Grace can save a wretch, as U.S. President Barack Obama sang at the funeral of murdered pastor Clementa Pickney, but politics can’t. CNS photo/Bob Roller

Politics, pastor and presidents

  • July 2, 2015

When the massacre at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., took place, I was in the United States. I heard the news from another priest who, clearly devastated by the bloodshed in the house of God, added quickly thereafter a comment about the debate over gun control. I was struck at how even such a great wickedness was seen so quickly through the prism of politics. And indeed, in the days after the massacre, the talk shifted to political debates over gun laws and the confederate flag. The pastor of Mother Emmanuel, Clementa Pickney, murdered in his own church while leading a Bible study, was also a member of the South Carolina state senate, a pastor holding political office.

The following day, I gave an interview to a Catholic television network about the new encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si’. The first question was about Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s comment that, even though a Catholic, he did not look to the Church for guidance about his environmental policies. The following questions were largely about what impact the encyclical would have on American Catholic politicians. Would it make things more difficult for Republicans, largely unsympathetic to the Holy Father’s climate policies? Would it make things easier for Democrats, largely advocates of the unlimited abortion licence, to present themselves as allies of the Pope because they favoured a new global climate change treaty?

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