A rather enormous amount of digital ink has been spilled over the last couple of days analyzing the election. I cant imagine there is any discernable trendCatholic or otherwisethat hasnt been thoroughly analyzed by smarter people than me.

After the election I felt the same way that I felt after my gall bladder surgery: relieved that something unhealthy had been removed, but not exactly ready to jump for joy. I think I need a few days in bed with some Vicodin to recover.

By unhealthy, I dont mean that the Republican Party itself is a font of contagion. But 12 years in power is a long time. The system of checks and balances had clearly broken down. Control of one branch of government corrupts and control of two branches corrupts absolutely. For all kinds of reasons, it was time for a change.

Will the Democrats be any better? For a time, it may be so. Certainly there are aspects of the common good that might be better served by a Democratic Congress. But there are also issues where Catholics and the mainstream of the party have often been at odds. Those of us inclined to be pleased at last Tuesdays result have a special obligation not to mute our prophetic voice simply because our political allies now hold the reins of power.

Let me close with two final points. The first is we need to take a hard look at the way that politics is affecting how we relate to one another within the Church. There are practicing Catholics active in both of the major political parties, and that is a good thing. But there are dangers here too. One danger is that our partisan affiliation becomes more predictive of our stands on certain issues than the fact that we are members of the Body of Christ. The second dangerone well highlighted by Cathy belowis when we import into the Church the kind of bitter, partisan discourse that has become all too common in our political campaigns. Our bishops, in particular, need to provide leadership in these areas.

My last point is that we need to place politics in its proper place within the apostolic life to which we are called. I believe deeply that Catholics are called to collaborate with all men and women of good will to achieve a more just and well-ordered society. But I dont believe that the fundamental transformation of society to which Christians are called is something that is primarily accomplished through the coercive power of the state. Our primary focus must be Christian formation rather than political mobilization, trusting that well-formed Christians will have the virtues necessary to contribute effectively to the common good.

Having said these things, I hope you will join me praying for our elected officials.

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