Fr. Edward Meeks is a Catholic priest of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, and the
founding pastor of Christ the King Church in Towson, Maryland. In his homily “Staring into the Abyss” Fr. Meeks lays out moral principles for Catholics to observe when voting – but these principles are not limited to Catholics alone, they are principles which all Christian believers can and should consider when conducting their civic duties, especially when voting.
We urge CHQ readers and friends to share this transcript and video with their priest or pastor in the hope that it will be read from the pulpit or form the basis of their sermon or homily on Sunday, November 1, 2020.
Father Edward Meeks:
I’ve been mentioning for the past two Sundays that I’m going to be speaking today on the November 3rd election, and I want to give you a little heads-up as I begin. I will be going a little bit long this morning because I have a lot of ground to cover*.
We are “staring into the abyss”
This will be for me, personally, the 14th presidential election I will have voted in since reaching the age of majority, and this one is unlike anything I have ever seen. I actually said this same thing about the last election in 2016, but the events of the last 4 years—in fact, of the past 6–7 months—have cast this upcoming election in a whole new and ever more dire light. I believe that at this moment in time and history, you and I find ourselves as part of a society that is staring into the abyss. And, how our nation votes on November 3rd will determine whether we collectively step off the cliff into that abyss or step back from it, if only temporarily.
Your vote should align with Church teachings
Now, let me preface my remarks by saying [that] it is not my place to tell you how you must vote. We do, after all, still live in a free country with free elections—at least for the time being. But, it is my place as your priest and pastor to help you see how your vote may or may not line up with the teachings of the Church. So, I will tell you emphatically that what I’m about to say to you should not be taken as an implicit endorsement of any candidate by Christ the King Church or by the personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
I’m taking this opportunity to speak to you personally, to share with you my own personal opinion. But, it’s an opinion both formed and informed by the Word of God and by the crystal–clear teaching of the Church for the purpose of helping you think through the choices. Because, again, there are certain realities about the candidates and their parties that directly impact our Catholic faith. And so, we must be aware of these realities before we cast our vote. And, my first allegiance is not to any political candidate or party, but to the truth of God and His Church. So, what I’m going to say is not politically- motivated because the stakes involved far transcend politics. But, what I’m going to say, I believe, has to be said.
“I grieve for what has become of America”
Now, let me begin by telling you that I have struggled mightily with this message—not because I’m afraid of the Truth (I think you know me better than that!)…To the contrary, the Truth is what motivates me every day of my life. I resonate completely with St. Paul who said, “Woe is me if I do not preach the truth of the Gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:16) Frankly, if I were not sold out to the truth, I wouldn’t even be standing in front of you today because I would not be a Catholic priest.
No, the reason from my struggle has to do with the vitriol and the vicious animosities that are evident in our society today…animosities that have played out tens of millions of times daily on social media and in the violence that has overtaken so many of America’s cities, and was even on full display in the recent Presidential Debate.
Brothers and Sisters, we live in a nation that is—sadly, tragically—divided; a nation at odds with itself. Jesus’ words in the Gospel of this past Friday (Oct. 9, 2020 from Luke 11:15-26) were never more true: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I grieve for what has become of America. And so, the last thing I want to do is to have this message contribute to that division in our country, and—least of all—to have it cause division in our parish. You and I are children of the same Heavenly Father. You and I are servants of the same Lord and Master. We are first Christians, Catholics; we are second, American; and, then, somewhere down the line from there we are Republicans or Democrats or Independents or whatever. Never forget that order.
And so, it has almost become a cliché to declare that we have “reached the tipping point” in our nation, but it is also true. And, it is time for faithful Catholics and other Christians to stand up courageously and forthrightly to confront the evil that has overtaken our culture and say, “Enough is enough!” Because whether you are aware of it or not, there are powerful forces in government at every level, as well as in the mainstream media, and in the Silicon Valley technocracy that are working aggressively to silence the Church through legislation, lies, intimidation, and censorship.
“Think with the Church”
So for us faithful Catholics, the starting point of our choice of whom to vote for needs to be that we intentionally think with the Church. Think with the Church!—something that too many Catholics have failed to do for far too long—a fact that has largely contributed to the dire condition of our culture today. The Church has clearly and consistently based Her teaching on the Sacred Scriptures and on the living tradition embodied in 2,000 years of Her Magisterium. That teaching has led to an array of foundational principles when it comes to us as Catholics and our moral and civic responsibilities.
It’s not always easy to sift through the myriad of issues at play in Presidential politics. So, it becomes crucial, then, that we properly prioritize those issues, because some are clearly more important than others. We can respectfully disagree. And, we can have differences of prudential judgment and opinion around issues like the economy, taxation, immigration, national defense, trade, health care, climate change, and so on. But, don’t get side-tracked by the spurious “seamless garment theory” espoused by many in the Church that asserts that issues like immigration and the environment are of equal weight with abortion.
Because, there is a set of issues upon which Catholics must not disagree. Pope Benedict XVI specified those issues in his 2012 Apostolic Constitution entitled Sacramentum Caritatis, in which Benedict defined what he called our “non-negotiable values”—a concept which he repeated countless times during his pontificate. Among the list of “non-negotiable values” which he identified, chief among them are: 1) the sanctity of life from conception to natural death; 2) the sanctity of marriage as a life-long sacramental union of a man and a woman; 3) the preservation of religious liberty. They are “non-negotiable” because they are of paramount importance in Catholic moral theology. They are the moral principles where the Church draws a clear line in the sand. In all of the fog and the confusion and spin that surrounds every political season, we must, as faithful Catholics, conscientiously vote in such a way that best upholds and protects these “non-negotiable” values. Again: 1) the sanctity of life; 2) the sanctity of marriage; and 3) religious liberty.
Not that other issues are unimportant, but these three are foundational to who we are as human beings and to what kind of society we are constructing. As Pope Benedict wrote regarding these values (quote): “In the face of fundamental and inalienable ethical demands, Christians must recognize that what is at stake is the essence of the moral law, which concerns the integral good of the human person.” On these and other critical issues, there is one presidential candidate who stands in very public, very obstinate opposition to Church teaching, namely, former vice-president Joe Biden, along with the Democratic Party. And so, I’d like to share with you the five things that every Catholic needs to know about “Catholic” Joe Biden, and how these line up with the “non-negotiables.”
And, by the way, before I begin, and for the sake of those of you who might be a little bit squeamish about what I’m about to say, let me quote for you a principle from the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, entitled Gaudium et Spes. The Council Fathers wrote this (quote): “At all time and in all places, the Church should have the true freedom to teach the Faith, to proclaim its teaching about society, to carry out its task among men without hindrance, and to pass moral judgments even in matters relating to politics whenever the fundamental right of man or the salvation of souls requires it.” (paragraph 76)
Five things that every Catholic needs to know about “Catholic” Joe Biden
OK, then. The five things that every Catholic needs to know about “Catholic” Joe Biden:
#1—Joe Biden is unabashedly pro-abortion. This fact is clear from his long voting record, his public pronouncements, his allegiance to and support of groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL, and from his party’s platform not only in this election year but in their platform going back decades. He and they support abortion for any reason or for no reason, right up to and even beyond the moment of birth. He and they oppose the effort in Congress to pass legislation requiring doctors who perform abortions to provide medical care to babies who survive the abortion, opting, rather, to let such babies simply die outside the womb with no care. He and they are pushing for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, and action which would force all American taxpayers, including you and me, to fund abortions, to pay for them. Along with their anti-life positions on euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research, and other issues, the Democrat Party has become the party of death. And, “Catholic” Joe Biden is their standard-bearer—or, as he said in the first Presidential Debate: “I am the Democratic Party!”
#2—Joe Biden opposes the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of marriage. While he was vice-president, he publicly endorsed same-sex marriage in 2012, three years before the Supreme Court ruling. And, in 2016 (while still the vice-president) he officiated over the “wedding” ceremony of two men, posting a photo of the ceremony on Twitter, with the captions: “Proud to marry Brian and Joe at my house. Couldn’t be happier! Two long-time White House staffers, two great guys!”
#3—A Biden presidency would be a danger to our already dwindling religious liberty. He and his party advocate for the repeal of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which protects the religious conscience rights of healthcare workers who decline to participate in abortions, and of Church-based adoption agencies that choose to place children only with married, heterosexual couples, among other things. Biden is also on record committing to restoring the Obamacare mandate requiring religious ministries and orders like the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide contraceptive and abortifacient drugs to their employees, despite the fact that that is a direct violation of their faith conviction and of Church teaching.
And, by the way, on the subject of religious liberty, Joe Biden is on the record as saying that as President he would not hesitate to re- institute a nation-wide pandemic lockdown if the science demands it.
Undoubtedly, such a lock-down would once again close our churches. Let me remind you of what it was like for us to have no public Masses and no sacraments for 11 weeks this past Spring.
#4—Although Joe Biden rejects the label of “socialist” his presidency would undoubtedly open the door for America to very quickly become a socialist country. Evidence for this assertion is in his signing on to the self-avowed socialist Bernie Sanders’ agenda. His selection as a running mate of Senator Kamala Harris, identified by bi-partisan groups, by non-partisan groups as the THE most leftist member of the U.S. Senate. His months’-long silence on the murder and mayhem being inflicted on America’s cities by Marxist–Socialist organizations, as well as the all-too-obvious and serious influence being exercised within the Democrat Party by leftist extremists.
“So, why,” you may ask, “should that be an issue of concern for Catholics?” One has only to consider the lessons of history and the teachings of the Popes to answer the question. For more than 200 years, wherever Socialism has sought to gain a foothold—in France (following the French Revolution), in the 20th Century and today in Latin America, in Eastern Europe, in Asia, or wherever—the Socialists have viewed the Church—especially and specifically, the Catholic Church—as an enemy to be destroyed, or that the very least, to be silenced and marginalized. Socialism is a soul-robbing ideology that always and inevitably leads to totalitarianism, where the government presumes to put itself in the place of God in the lives of its subservient citizens. For this reason, Socialism has been clearly and vigorously condemned and denounced by an unbroken string of no less than 11 consecutive Popes, from Pius IX in 1849 to Benedict XVI in 2005.
Mob rule is one of the chief tactics and strategies of Socialism. And, in a perverse twist of ironies, the same Socialist mobs who like to chant “Silence is violence”, reaped the benefits of the several-months- long silence of Joe Biden and his party as the mobs carried out their orchestrated campaign of violence in America’s cities. Again, Joe Biden is probably personally not a Socialist. But he and the Democrat Party can validly called out for giving aid, comfort, and encouragement to those who are, whether they be the demonic forces unleashed in the streets of America’s cities by Marxists, Nihilists, Anarchists, Revolutionaries or those in elected office in his own party who seek to push America so far to the left as to make it unrecognizable and to establish a socio-politic, socio-economic and political system that is openly hostile to the Church.
#5—Joe Biden’s position on these 4 moral issues as a very high-profile Catholic—a man who served in the U.S. Senate for more than three decades and then as vice-president for eight years, and now as a candidate for President—a very high-profile Catholic. His positions, then, serve to subvert and undermine the faith of nominal and poorly- catechized Catholics. As, for example, it gives rise to the misinformed effort known as “Catholics for Biden.” At least one of Biden’s campaign ads pictures his with Pope Francis and with a group of smiling nuns in an effort to portray himself as a devout Catholic. And, by the way, when you have to tell people what a good Catholic you are, does that not make you question how good a Catholic the person really is? Ironically, it’s another group of nuns—namely, the Little Sisters of the Poor—who would once again be targeted by a Biden presidency for enforcement of the Obamacare mandate. Furthermore, Senator Kamala Harris, [Biden’s] running mate, is on record calling the Knights of Columbus, quote: “An all-male extremist group”— “Extremist” because of the Knights’ clear support of Church teaching on the “non- negotiables” that we’re talking about here. And, by the way, Deacon Bud, Father Rob and I are all members of the Knights of Columbus…and, yeah!—we’re all male. What of it? I leave it up to you to decide if we’re also “extremists.”
Also, isn’t it interesting that the same leftist media which gives high praise to Joe Biden’s “Catholicism”, while characterizing the Catholicism of Judge Amy Coney Barrett as “dangerous and extremist.” The perennial failure of many of our Bishops to call out Biden and other Catholic politicians who publicly defy the Church’s most cherished moral teachings only serves to confuse many Catholics and many others in our society, causing them to think, “Oh, I guess what he holds isn’t that bad.” Isn’t that bad?—: the willful destruction of 61 million babies in the womb, including, by the way, 23 million black babies—Isn’t that sad? I ask you, “What could be worse?”
In its document entitled, “Living the Gospel of Life,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declared abortion to be the pre- eminent moral issue of our time. The right to life undergirds all other rights. That’s why it’s mentioned first in the Declaration of Independence. And, it represents government’s most important responsibility. So, don’t let anyone—be he a priest, a bishop, or a cardinal—tell you otherwise. Abortion is, I believe, spiritually speaking both the primary cause and the primary symptom of a society in a downward death spiral. As I said, it’s time for faithful Catholics to stand us and say, “Enough is enough,” to all office-holders and politicians who claim to be devout Catholics while publicly and obstinately contradicting the Church and subverting her teachings.
Sobering reflection by Archbishop Fulton Sheen
In conclusion, we are as a nation—as I stated earlier—I believe, staring into the abyss, stemming from our culture’s wholesale rejection of God and His law—a rejection manifested most tangibly in five decades of legalized abortion. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once wrote these words almost 60 years ago–quote: “A nation always gets the kind of politicians it deserves. If a time ever comes when the religious Jews, Protestants, and Catholics ever have to suffer under a totalitarian state which would deny to them the right to worship God according to the light of their conscience, it will be because for years they thought it made no difference what kind of people represented them, and because they abandoned the spiritual in the realm of the temporal.”
And so the bottom line, Brothers and Sisters, is: VOTE! And, when you do, think with the Church—while also understanding this: that no one running for public office is ultimately the solution for what ails America. Only God is! That’s not a statement of resignation to the inevitable. It is, rather, a statement of hope. The late Father Richard John Neuhaus once wrote: “Christians have not the right to despair, for despair is a sin. And, we have not reason to despair, quite simply because Christ is risen.” You and I are called to be salt and light in a dark and dying world. And, you and I as faithful American Catholics are engaged in the battle for the soul of our beloved Nation. Let’s take that call seriously.
I’d like to conclude this homily with a quote from the Old Testament that you’re no doubt familiar with. It’s one of my very favorite Scripture quotes and one which is most pertinent and most compelling for today—2 Chronicles 7:14—Almighty God declares this: “If my people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then…then…will I hear from Heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.” God bless you! And may God continue to bless America!
Fr. Edward Meeks
Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter
born alive legislation