A Critical Analysis of “Staring Into the Abyss with Fr. Ed Meeks” — PART THREE
“In this statement, we bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote.”
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States (emphasis added)
“A Catholic organization may not directly or indirectly make any statement, in any medium, to endorse, support, or oppose any candidate for public office, political party or PAC.”
Political Activity & Lobbying Guidelines for Catholic Organizations — USCCB Office of General Counsel
On October 11th, Fr. Edward Meeks delivered a 26-minute homily at Christ the King parish in Towson, MD. His homily was subsequently uploaded to his YouTube channel under the title “Staring Into the Abyss with Fr. Ed Meeks” and has amassed over one million views at this writing.
The homily has also been poorly transcribed and published at The Thinking Conservative. I was unable to copy and paste directly from the published transcript, but I converted it to a PDF document and will be using that version (with slight corrections) for my analysis here.
Fr. Meek’s homily can be divided into three parts: the preamble, a five-point critique of Joe Biden, and the conclusion. I will work through the homily in the same sequence here, working selectively in line-by-line commentary and then comments following longer sections. This is part three of three. You can read part one here and part two here.
PART THREE: CONCLUSION
I am going to work line-by-line, with a few grouped lines. I opted against adding concluding commentary to the end because the method of textual analysis I have chosen seems to speak for itself.
In conclusion, we are as a nation, as I stated earlier, I believe, staring into the abyss, stemming from our culture's wholesale rejection of God and his law, a rejection manifested most tangibly in five decades of legalized abortion.
What is “the abyss”? If we take the “wholesale rejection of God and his law, a rejection manifested most tangibly in five decades of legalized abortion” as the root that the stem of “the abyss” emerges from them I guess it is a dystopian prediction that the Church in America will decline into nothing. This is a thesis that has been predicted many times. Rod Dreher has made this sky is falling narrative into an entire repetitive career. People like William F. Buckley Jr. made the same case in God and Man at Yale in the 50s and the same basic thesis is republished at regular intervals. Is that the abyss? The same cultural decline, moral degradation, and all that jazz? One does wonder how Fr. Meeks tracks this claim with the steady decline of abortion over the five decades of its legalization and also the precipitous climb of abortions during the global pandemic he is so cavalier about.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once wrote these words, almost sixty years ago, “A nation always gets the kind of politicians it deserves. If the time ever comes when the religious Jews, Protestants and Catholics ever have to suffer under a totalitarian state which would allow them to them the right to worship God according to the light of their conscience, it will be because for years they thought it made no difference what kind of people represented them, and because they abandoned the spiritual in the realm of the temporal.”
This is a hilarious speech to quote Archbishop Sheen from. It is from a 1947 radio broadcast titled “Light Your Lamp.” The subject is how to combat communism, which in 1947 refers to Russian Stalinism. Before Meek’s chosen passage, Sheen’s first negative suggestion for opposing communism is “not by name-calling or hate.” (Who name calls and hates? Biden or Trump?) Sheen’s first positive suggestion for fighting communism is as follows: “Communism can be met politically by choosing candidates in elections not on the basis of political party, not on the basis of the economic class they support, but on the basis of the moral worth of the candidate. Namely, whether a candidate is a husband of one wife, whether he says his prayers, whether he refuses to follow a party line dictated from abroad.” (Who is a faithful husband? Who wears a rosary around his wrist? Who prays? Who is refuses to take orders from abroad?) After these opening notes, Sheen discusses the need to give workers more ownership over their means of production than faceless stockholders and this proposal, on the whole, is a very good way to think of the core economic proposal of social democrats. So Fr. Meeks’ attempt to moralize with Sheen backfires tremendously to the one who checks the source. You can listen to Sheen’s entire address here.
And so the bottom line, brothers and sisters, is vote, and when you do, think with the church, while also understanding this: that no one running for public office is ultimately the solution for what ails America, only God is. That’s not a statement of resignation to the inevitable, it is rather a statement of Hope.
This is fairly innocuous on its own. Fr. Meeks is right that we should vote and, of course, God is the only theological solution to anything, but this does seem to be a soft and gentle facelift to Trump’s character. Sort of like saying “vote for Trump, but trust in God” or something like that. It is hard to get hope from the abyss though. I am not led to believe that Fr. Meeks is an apophatic politician or proposing some mystical via negative for us to follow, and we still do not know what this abyss metaphor is about.
The late Father Richard John Neuhaus once wrote, “Christians have not the right to despair, for despair is a sin, and we have not a reason to despair,” he said, “quite simply because Christ is risen.”
So, the US is standing at the edge of an abyss and staring into it but we should not give in to despair because it is a sin. I am fine with that, actually. The only issue that Fr. Meeks’ abyssal situation leaves a lot of things out like COVID-19, racism, and more. Another point to remind the reader is that Trump is the incumbent. If things are this dire and abysmal after Trump’s first term then why is he critiquing Biden?
You and I are called to be salt and light in a dark and dying world. And you and I as faithful American Catholics are engaged in a battle for the soul of our beloved Nation. Let’s take that call seriously.
If the world is dying then it might be good to mention that we can invoke the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth and that God so LOVED THE WORLD that He sent us Christ His Son. I know this is perhaps too much to read into this, but one can see a dualistic Gnosticism here at play where the world is discarded and the soul is preserved. This also reminds me that we have heard nothing about a real threat to our common home the earth and to us its inhabitants: climate change.
I like to conclude this homily with a quote from the Old Testament that you’re, no doubt, familiar with. It’s one of my very favourite scripture quotes and one which is most pertinent and most compelling for today. 2 Chronicles 7:14, Almighty God declares this, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways then, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.”
I was sure Fr. Meeks would try to save his “homily” by inserting a reading from readings for the day, but this is not from the liturgy. But it is a lovely passage nonetheless.
God bless you and may God Bless America.
In the video, the congregation erupts into thunderous applause after this line. I tend to not like applause at Mass, especially if it is not intended for worship, but it is funny to me how this secular clapping performatively certifies that this so-called “homily” is, in fact, a premeditated partisan political speech, made to order for media promotion, masquerading as a Sunday homily. Fr. Meeks disgracefully turned his parish’s celebration of the Mass into a Trump rally in violation of canon and civic law of his Church and State.
Thanks for reading everyone! Please share this widely with those who are using it as a self-evident and obvious reason for Catholics to vote for Trump. It is not.
Vote your well-formed conscience!
You can read a lightly edited, complete version of all three parts here.