issues. The Church offers many resources to inform the people and form their consciences. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website offers a plethora of resources at www.usccb.org. And the Tennessee Catholic Public Policy Commission, which represents the three bishops of Tennessee on issues of public policy, also offers information and other resources about issues specific to our state. Catholics can access that information by visiting www.tncppc.org.
As our country moves forward from the election, we pray that Christ’s mercy and love will guide us toward common ground where we can find the solutions that best serve the common good.