Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What Jeremiah can teach us about this election

In comments on a prior post, I suggested a reader -- who claims I am a bad priest because I won't support a particular political candidate as the blocking maneuver against another candidate -- read the Book of Jeremiah. Another reader asked what I meant. Here's what I had in mind.

Jeremiah was called to his prophetic ministry in a time of great peril for the Kingdom of Judah. After the invasion of Assyria destroyed the northern kingdom in 722 B.C., Judah is hemmed in by contending great powers. Now the threat comes from Babylon.

But Jeremiah's message to the people, the king and the priests is that the nation's true problem is apostasy from God; and God's judgment will take the form of Babylon's coming destruction of the temple and the city they have defiled by injustice, immorality and false worship.

In this crisis, many say that the answer to the peril of Babylon is to seek the help of Egypt; but through Jeremiah, God warns against that expediency:

And now, why go to Egypt,
to drink the waters of the Nile?
Why go to Assyria,
to drink the waters of the River? (2:18)

How frivolous you have become
in changing your course!
By Egypt you will be shamed,
just as you were shamed by Assyria (2:36).

Now, it's important to understand how the sacred texts present the nations surrounding Israel. They are presented not merely as places to go, and political powers that interacted with Israel; they are also presented as expressive of worldly values that compete with the covenant with God. Thus when the children of Israel end up in Egypt, during the famine described in Genesis, Jacob (i.e., Israel) makes his son, Joseph swear that he won't bury Jacob in Egypt: When the time approached for Israel to die, he called his son Joseph and said to him: 

“If it pleases you, put your hand under my thigh as a sign of your enduring fidelity to me; do not bury me in Egypt. When I lie down with my ancestors, take me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.”

“I will do as you say,” (Joseph) replied. 

But his father demanded, “Swear it to me!” So Joseph swore to him. Then Israel bowed at the head of the bed (Genesis 47:29-31).

So what does all this have to do with our upcoming election?

Lots of good folks are rightly anxious about the peril represented by one candidate winning -- and so argue that this means all good people must -- must -- cast their lot with the other candidate. Because I think they are both too flawed, and therefore, I won't vote for either, I was told I'm a shepherd who "cops out on his sheep and leaves them to be ravaged by wolves, or by satan in a pants suit." Take a look at Jeremiah to see what people said about him when he counseled not to rely on Egypt, but to trust in the Almighty.

The parallel is inexact; I do not claim it is sinful to vote for one of these terrible candidates. The bishops have said, in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, that it is licit to vote for the lesser of two evils; but it is also acceptable to refuse to vote for any such candidate. Here are the relevant paragraphs, with key sections in bold:

34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter's intent is to support that position. In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate's opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate's unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

36. When all candidates hold a position that promotes an intrinsically evil act, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.

37. In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose policies promoting intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions. These decisions should take into account a candidate's commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue. In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.

There's a lot more to be said about all this, but here's my point. Given a choice between the hammer and the anvil, I think the best answer is to do as Jeremiah kept begging God's People to do: return to the Lord:

Call to me, and I will answer you...
I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Israel, and rebuild them as they were in the beginning. 
I will purify them of all the guilt they incurred by sinning against me; 
I will forgive all their offenses by which they sinned and rebelled against me. 
Then this city shall become joy for me, a name of praise and pride, before all the nations of the earth, as they hear of all the good I am doing for them. 
They shall fear and tremble because of all the prosperity I give it (33:3, 7-9).


Patty said...

"...In comments on a prior post, I suggested a reader -- who claims I am a bad priest because I won't support a particular political candidate as the blocking maneuver against another candidate -- read the Book of Jeremiah. Another reader asked what I meant. Here's what I had in mind."

Another reader wants you to be honest about what you mean and speak out clearly that you seem to reject the Catholic approach of voting for the lesser of two evils.

That, Father, is nothing but asking you to make your yes mean yes and your no mean no.

Perhaps if you stated clearly, "I oppose the Catholic approach of voting for the lesser of two evils and this is my reason why."

That would be good, that would be brave, that would be clear. That would be putting one's money where one's mouth is instead of intimating that your position is superior or intimating that others - who do not endorse your position - are somehow courting condemnation. Not by you, of course. You only intimate. You do not speak boldly as one who has fully embraced your own position.

For while you decry those who perhaps imply that you are a bad priest, you continue to ignore your own implication that those who do not hold to your position are, in fact, bad Catholics.

That, Father, is the issue this Catholic has with your posts. I understand exactly what you mean. But, for whatever reason, you still shy away from speaking clearly and owning your own condemnation of others.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Patty, your claims about me are false. I do not "reject the Catholic approach of voting for lesser of two evils." I said in my earlier post that people could, in good conscience, vote for one of these candidates as a way to block the other, and in this post, I quote the bishops saying the same.

I asked you before: how many times do you need me to state this? It's a serious question, because I've said it at least twice in my own words, and a third time, by quoting the bishops' words. Since three times is not enough for you, please tell me how many times will be enough.

Secondly, as this post makes clear (did you read it?), "voting for the lesser of two evils" is not the Catholic approach, but it is one legitimate option for Catholics. Don't believe me? Read paragraph 36, above.

Patty said...

What I don't believe is the extent to which you have gone to cover your tracks in having gravely offended those who, quite legitimately, have opted to vote for Trump.

You claim that others have lied about you while taking absolutely zero accountability for your attempts to smear the character of those supporting a Trump candidacy. "Dismiss lightly" "Free pass" "Serious issues with the Catholic Faith" are but a few of the phrases you have chosen to use. Of your own free will. An all while those with whom you are discussing have said repeatedly that they are doing nothing of the kind or are not suffering under such a condition as a lack of faith. Quite the opposite actually.

The answer to your "serious" question is that you can claim now that you are at peace with those who vote for Trump all you'd like. You can quote Jeremiah. You can cite the Bishop's statements. But until you own the insults of your previous statements, your answer means relatively little.

As for clarity, you are crystal. The message is that you seem to have positioned yourself in such a way that you "feel" above reproach. Don't believe me? Re-read what you actually wrote. Not from your perspective, but from the perspective of a devout Catholic who has chosen the legitimate Catholic option of supporting the lesser of two evils. (Legitimate option is a Catholic option, Father. Not a Buddhist or Atheist option. And an option is the variation of approach.)

Since a direct and honest assessment of your words is not enough for you, you may want to give thanks that you do not have to pass the review of a content editor. The very same that aids would-be writers to communicate the fullness of their message without the add-in of contradiction that those who read for understanding too often grasp.

That said, you may want to leave off with your own false statements about others before pointing fingers.

Fr Martin Fox said...


It occurs to me that you and I were conversing on Father Z's blog. Are you the same commenter who there identified herself as "Ann Malley"?

At any rate, it is not true that I have "smear(ed)" anyone. You haven't quoted any such smear. "'Dismiss lightly'" "'Free pass'" "'Serious issues with the Catholic Faith'" is all that you quote; such minimal quotes clarify nothing. But here, I'll quote myself:

Mr. Trump has endorsed a good share of evil. It's very hard for me to understand how anyone who cares about the dignity of human life, about the dignity of marriage, and about honesty and integrity, can simply wave this away.

I'll say it once more: if you believe voting for Trump is the necessary step to avoid a greater evil, I have no quarrel with you. But if you deny that Mr. Trump has grave, grave problems of his own, then if you are a faithful Christian, you are very confused.

I make NO apology for pointing out the truth about any and all candidates. I do not give any party a free pass.

Now, how is this statement a "smear"? I am addressing specifically those who "deny that Mr. Trump has grave, grave problems of his own." Is that you? Is that Mamet? If If you do not deny his grave problems, then I'm not talking about you, am I?

But if you do deny Mr. Trump's "grave, grave problems," then I stand by what I said: you are very confused, if (another conditional phrase) you are a faithful Christian. I firmly assert that any faithful Christian who looks at Mr. Trump and his record and his positions, and who doesn't see "grave, grave problems," then something is wrong. Doesn't make that "faithful Christian" a bad person, but it means that faithful Christian needs to do some work and some processing of what what Mr. Trump's words and record and character betoken.

If you want to complain about something else I said, don't allude to it, quote it. Cut-and-paste is exceptionally easy.

Patty said...

Again, Father, you dismiss your own words that offend others, but take umbrage at the so called attacks against you. If you want to complain about your being ill used, then do not dismiss when others are claiming that you have used them in ill fashion.

I'll say it once again, there is no point discussing with you because you have fashioned a cocoon for yourself. One wherein you can feign that others demand an apology from you for the way you've chosen to vote.

Go forward and assert that you uphold the bishop's direction that Catholics have a viable option (therefore Catholic) to select the lesser of two evils. That is not a vote for "evil". You also may want to consider as much when you posit that "you" choose Christ over Trump.

And while cut-and-paste is exceptionally easy, so too is admitting that your implication in your articles here and your comments on Fr. Z's blog were untoward for one who apparently has no quarrel with those who vote for Trump for the reasons I've outlined ad nauseum.

Again, you skirt around what you imply, but your message is clear. Even if you dismiss yourself by stating, "If you do not deny his grave problems, then I'm not talking about you, am I?" Nice dance steps, Father, but disingenuous.

Patty said...


Burke warned Catholics against not voting at all and against the practice of writing in the name of a preferred candidate on the ballot, saying it could inadvertently cause the election of a candidate who does not respect life, family, and freedom.

“And I understand these sentiments very well. But one also has to be very prudent, and know that by not voting at all you are probably favoring one candidate or another,” he said, adding that even if Catholics wrote in the name of a favored candidate, it would be unlikely for such a person to become elected.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Patty/Mrs. Malley:

I note you didn't answer my direct and simple question, whether you are Ann Malley. The similarities between your statements here, and what "Ann Malley" said on Fr. Z's blog, are striking.

Second, I asked you to quote the words you claim are so offensive. You declined to do so. So I don't know what further there is to discuss?

Patty said...

1) It is foolhardy to believe that ones statements will not be viewed and countered on various blogs, especially when links are provided.

2) Playing ignorant when faced with your own post wherein you stated that those who are choosing between the lesser of two evils are still voting for...(and then you stop to keep yourself from crossing a line.) sends your message loud and clear. If it didn't, then your writing as much would have been a waste of time, no matter how clever it may have seemed at the time.

3) You may want to hide behind the letter of what you wrote, but the spirit betrays you. That said, would you imply that Cardinal Burke is recommending the expediency of Egypt? Or will you further devolve into distancing yourself from what you implied?

4) Cut-and-paste is simple, but so too is admitting that what you said in your post regarding Clinton and Trump and how one "may" be less evil, was rather off putting if not offensive to those who do not hold your position of playing Third Party at this late hour.

5) There are none so blind as those who refuse to see. And that is the only reason it seems why you do not know what further there is to discuss. To budge from your position would be to acknowledge your offense to others who are, in truth, very serious and faithful Catholics. And rightfully offended.

6) That said, I'll take Cardinal Burke's understanding of what is permissible over your imputation of.... what you refuse to say, but absolutely imply. But don't worry. You will not be subject to losing your tax free status by stating who anyone should vote for. And nobody, at least, in my corner will write to the bishops to tell them that you have crossed the line.

Anonymous said...

"You have duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped."

That's the Jeremiah money quote for this election. (heh -- it's actually the only Jeremiah quote I even know. I take it out of context all the time, any time I feel overwhelmed by some aspect of life. Kind of like an in-joke between God and me, I guess.)

I love your conclusion, since it places all trust and responsibility where it ultimately belongs: with God, Himself.

Wow. What a relief.

I'm so worried about how this election will affect my family (especially since we homeschool, which can be seen as "subversive" in certain political corners), and the worry makes me border on paranoid. Which pundit or blogger will they come for first? And as a member of their readership, how long before they come for me? You know, with the Wisconsin raids still fairly fresh in memory, and the IRS abuses of conservative groups, I wonder if "paranoid" is even the right word? (Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're *not* out to get you, as the t-shirt says.)

That's probably a worry I need neither indulge nor prepare for. But the anxiety is there; and the only solution, of course, is to cast my cares upon Him, for He cares for me.

I have no idea how I will vote in this election. I expect my vote will matter little to the overall picture, so the real issue is simply to respect my own conscience and work toward the outcome I hope will be best. But it's ultimately out of my hands. Thanks for the level-headed reminder of where my heart must lie, regardless ... and the peace that comes with remembering that. Without that, clarity is just not possible.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Patty/Mrs. Malley:

Once again, you accuse me, at length, of saying terrible things, but not once do you quote anything I said.

Anonymous said...


You have far more restraint than I in your replies. It's amazing what some people will read into your words. I've seen nothing, of which you have been accused, in your writings.

Keep the faith and shoulder on!

John F. Kennedy

Patricia La Duca said...

Father, once again I justly call out what your message implied. You are not unintelligent.


An imprudent engagement of zeal can and does lead to misunderstanding. And the presupposition of pitting Trump against Christ when this election is more about Trump vs Satan.

That is what Cardinal Burke was advising against.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Patricia La Duca/Mrs. Malley:

I've asked you repeatedly to quote me. You have repeatedly declined. There's no point in continuing to say the same things over and over.

I have not said a word about the disabled reporter story. If you claim I did, once again...quote me.

That you will not, or cannot, really settles the matter.

Patricia La Duca said...

...no you have only chastised others for using news reports when referencing Cardinal Burke. Hold yourself to the same standard you demand of others. You won't because you CAN'T.

The disabled reporter story is merely a reference point for you and your readers to understand how the media distorts things. The same media you have engaged to smear Trump. The same media you say is untrustworthy when citing the position of Cardinal Burke.

That you won't admit your own failings really settles the matter despite your repetitive efforts at obfuscation and grandstanding,

As I've told my own children, the biggest obstacle is "playing" dumb. Why? It precludes learning, even from one's honest mistakes and sets a woefully bad example. That is especially true when such example is set by those in a position of authority.

But "IF" you want to claim that I'm supposedly accusing you of something else which I am demonstrably not doing, check with a well formed Catholic conscience. Again, that you will not really settles the matter in spades.

Perhaps that is your way of choosing between the lesser of two.... I won't say it.

Fr Martin Fox said...

...no you have only chastised others for using news reports when referencing Cardinal Burke. Hold yourself to the same standard you demand of others. You won't because you CAN'T.

You are really incapable of being honest, it is so sad. What you said is false. I have not chastised anyone for "using news reports when referencing Cardinal Burke." That is false.

Here's what I actually said:

I've asked you to show where you derive the authority to stand in judgment of me -- and now, of the bishops. You have cited a news article. A news article! A news article! Astounding.

See that? I was finding fault with using a news article as the basis for standing in judgment of me, and, by implication, the bishops. And what was that judgment? I'll provide yet another quotation. In fact, I'll quote the entire comment of mine, which includes quotes from the person who was attacking me. You can read all about it in this thread: https://frmartinfox.blogspot.com/2016/08/clinton-and-trump-both-evil-one-may-be.html

"Father, you can justify the evil you do until the second coming and it will still be evil to sit on the fence and aid the election of Hillary Clinton. The fact that you encourage others to do the same is double the evil. May God have mercy on your soul."

I've been very patient. You accuse me of doing "evil." Really. When my mother was alive, had I said such a thing about a priest, she would have slapped my face.

You accuse me of doing "evil" when I am advocating doing that which the U.S. bishops affirm all Catholics may do:

"36. When all candidates hold a position that promotes an intrinsically evil act, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods." (From Forming Consciences for Faithful Discipleship.) So it would seem you are accusing the U.S. bishops, who approved this document, of doing "evil."

I've asked you to show where you derive the authority to stand in judgment of me -- and now, of the bishops. You have cited a news article. A news article! A news article! Astounding.

I dare you to write to Cardinal Burke, and ask him if he agrees with you. I double-dare you. In fact, to make it worth your while, I will make a $1,000 donation to the Catholic charity of your choice, once you produce a response from his Eminence.

And, further, I may just write him myself. If he agrees with me -- namely, that he was giving his own, personal view, not giving authoritative teaching in contradiction to what I have quoted -- will you apologize? Will you?

End of quotation.

Mrs. Malley/La Duca, everyone can now see why you adamantly refuse to cite actual quotes. Because, if you actually produced quotes, they would contradict your attacks on my character and person.

It's crystal-clear. When I say you have made false statements, I actually quote what you said, and produce real facts that support my point. I have nothing to hide. I am quite willing to quote my own words, at length. However, when you attack me, call me a liar and other things, you produce...nothing but your own assertions.

Mrs. La Duca/Malley, in all charity, I urge you to stop this. I'm sad that you're angry and hurt. I'm sorry for the trials you've experienced. I wish you the best. But your behavior on this thread is terrible. It is not helping your cause.

Patricia La Duca said...

...Fr. Fox, your behavior on this thread is terrible as it promulgates a double-standard that, in truth, has done much to scandalize the flock for generations.

That said, everyone here can see how you adamantly hide behind your position and the assertion that you can draw conclusions from what others imply, while others are seemingly precluded from drawing logical conclusions from what you imply. Bold your sentences if you like, use caps, call others liars, it means very little as, again, your logic is flawed. That impugns your own character.

A crystal clear summation of that reality is available to anyone who desires the truth and not just to skim over assertions that you make in an attempt to gain that pass you are so determined not to give to others.

In all charity I prayed quite heartily for you last night, Father. I will continue to do so. Calling others illogical in their understanding that a third party vote is a spoiler (throwaway) and, in fact, results in supporting grave evil that targets the heart of the Church and our country is to call His Excellency, Cardinal Burke illogical. He is not. And, Father, neither am I.

As to "my cause", perhaps you assume that electing Trump is my only cause. It isn't. Truth is the cause here, Fr. Fox, all of it. That is why your staunch refusal to take any accountability for your own oversteps and giving offense is so objectionable. And again, it is not you, much as you may wish it were, that I am calling out. It is, Father, your bogus position of attempting to defame those Catholics who are choosing to vote for Trump of still voting for evil. Although, for your protection, you used an ... to convey your message.

That said, mere sadness is nothing but an emotion. And I am not angry or hurt, but rather woefully disappointed, having expected, perhaps, far more than what you are able or willing to give. A simple acknowledgement of your own actions and inaction.

I wish you the best, too. Far better actually. Another reason why I took the time to engage with you.

northernhermit said...

I think the one point not made is that a vote for either presidential candidate is not purely a vote for the candidate alone. It also is a vote for their political party and that party’s platform, and also a vote for any future votes those future party politicians will make in the next four years. It is party and partisan politics; the candidates cannot be isolated from that. This is one election where the party platform strongly outweighs the presidential candidate’s individual personalities

rcg said...

I think it is pretty clear that Fr Fox did not express or imply condemnation of anyone for not voting. If anything he was clarifying that we can fulfill or obligation of citizenship without voting for either of the major candidates. There have been times past where Catholics would have needed to find and vote for an obnoxious candidate in an attempt to frustrate a candidate with truly bad (evil) intentions. The clear desire of the Democrat Party to expand the use of abortion is simply an easy tag declaring that party unacceptable. Most issues are not so clear nor are the results of planned polices so easy to predict for most people. At this point in time we are not required to support abortion as a policy and we still have the right to meet our obligation to oppose it. If the current tactic of mob response against anyone opposing homosexual marriage is any indication we are close to finding ourselves on the wrong end of the law for hate speech for these and eventually any other new think supported by the government. How would voting for Mr Trump help us with that? The remaining choices of boutique political parties with specialty platforms derived from conspiracy theories and infomercials might be a good alternative if only to demonstrate our contempt for the main political body while simultaneously praying that the Holy Spirit will strike us with a solar flare if any of them gets elected.

Patricia La Duca said...

"...How would voting for Mr Trump help us with that?"

I think it's pretty clear that Fr. Fox was advocating that those who choose the lesser of two evils out of necessity in this election are still voting for evil. That was clear pontificating and the presumption of a holier position. Hence the tag holier-than-thou.

While Fr. Fox's statements are well within the letter of saying he supports the magisterium, his pretense of not denigrating the position of others is transparent. Like shredded cheese cloth, like a clear glass, or like nothing at all because he's right out there pontificating.

Hope that makes you all feel really righteous down the road if Clinton gets the White House. You'll have yourselves to blame in large part.

Scelata said...

You are a very patient man, Fr Fox. Very.
(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)