There is something deeply disturbing about public figures and their very public sins. Not long ago, the reaction would have been shock. Their popularity would tank. Their deeds only whispered and then not in the presence of children. Today their free-spirited (that is, free of the Holy Spirit) thinking is celebrated. They become a model for others to emulate or are another instance of immoral behavior, proudly and boldly following in the footsteps of others.
Hollywood is a rich source of examples. Professional athletics is another. Popular music performers still another. As upsetting as so many of these individuals often are, theirs is a context that at least numbs our reaction. They are usually acting as individuals, representing only their own moral depravity and directly affecting only their own sad lives. They generally do not claim to be followers of Christ.
There is another group of public figures who share the attributes of the others noted above, but unlike them have a special trust with the public. They are elected, public servants. We have selected them, above all others, to represent us. We look to them for leadership and guidance. Some are elected partially on their professed Christian or even Catholic faith.
It is exceedingly disappointing then, when our elected officials turnout to be notorious and non-repentant sinners. To my mind, there are 3 areas of concern.
First, concern for their souls. They are listening to Satan’s lies. They have separated themselves from God. Whatever benefit they think that they are gaining in this life is at a forfeit of life in the next. Maybe they are simply placing the idol of their political party above God. Maybe they are looking for the approval of their friends. Perhaps they do not really believe the faith they profess. Maybe despite what their faith has taught them, they believe they can do these things, plead their case before God (most are attorneys) and then be saved by God’s mercy. Maybe, but that is a very risky assumption. God knows their hearts. This seems suicidal to me. Pray for these people, that their hearts soften, that the Holy Spirit fill their hearts, that they truly repent and work to mitigate the damage they have done.
Second, concern for that damage. The damage upon society for the policy actions they have taken may be great. This damage is real and inflicted at their hands regardless of how they try to have it both ways (“while I am personally against…”). The most clear-cut example is abortion. Babies are killed. Lives lost. Facilitated quite directly by the policy actions of these public servants. There is no way to dance around this one.
Third, for the scandal. This is really two parts. Part 1 is the reassurance to the public that these actions are not really sinful but even good. That they should be embraced and celebrated. This “leadership” is misleading and at the service of Satan, not God. Part 2 is for those who profess a Catholic identity. Some of our brothers and sisters may believe that through these examples, it is acceptable to be Catholic and yet embrace this or that sin as a “personal matter and choice, guided by their own (ill-formed) conscience.” It is NOT. Through the scandal, other souls may be “dragged down” with these very public sinners.
Support for abortion is the largest issue, above all others. Significant too is support for capital punishment, attacks on the family (gay marriage, divorce), unjust wars, promotion of contraception and even criminal acts such as accepting bribes.
Public servants are a special case of sinners for another reason. We can join them in their sins! Through our votes, we become complicit if their record is one which supports immorality. In some areas, there can be mitigating reasons for supporting them. This is absolutely not valid in the case of abortion which is recognized by the Church as an intrinsic evil. Voting for a pro-abortion candidate over a pro-life one is sinful as numerous bishops have repeatedly pointed out. We are not in an election cycle now. We are in Lent. This is a good time to reflect upon past choices, to examine our conscience and to repent.