In 1859, the radical abolitionist John Brown was executed for treason and murder after leading raids and uprisings. Raised in a Calvinist, anti-slavery home, he was so moved by an 1837 abolition meeting that he swore to dedicate his life to ending slavery. Many lives were lost – including three of his sons – as he launched his guerilla warfare.

What consumed Brown was the glaring injustice and immorality of slavery. For those of us who see it clearly, abortion is a comparable evil – the taking of one life by another, the refusal to acknowledge the humanity of a person who has been legally deemed not quite enough of a person to warrant the same protections and rights – to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – we all enjoy as citizens of this country.

I begin with this premise to make a point about government, politics, Catholicism and the recent election. I received a number of angry communications following the publication of Mark Pattison’s article, “Sixty years after JFK, nation to get second Catholic president.” Written for the Catholic News Service – the press arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – the article was a very statistics-driven take on the election, not full of exultation. I chose the article for that reason.

Those who wrote and called me generally made the same points: The election has not yet been decided; this publication is biased; and Joe Biden is not Catholic because of his stance on abortion.

In response to the first statement: Yes, the recounts continue, and we (as well as the Catholic News Service and every other news outlet) will continue to report on the news as it happens.
In response to the second: Our obligation is to print news relevant to Catholics in this diocese. The election of a president will affect the lives of everyone, and to ignore it would imply bias. On a personal note, as I’ve written in a previous editorial, I often vote for third-party candidates, as I did in this election. Editorial bias did not influence my decision to run the article.

In response to the third: Joe Biden is a cradle Catholic. He is a registered member of a parish. He buried his son in their cemetery. He carries his dead son’s rosary with him. Earlier in his career, he was pro-life, but (like many Catholic Democrats) changed his stance to some variation on “I can’t tell women what to do with their bodies” as the party turned increasingly pro-choice. He remains personally opposed to abortion (and I hope it is a source of tension for him, because it should be).

Which brings me to my first point: Because Biden is Catholic, personally against abortion and a compassionate man (his first wife and 13-month-old daughter were killed in a car crash a week before Christmas in 1972 – he has known much suffering), he is in a position to be moved by prayer, by faith, and by God.

So, first, no matter how you feel about this election, pray for him. Pray for a moment of conversion for politicians who let their politics override their personal convictions on abortion.
Second, understand that pro-life voters who are filled with anger (especially Catholic pro-life voters, who cannot ignore the glaring contradiction of a Catholic whose pro-choice stance will enable more abortion) are frustrated. If that describes you, direct your passion to some greater good – speak about abortion in the public sphere, promote pro-life views, pray, support a pro-life organization, work toward a more pro-life culture. We must not – like John Brown – let our passion override our reason.

Third, go on a news diet if (and when) you feel your mental health slipping. God, not politics, should be at the center of our minds and hearts. If you are struggling with hatred or rage, he will bring you peace.

Fourth, direct your eyes to heaven, and then think about what matters most to you in this life: Your loved ones and friends, God, your faith, your work, your health, your community, perhaps a farm or business you’ve poured your life into building. When you look around the table at Thanksgiving this year – and yes, this will be a strange one for many of us – reflect on your many blessings, and be grateful.

Finally, just as an aside, I’ve heard at least one person say COVID-19 is some sort of hoax. I live near Eau Claire, which is deep into an outbreak, and I can assure you that when coronavirus comes to town, you’ll start hearing scary stories. A 20-something having a heart attack, a woman who lost her voice back in March and still cannot speak, partially collapsed lungs, local hospitals exceeding 100-percent capacity, and on and on. We were lucky – COVID-19 was a mild-mannered visitor to our home last month – but that is not the case for some, and it doesn’t just affect the elderly and immune-compromised. The virus is unpredictable. So please, safeguard your health and that of your neighbors, and pray, too, for the end of the pandemic.

A blessed Thanksgiving to you all.