Jesuit Pontificating on the Election

Jesuit Pontificating on the Election

Each member of the Society of Jesus completes between eight and seventeen years of advanced education. Not surprisingly, Jesuits were long regarded as intellectually superior, and whenever a group of them offered their consensus view of an issue, people were impressed. Today, alas, thinking people are likely to be depressed. This failure to live up to expectations is well illustrated by the December 12, 2020 editorial in the once distinguished Jesuit magazine America entitled “The Shameful Participation of Catholic Leaders in Trump’s Attempt to Steal the Election.” Here are key excerpts with highlights added in bold type.

THE EDITORS REFER to their earlier (September) warning concerning Trump’s disregard for the system of laws and customs that establish the necessary conditions for debate, decision-making and public accountability in this republic,” adding that it “posed a unique threat to the American constitutional order.”

COMMENT: No president’s behavior in U.S. history has been as investigated as President Trump’s. Yet not a single fact has been found that could remotely qualify as “disregard for laws and customs” let alone as a “threat to constitutional order.” And no president has been more transparent about his actions nor more open to discussion and debate. Moreover, for the editors to criticize Trump for violating the conditions of debate while ignoring the Democrats’ unrelenting assaults on him, many of them false and contrived, as well as their refusal to discuss his proposals, is to give new meaning to the audacity known in Hebrew as chutzpah!

THE EDITORS THEN EXTEND their contempt beyond Trump to “many figures within the Republican Party [who] have abetted Mr. Trump’s outlandish lies about ‘massive’ election fraud, for which no one has provided any coherent evidence, and that they have cooperated with him in filing . . .clumsily drafted lawsuits . . . [to advance these dangerous] attempts to overturn the will of the voters. . . [and surrender to] Mr. Trump’s delusional refusal to concede his objective loss.”

COMMENT:  Trump delusional? Trump lying about fraud? No coherent evidence? What about the “thousands of affidavits and declarations, testimony in a variety of state venues, published analyses by think tanks and legal centers, videos and photos, public comments, and extensive press coverage” summarized in Peter Navarro’s 36-page report, “The Immaculate Deception,” and accompanied by 148 endnotes?

Navarro provides a matrix indicating that “significant irregularities occurred across all six battleground states and across all six dimensions of election irregularities.” And he concludes that “patterns of election irregularities observed in this report are so consistent across the six battleground states that they suggest a coordinated strategy to, if not steal the election, then to strategically game the election process in such a way as to unfairly tilt the playing field in favor of the Biden-Harris ticket.”

Let’s be honest here–if there is any abetting of outlandish lies about election fraud, any advancement of efforts to overturn the will of the voters, and any delusion, it is certainly not by Trump’s followers but rather by the mainstream media and people like America’s editors who get their news from those media.

THE EDITORS CONTINUE: “To make matters worse . . .some . . . are claiming the warrant of the Gospel, both praying for attempts to disenfranchise the populations of entire states . . .  and pretending that they are doing God’s will in supporting Mr. Trump’s assault on the integrity of American elections. That they have likely convinced themselves of the truth of Mr. Trump’s fabrications about the election being “stolen” from him does not reduce their culpability but instead underlines the degree to which their devotion to Mr. Trump has drawn them away from the facts that form thefoundation of the truth. . . [This constitutes]” an idolatrous use of the Gospel for nakedly partisan ends [to advance a] corrupt project . . . by any means necessary.

COMMENT: Do the editors really believe that only liberals have the right to invoke the Gospel? When conservatives do so are they are consciously making a mockery of God’s will? That is what the editors’ word “pretending” clearly suggests, and the claim that the conservatives are “culpable” reinforces it.  The editors must believe they have clairvoyant power to read the minds and hearts of millions. That, after all, is what would be required to accuse conservatives of dishonesty without evidence.

FINALLY, THE EDITORS “HOPE AND PRAY”  that American bishops “exercise a ministry of  fraternal correction by publicly clarifying for the faithful that [they] as a whole have not taken sides against the will of the voters in our democracy. ”They also PREDICT that the inauguration of Saint Biden (excuse me, I meant Joe Biden) will proceed smoothly and on schedule, as it has throughout our nation’s history    . . .” And they caution voters to “remember those who have abandoned such [civic] virtue and hold them to account in the next election.”

COMMENT: In the context of what they said earlier, the editors’ prayer for the bishops can only mean “Don’t you dare disagree with us and support Trump and his followers.” If you think such a message from clerics to members of the hierarchy is a tad presumptuous, remember that Jesuits are inclined to claim a privilege of intellectual rank over other Catholics, including those of higher status. In this case they also claim the privilege of recommending punishment for those who disagree with their interpretation of civic virtue.

An interesting fact: Catholicism recognizes seven cardinal/theological virtues and in this editorial America’s editors manage to violate four of them—prudence, justice, temperance, and charity. That is an achievement of sorts, but an unenviable one.

Also interesting, and even more troubling: the editors’ joint statement makes clear that they violated the most fundamental protocols of intellectual inquiry and judgment, protocols that surely were emphasized, not only throughout their many years of advanced education, but in every course in the curriculum. Those protocols are First, to seek out all perspectives on the issue in question, with special attention to those one is inclined to oppose; Secondly, to examine the evidence each side itself offers in support of their assertions (as distinguished from what their opponents say they mean), as well as any additional evidence; Thirdly, to decide what conclusion(s) can most reasonably be drawn from all the evidence, while considering the possibility that each side could be partly correct and partly incorrect.

In the America editorial, there is not an iota of evidence that the Jesuit editors asked the honest question, “What could possibly have led 71 million people to vote for Donald Trump rather than Joe Biden?” If they had asked that question and sincerely pursued the answer, they would have found it to be as follows. Those people chose Trump because he not only made noble promises as Biden did for half a century, but actually kept his promises, as Biden did not. Trump, as he promised, appointed hundreds of jurists who support the Constitution and the rights of unborn children. He also, as he promised, removed onerous government regulations that had driven innumerable companies to leave this country; achieved record economic growth that benefited all Americans; reformed the tax code; showed unprecedented support for Israel; achieved historic levels of mutual respect between Arabs and Israelis; and reduced American involvement in foreign hostilities. And he did all this, and more, while refusing to accept the annual presidential salary of $400,000 but instead donating it to charity.

College freshmen, with a single course in critical thinking under their belts, could have followed those protocols and discovered the facts I noted about Trump. So why couldn’t, or at least why didn’t, the exceptionally well-trained editors of America magazine do so? The possible answers include: a) they have forgotten how to set aside their feelings and prejudices and conduct an honest inquiry; b) they limit their data search to CNN, MSBC, and the New York Times in blissful unawareness that those sources have proved completely untrustworthy in their reporting on Donald Trump; c) they hate Trump so much that they have deemed him unworthy of fairness or charitableness and his followers unworthy of the benefit of the doubt.

Whatever the answer to that question may be, America’s audience deserved much better than the editors offered.

Copyright © 2021 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Vincent Ryan Ruggiero