At the Lincoln Memorial

Martin Luther King I Have a Dream

Lord Jesus gave the homily in his hometown church. At first they loved and praised Him. But then He brought up some painful facts. [Spanish]

‘Our prophet Elijah did not save one of our widows from starvation. He saved a pagan widow–a Gentile foreigner. And our prophet Elisha did not cure the leprosy of one of our Jewish generals. He cured a Syrian who didn’t even want to wash himself in our Jordan River. He thought of it as a muddy creek. But our Elisha healed him in those very waters anyway.’

So the Nazarenes got mad at their countryman for pointing out that God loves the Gentiles as much as the Jews. As you will likely get mad at me, before I’m done here.

Most of the world now knows that there’s a Catholic boys school in Covington, Kentucky. At least everyone with a smartphone knows it. And everyone knows that a group of Covington-Catholic boys traveled by bus to Washington, D.C., to march for life. To stand up for the innocent and defenseless unborn children—the most vulnerable class of people in contemporary America.

After the March ended, the boys visited the Lincoln Memorial. In hindsight, they now think to themselves—and all those who know and love them think—they should have stayed inside the Memorial, quietly reading and meditating on the Gettysburg Address. It’s chiseled into the marble wall.

MAGA hat.pngInstead, the boys stayed outside. And mixed it up with some strange characters.

A dishonest person made a cellphone video, and accused the boys. ‘They surrounded a Native-American man beating a peace drum! Then mocked him and threatened him! An aggressive racist mob!’

Once the video hit the internet, another aggressive mob took over. The social-media mob. A bandwagon of moral indignation. ‘These boys should be expelled from school! They make us Catholic pro-lifers look bad! They stand for everything racist and unjust in this country!’

I myself first saw the “viral” video late that Saturday evening, when I “checked my Twitter.” I did not at first notice the “Make America Great Again” caps that some of the boys wore. I just saw high-school kids making more noise than they should, as high-school kids often do. And a Native-American man beating a drum endlessly for no immediately apparent reason. And a staring contest that made no sense.

I watched the video with my own particular interest, because I know that spot very well, as I imagine many of us do. One of my college jobs involved giving tours of the National Mall. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech right where the famous video was shot. The east staircase of the Lincoln Memorial, at the western end of the Reflecting Pool. A uniquely beautiful place, a place for quiet reflection—not for beating drums, or school chants, or staring contests.

But, like I said, when I watched the video, I didn’t notice the MAGA hats at first, because I’m not a particularly observant person. But a lot of people did notice the hats. That’s why they jumped to unreasonable conclusions. As they checked their Twitters and facebooks that Saturday, they saw the caps, and they immediately suspected the boys of harboring ill will towards non-whites.

lincolnNot fair. Not fair to judge the morals of a high-school boy, based solely on his cap. In the ensuing days, the truth emerged, about what happened between the boys and the Native-American with his drum. The boys had not mobbed anyone. The original viral video had a context. Other cellphone videos, recorded at the scene, revealed the full sequence of events. Then some people in the original social-media mob faced up to the truth and admitted their serious mistake. They looked in the mirror and realized that they had done to the boys what they had accused the boys of doing. Forming a cruel mob.

But, we’re not done here yet, fellow Israelites. We cannot simply say: Vindication for the good, pro-life boys; episode over. No.

The political life of our president began years ago. That is, it began when he claimed that our previous president, the first non-white President of the United States, actually came from Africa, not the USA.

Then Donald Trump began his campaign for president with a particular premise: Namely, that Mexicans steal, rape, and murder.

The social-media mob saw MAGA hats and over-reacted. Over-reacted big time. But: Had someone given them cause to over-react? Had someone given the MAGA hat a particular meaning? Namely: This country is primarily for white people. Yes, someone did give the hat that meaning. Donald J. Trump gave the hat that meaning.

Ok. The whole business at the Lincoln Memorial upset a lot of people. And I probably upset you, by even bringing it up. Do what’s the antidote?

Guess what? Ain’t hard. The antidote is: Going to Mass.

Some people think the internet is pure evil. Some people think it’s where we can finally find true democracy. One thing is for sure: Everything on the internet gets put in perspective when we come to Mass.

Yes, we can learn beautiful things that we never knew, over the internet. And we can join cruel, irrational mobs from our own couches, over the internet.

But the fundamental social network—it’s not on the internet. It’s at the holy altar of Jesus Christ. Where people actually know each other, and give each other the benefit of the doubt, and recognize each other not as “legals” and “illegals” but as: fellow sinners in need of God’s loving mercy.

I have probably said something that makes you mad. But I’m just trying to do my job as a priest–whose main job is: to say Mass. Holy Mass is the opposite of a viral video causing a “Twitter storm.” At the altar of Jesus Christ, dear reader, we can actually find peace with each other.

14 thoughts on “At the Lincoln Memorial

  1. Thank you padre for being so sensitive to racial justice issues but I strongly disagree with you about the meaning of the MAGA hat. it is the MSM and the left who have given – unfortunately with much success – a negative meaning to MAGA hats. Were the democrats and Hilary Clinton operatives who started the whispers that candidate Obama was from Africa racists? You would probably say no. Yet the white republican who has a willingness to believe conspiracy theories is racist. The only sins the left acknowledges and sees everywhere is racism, homophobia and trans-phobia, and that every instance of these “sins” is mortal. Thus their divisive commitment to group and identity politics. Sadly, the Church is taking its cue from the MSM and the spirit of the world so it feels the need to issue anodyne statements on racism like,“Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism” instead of being truly prophetic.

    The same people who quickly judge president Trump to be racist seem to have been blind to how racially divisive and offensive to Christian piety was the presidency of president Obama. One of the president’s major failings is that he often says petty and mean-spirited things and then never apologizes to those he has offended. Yet, has president Trump done anything to limit the civil rights of blacks, Mexicans or Asian Americans? Has he done anything to disadvantage racial minorities? Has he done anything to hinder their ability to attain or live the American Dream? The answer is all of these questions is no. Is there a moral argument for adding a few hundred miles of a wall and getting more robust security in place at the US-Mexico border? The answer is yes.

  2. MAGA = This country is primarily for white people. ?? Hmmm…

    I also didn’t notice the MAGA caps at first. But I also didn’t make any association between MAGA and This country is for white people, neither in the hearing of this homily nor during the campaign. Perhaps I am politically naive. I must admit I didn’t follow the campaign as closely as some. So, either you have opened my eyes to an ugly truth, or the two soundbites included in this homily are an example of something taken out of context, even perhaps resulting from mob-mentality, and not giving someone the benefit of the doubt.

    This homily beautifully expresses the antidote, the Mass, loving each other, hope in Christ our savior, giving each other the benefit of the doubt. But are we called only to give the benefit of the doubt to people we know and worship with?

    I don’t particularly like anything about our current president, and certainly he is not an eloquent speaker, quite the opposite. But I do give him the benefit of the doubt. I can’t imagine anyone taking on the Office of President voluntarily, knowing the brutal criticism and couch politicking that holding the office brings out in most of us. I must believe and/or have hope that a person who tackles that office truly believes he (or she) actually has a desire to do something good for our country, not for just the white people, but for ALL citizens of every race and creed. And I can’t for a moment believe that our President thinks America is just for (or primarily for) white people.

    1. I guess I usually stop giving someone the benefit of the don’t somewhere between his/her first clear and evident lie and his/her conviction for obstruction of justice.

      And I usually conclude someone is a racist sometime between when he/she repeatedly characterizes sizeable, law-abiding minority groups as a criminal element and when he/she orders that we have “less immigration from Africa and Haiti (“where they all have AIDS”) and more from Norway.”

  3. First I would like to comment on your thoughts of giving someone the benefit of the doubt.
    1. Politicians lie-it’s how they operate. Lying is not something exclusive to or invented by President Trump. It’s not right, but it does occur. I guess you stopped giving Obama the benefit of the doubt after the Obamacare debacle of lies, including you can keep your own doctor.
    President Trump has not been convicted of obstruction of justice or anything else. Well, maybe in the media he has.
    President Trump questioned why we needed more immigrants from Haiti and Africa, but he made no order to that effect. In fact, TPS protections have been extended for many groups including Haitians and El Salvadorans.

    You said your main job as a priest is to say Mass. I was disappointed (not mad) that you chose to use the pulpit during Holy Mass to take a left turn and impart your opinion that President Trump and his MAGA hats are racist and imply primarily for whites. I was surprised the Covington High School story took such a turn. So much more helpful information could have been presented by sticking to the facts of the event and their aftermath. You employed your homily as a means to trash President Trump, while we parishioners were a captive audience that had to listen without the ability to respond one way or another. Not so fair and balanced. We all have the right to our opinion without influence from the pulpit.
    In July 1993, now Saint Pope John Paul II said in a general audience that “Jesus never wanted to be involved in a political movement, and fled from every attempt to draw him into earthly questions and affairs.” In following Christ, the Pope said in that speech-titled “Priests Do Not Have a Political Mission”-a priest “must renounce involvement in political activity, especially by not taking sides.”
    I do not begrudge you your opinion, however it belongs in another venue where others can speak, not in church during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    1. Alicia, I disagree with you on the grounds that the president’s racism and ignorance has had, is having, and will continue to have the effect of unjustly depriving members of our own community of rights and liberties that they ought to have. The fact that we as a country have fallen from the point where a path to citizenship was within sight, to the point where even those who came to our country as children have to fear deportation–that is a situation that calls us as Christians to recognize that we face grave danger for the salvation of our own souls. We cannot accept the current arrangement, in which members of our own parish have to live in constant fear of deportation, even though they have done nothing wrong.

  4. Your own words have labeled the President as racist and ignorant. Regrettably, labels divide us and serve to define a person, whether fairly or unfairly, and confine him/her in a box leaving no room for redeeming acts or change. Labels can also result in the inability to separate a person from the label itself.
    My intent was not to get into the weeds over immigration policies. You missed the essence of the main body of my comment which was your use of the homily during Mass to promote your political thoughts.
    We are where we are today not because of one man, but because of the past failures of previous administrations to successfully address immigration reform. It hasn’t mattered, going back at least ten years, who was president or the make up of congress at the time. The result has been the same-coming close, but failure. We should pray that the current members of Congress, given their opportunity to act, will get off their gridlocked duffs, find common ground, compromise and effect overdue change to immigration policy. Good talk, Father, but agreeing to disagree.

    1. Just to be as clear as possible about what I disagree with: Because of the obligation that we have as Christians to live in solidarity with our fellow man, especially the one who suffers, I vehemently disagree with our president’s repeated paranoia peddling. He built his campaign by massively mischaracterizing Mexican-Americans. I disagree with the utter fantasy that a “wall” will solve our problems.

      We owe refugees from central America a kind welcome. We owe the long-term Mexican-American residents of our country the equal dignity of citizenship.

      The right to life that every innocent unborn child has–that’s not a matter of politics; it’s a matter of human decency. So is welcoming refugees and treating all honest, hard-working people the same. I do not have a political disagreement with President Trump; I have a disagreement with him over facts and over principles. I am saying as a shepherd of the Christian flock: the president’s racist fear-mongering, based on “evidence” that collapses under any scrutiny, is out of bounds.

  5. This is a friendly alert. You have Trump Derangement Syndrome and one effect of this malady is that you no longer have the self-mastery necessary to refrain from political attacks and targeting the president for calumny in your homilies. Many good people have been undone by TDS.
    It is a fact that all republican politicians are at some pointed branded as racists by the NY Times, the Washington Post and the MSM but one would hope that a Catholic priest would be more discerning before becoming a fellow traveler with this disreputable group, who have descended to new lows of dishonesty in their coverage of the Trump administration. Even the statement you cite as supporting evidence of racism, that the president said all Haitians have AIDS is disputed by a majority of individuals who were in the room when it was supposedly made. Shouldn’t you give the benefit of the doubt to the majority who deny the statement –some of them going on public record – as opposed to the two anonymous sources on which the report was based? Also, not wanting El Salvador, Haiti and Africa to be primary sources for immigrants to the US may be politically incorrect, racially insensitive and harsh but that is not the same as racism. Given the fact that these societies are blighted by disease, poverty, poor education, violence, misrule and endemic corruption it is reasonable to wonder if immigrants from such places are fit for purpose for a 21st century advanced economy. Countries with similar Anglo cultures such as Canada and Australia select immigrants based on economic merit. Is that racism? You do not fear losing your way of life or the culture but many do.
    Over a year ago the Trump administration put forward an immigration plan which provided specific protections and a path to legalization for roughly 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors. But the democrats who care so much about undocumented immigrants but apparently care even more about not giving any political victories to the racist, homophobic and bigoted president (which would be their description and one you seem to be in lockstep with) immediately rejected his offer. Prior to that we had president Obama for eight years, including a period when the democrats controlled both houses of Congress. The problem we are debating today existed then and went unresolved, yet curiously in your rant you directed all of your rage against President Trump.
    Illegal immigrants are not being denied rights and liberties “owed” to them by this president, the last president or whoever is elected next.

    1. Roger, I think that mutual accusations of “derangement” = the end of rational argument. So I will refrain. Rather I will ask:

      Leaving aside the truth or falsity of “All Haitians have AIDS;” leaving aside the particulars of on-going “immigration-reform” politics; leaving aside whether it is right or wise to make judgments about which countries produce “immigrants fit for the purpose of a 21st century advanced economy;” even leaving aside whether all the law-abiding, hard-working Mexican families living in the US have a right to a path to citizenship–leaving all that aside, are you still trying to tell me that President Trump has not repeatedly cultivated the false image of a dangerous horde from the south? And are you trying to tell me that his cultivation of this fiction has not adversely affected the lives the Latin-American people living in the US? Has not contributed to their sense of isolation and vulnerability?

      And are you trying to tell me that it is NOT wrong to do this? That it is not wrong to isolate and demonize a group of people who do not deserve it?

      Someone who repeatedly uses his free access to a microphone to paint the picture of a dangerous “invasion” of criminal Latinos–when no such invasion exists–I call that person a demagogue and a racist. Not because I am deranged, but because HE is deranged.

  6. This attempt at an exchange of ideas has unfortunately taken an unpleasant turn. When the discourse deteriorates, there is not much that can be salvaged. I choose to breathe in, breathe out, and move on. A reply is not necessary.

    1. Racism is an unpleasant business. In this particular case, it has a source, as I originally tried to point out. Our president.

      If you didn’t want an honest exchange, maybe got should have thought twice about accusing me of “playing politics” in a sermon. What I was trying to do was guide souls away from the sins of rash judgment and racism.

  7. Sadly… racism is not only alive and well but it is the current presidency stronger than it has been, probably since brown v board of education and rosa parks. Our current leadership in this country is having a field day separating people off to one side or the other as never before. It is time for people to remember, we should give god what is gods and Caesar what is caesars… anyone can say it has nothing to do with race, but what people have done since the last election is abhorrent…. maybe many can’t see it….. but too many say that they aren’t racist, but then they turn around and defend someone who is very racist in ways I certainly don’t see them defend Christ or her church. I do not mean those who believe in social justice but still support the church, but watching so many Catholics follow anything other than the teaching of Jesus who said to love your neighbor as yourself….. is sad when they truly do the exact opposite…. you cannot defend racism, and believe that you love your neighbor… which quite fast leads to a separation from God.

  8. “Someone who repeatedly uses his free access to a microphone…”
    Father White,
    I came to your blog because I happened to be at your ordination by Mr McCarrick. I feel great sympathy for those priests who were ordained and counseled by the wolf in sheeps clothing. Yes, we all suffer from the fall and are sinners, but the leaders in our church have far greater responsibility for their sins and treachery because they have been taught so well in their cathechism. They excuse their duplicity because their hubris and pride tell them that they are the bringers of positive change and that their political agenda will help society but their viewpoint is scewed because of their sin and blindness. They tell themselves their paltry sin is nothing to what they can contribute to bettering the world. They use their “microphone” and office to further their cause as it suits them and abuse others unknowingly and knowingly.
    Beware Father, because you have the same power at the pulpit and pride could be blinding you. There is nothing so disheartening and frustrating to a Catholic today while witnessing Rome burning to be lectured from the pulpit on a political matter that is not directly from Church teaching. In our culture we’re told to pretend that a man is a woman and a woman is a man, our children are being brainwashed in school and instructed in any other other religion but Christianity, sodomy is celebrated, and you can marry your dog. Our Church leaders have been victimizing our children for generations and hope to slip by punishing one perverted Cardinal while we’re told to repent for our sins and have to have fbi checks to accompany our children to church activities. But when a priest gets up and lectures on politics from the pulpit of which he doesn’t fully understand, it’s like the final nail in the coffin. Watch your pews empty out. No one wants to hear it there, because it is all we hear/see on media, in the workplace, in the grocery, and from our millennial relativist children.
    You are quick to judge the President and MAGA supporting Americans, who give to the church, raised their children in the faith, and endure persecution for our faith. You are not on Capitol Hill and you do not see the machinations at work here. You cannot know the truth from the media or in the Church hierarchy, but you do know the Bishops are corrupt. Why can you not believe that politicians are not corrupt but pushing a socialist agenda while they live in gated communities and walk with bodyguards? You are angered by the President and denounce him, but you ask for prayers for your own Democrat state leaders, who went to the trouble of applying shoe polish on their lily white skin in order to belittle african Americans? Another one has raped and abused women! Where is your outrage? I’m sorry, but I was in college in the early ’80’s in the south and that behavior was considered extreme/rude and prejudiced. Do you think that you are being fair in your admonishments to your political leaders? Is one who calls for protected borders worse than one who rapes or wears blackface standing next to a klansmen? Yes we do pray for all our political leaders and there is redemption for all, if they are truly remorseful but that doesn’t mean they should continue to stay in a position of power. Please pray, reflect and think about how you sound on your blog much less from your pulpit to us sitting in your pews. Remember you are representing Christ, who threw the moneychangers out. President Trump is not perfect, often not humble and does not portend himself to be a deity(like Obama was portrayed. Yes. I saw the altars and holy candles for sale in Target) He is brash and flawed and not a politician, but he is doing battle every day for our most vulnerable. The simple truth is that he is the most Pro Life President that we’ve ever had and is working tirelessly to protect all life from conception to natural death. That is why young Nick Sandmann wore the MAGA hat, because he knows and has been taught by our Church that respect for life is the MOST important belief that all others stem from. Natural law, Father. Nick was courageous and stood up for life and truth against a sunami of lies and hate. It is so easy to pile on the President, like the very loud media and entertainers like Mr Smollet, but remember that 50% of the country voted for him. They wanted change. Real change. They are sitting in your pews. They want to throw out the money changers, who don’t care about the people but only their pockets.
    There are good and holy Catholics who work in the administration to preserve freedoms for all throughout the world, who are being met with resistance in the State department and the hill. There is much more at stake in our culture than the issue of our open borders. Why are these people flocking here so that their countries lose their young people?? This is a much more complicated question than is your job to solve. If you are going to wade into these controversies, then do it truthfully. Please read both political sides and many sources because it is very hard to find truthful journalism. Look at the President’s actual accomplishments and search further than the MSM. That is what God asks of us, to search for truth and clarity and that is what we are mourning in our church–the lack of it.
    In Christ

    1. I appreciate the warning about blind pride; God knows I need it. May the good Lord keep us all humble and eager to learn.

      That said, your tirade here misses the mark. Why lecture me about Rome burning, sodomy, and marrying your dog? Why harangue me about blackface in the 1980’s? I preached a homily about that this past Sunday.

      You accuse me of wading into matters about which I have inadequate information. Ok. I ask you: Are you aware of the effect that the president’s rhetoric and immigration policies have had on millions of lives? Can you deny that he has tried to marginalize an entire segment of the population–good, law-abiding people. And for no good reason: We don’t have a labor glut in the USA right now; haven’t had one for some time. So can you deny that his doing this is wrong?

      You insist that you know why Mr. Nick Sandmann wore his MAGA hat. That is more than I know; you must have sources of information beyond mine. You insist that he wore the hat because Donald Trump “works tirelessly to protect all life from conception to natural death.” I respectfully disagree with you there.

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