A new dawn for democracy in America is the overall theme of this March issue of El Ignaciano. Each article tackles a different aspect of the possibilities created by this dawn emerging from a new administration committed to democratic values, social justice and the defense of the dignity of every human being.
Lorenzo Perez´s article on the possible outlook of President Biden´s economic programs and their social justice impact; Sixto Garcia´s concern with the new peripheries; Jorge de Leon´s analysis of the challenges in the educational system left behind by the difficult legacy of Betsy Devos and the prospects of Miguel Cardona´s new educational project; Siro del Castillo´s Anticipated vision of President Biden´s immigration policies; Maria del Carmen Izquierdo´s discussion of the national polarization of the past four years and the nascent hopes for the future, and Ramon Santos´s Reflection on Laudato Si and Fratelli Tutti as guides for future policies; all dwell and reflect on the challenges faced by the Biden Administration and the hopes for the future unleashed by the new dawn for democracy that his election victory has made possible.
This past election was not a matter of partisan politics (Democrats vs. Republicans) as elections usually are. In this particular election the issues at stake transcended party politics and became a matter of life and death for American democracy and the core values that it represents: equal rights regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation as well as a belief in true equality of social and economic opportunity which extends into the welcoming disposition towards immigrants expressed by the inscription on the Statue of Liberty.
Regrettably, despite the open and expectant attitude of most people towards the Trump Administration after the 2016 election, its actions and policies as well as its language and tone, became increasingly alarming. The Charlottesville events became a preamble to what turned out to be increasingly racist policies and attitudes; the insults and disqualifications towards American citizens of Mexican descent became a foretaste of an anti-immigration policy loaded with cruelty for families and children. The disregard for ecological concerns shown by the withdrawal from the Paris accords became a policy of exploitation of America´s natural resources with total abandonment of any protection for the environment and for what are the common natural treasures of the people of this country. Yet, perhaps, the most flagrant attack on the democratic values of this nation was the shameful mendacity and disregard for the truth that became the overarching tone of the Administration. The attack on the free press which, despite its errors and occasional blind spots, is one of the central pillars of a democratic society and the attempt to label it ¨fake news¨ had the effect of destroying any sense of objective reality and, therefore, emptying the ground for any possible civilized civic discourse and dialogue. It is not surprising that the mendacity, disregard for the truth and cult of power of this president resulted in what is, without a doubt, the most egregious attack on American democracy in its entire history, the undermining of the peaceful transition of power by the false claim that the election was stolen and by the inciting of the mob to violently attack the very seat of American democracy, the Capitol, in their attempt to impede Congress from counting the votes cast in the Electoral College and certifying Joseph Biden as the new President of the United States.
All the above transgressions, terrible as they are, fail to fully convey the fundamentally unchristian character of the underlying connecting thread of the policies and actions of the Trump administration. The absolute prioritizing of economic considerations over and above any and all human considerations, the cult of vanity, of power and of pride are a direct affront to the values of the Gospel and to the most basic Christian vision of society and of human dignity. It is almost a direct and total antithesis to every papal encyclical from LeoXIII´s Rerum Novarum to Francis´s Fratelli Tutti.
It is, therefore, very saddening to every Christian truly committed to Jesus Christ and to the values expressed in the Sermon on the Mountain, to have seen some priests and even bishops be blinded to all these transgressions by the concessions made by the Trump Administration to benefit the temporalities of the Church with school vouchers, tax breaks, invitations to the Whitehouse and contributions to a ¨culture war¨ opposed and decried by Pope Francis. It is even more saddening to witness the efforts of some priests and bishops to attempt to instrumentalize the sacraments as part of the ¨culture war¨ and weaponize the Eucharist against those who oppose them in that ¨war¨.
Regrettably, it is one of the failures of what Pope Francis has called ¨clericalism¨ to confuse the ¨temporalities¨ of the Church: schools, church buildings, Church finances, properties and social and political power with the true identity and mission of the Church which is to be ¨sacramentum mundi¨ by communicating the life and grace of God to the world through the proclamation of His Word and its witness to the Gospel values. One is sometimes reminded of the misguided attitudes of the Saducees and the Pharisees and their misunderstanding of the Torah and of the tradition of Israel. We hope no one forgets Mathew´s injunction, ¨No one can serve two masters: Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money¨.
The inauguration of the new Biden Administration has brought gladness and hope to us not because we necessarily support the Democratic Party over the Republican Party, we don´t. This is not a question of party politics. Ours is not a partisan position. We oppose any administration that violates and contradicts the Gospel values and the Social Justice values expressed in every social encyclical from Leo XIII´s Rerum Novarum to Francis´s Laudato Si and Fratelli Tutti. We don´t do it out of partisan ideology or preference, we do it out of the moral and prophetic obligation to stand by the Gospel values and the social justice doctrine of the Church.
We hope that the new Biden Administration will give us reason not to oppose it by acting in a way, beyond ¨culture wars¨, that respects Gospel values as expressed in Catholic Social Justice, a justice that defends the dignity of every human being regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. We fully support and empathize with Pope Francis´s letter to President Biden congratulating him on his inauguration as president and offering dialogue, as well as with Cardinal Blaise Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, and Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. who have congratulated President Biden and offered to carry on a dialogue with him. We hope other bishops and priests follow the example of the Pope and of the two American Cardinals.
We must conclude this editorial by pointing the readers to two articles in this issue remembering and celebrating the life of a man who lived an exemplary life of commitment to Jesus Christ and to Gospel values. A man who was a good son, a good husband, a good father, grandfather, great grandfather as well as a good friend and a heroic patriot. He was a good Jesuit disciple and true to that discipleship he served others till the end. We were honored to serve with Luis Fernandez-Rocha as part of El Ignaciano Editorial Board and to count him as a friend. May he enjoy God´s tender and eternal embrace.