Catholics and their institutions have likely been given something of a respite from the religious freedom wars with the election of Donald Trump, who has promised to defend a robust notion of religious freedom through his appointments to the federal judiciary. It will now be up to those Catholics who supported Mr. Trump to hold him to that pledge, and to others he has made about reversing the grave errors of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision abolishing the abortion laws of all fifty states and imposing a regime of abortion-on-demand on the entire country.
But Catholics with access to the Trump transition team and the incoming Trump administration will also have to be aware of the President-elect’s tendency to demonize opponents (in clear disregard for the first principle of Catholic social doctrine, which is respect for the inalienable dignity and value of every human life). And Catholics ought to be aware that certain of Trump’s appeals to national pride, which have veered at times into the fever swamps of xenophobia, disregard the Catholic social-ethical principle of solidarity. And Catholics should recognize that the President-elect’s tendency to espouse an almost libertarian individualism cuts against the Catholic social-ethical principle which teaches us to seek the common good, not just our personal aggrandizement. When the new administration fails to meet the test of these principles, it should be challenged.
Above all, however, serious Catholics will recognize that there is a sickness in our national political culture, which manifested itself in various ugly forms in the 2016 election cycle. And if the national political culture is sick, that’s because our public moral culture is sick — and that can only be healed by conversion or the deepening of lukewarm faith. The government cannot reform our public moral culture. But it can get out of the way of reformers, and it can stop privileging those who want to deconstruct that public moral culture even further.
So there are many miles to go before we sleep.