Dear Vice President Biden,
I recently wrote an open letter to Congressman Paul Ryan, where I commented on some contradictions I saw between his political positions and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Since we have two Catholic candidates in this race, I am writing you for the same reason. Congressman Ryan had the benefit of a bishop to vouch for his orthodoxy. I am not aware of any such episcopal comment about you. But I have read that you carry a Rosary with you and that you pray the Rosary every day. We’ll talk about that in a bit, but in the meantime, let’s start with some mood music. Here from our brothers and sisters in the east is the Litany of Peace from the Orthodox Liturgy. It is a prayer for “everything and everyone”. I think we need it.
You and Congressman Ryan have much in common as Catholics in the public square. You certainly have more in common than either of you would admit to. From your public records, it is evident that both of you formed your political positions in accordance with secular and temporal values. Both of you appear to be just fine with the extreme politicization of the abortion issue. The Republicans use it as a perpetual wedge issue to carve off voters from the traditional Democratic coalition, which is why they didn’t do anything particularly substantive on the issue during their great reign of power 2001-2009. Your administration is using it as a political sledgehammer to excite your base, and are perfectly willing to damn the common good to death for that purpose.
Lost in all the the rhetoric seems to be the mothers and their children, born and unborn. That’s where the Catholic focus should be, in the light of the preferential option of the poor, which calls us, always and everywhere, to defend the poor and their children, to render justice to the afflicted and the needy, and to rescue them from the hand of the wicked.
Praised in political rhetoric on both parties during campaign seasons, after election day Democrats and Republicans alike rush to abandon low income mothers and their children, born and unborn, to whatever grisly fate awaits them in their poverty. The bipartisan cruelty to low income single mothers who are pregnant and/or have children is breathtaking in the scope of its utter hypocrisy. Judging you both by the outcomes of your bipartisan policies, both of you are fine with the choice of last resort for mothers with children and no economic prospects, which as you very well know is prostitution.
The more cynical and conspiracy theory-minded among us say that the need for an increasing supply of recruits for prostitution was one of the secret reasons for the 5 year limit on TANF benefits enacted in the great bipartisan welfare reform during the reign of the Tyrant-Emperor William Jefferson Clinton. Prostitution wears women out fast. The pimps batter and control them with violence, drugs, and alcohol. Police arrest them and judges send them to prison where they are daily degraded and dehumanized and treated with systemic cruelty. So society needs a constant supply of new recruits to replace those thrown behind for the wolves to devour.
Although decried by all “responsible” politicians, everyone is very careful to never do anything that would actually reduce the number of prostitutes, nor to eliminate the economic incentives for low income women to become sex workers, because men — especially men in the aristocratic political and economic elites who wield power — demand access to commercial sex and will not countenance any effective deterrent. Doing something about the items I enumerated in my letter to Congressman Ryan would substantially reduce the economic incentive and necessity for prostitution which of course is another reason why as long as our choices are between men like Romney and Ryan and you and Obama, nothing will change in that regard.
Thus it comes to pass that your Catholicism seems at most a political after-thought, all claims to Rosary recitations notwithstanding, as if a life of Sunday Mass but unjust weeks could somehow be pleasing in God’s eyes. That’s a quote from Oscar Romero of El Salvador. Another “great” Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, sent the guns and bullets to El Salvador that were used to assassinate him while he was celebrating Holy Mass, just another casualty in another one of our splendid little wars we like to fight.
In the letter to Congressman Ryan, I went on and on, at what really became a tedious level of detail, about the authoritative nature of the social teachings of the Church. They were promulgated in Councils, taught by popes in encyclicals, and published in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They have their roots in the Bible. Martyrs and saints over the centuries witness to their truth. They are not optional ideas that can be embraced if they are convenient and not obnoxious to any of your primary political constituencies. They are limitations established by God on the behavior of human governments and societies for the just protection of the common good of all.
Regarding your daily prayer of the Rosary. . . I have to wonder if the blood that drips from your hands stains the Rosary beads as you say the prayers? Any mother can tell you that blood stains are difficult to remove. Thanks to the hemoglobin and sticky proteins, once blood dries, it sets a permanent stain.
I remember my grandfather telling me that the reason he wasn’t going to vote for the Democrats was that “Democrats always get us into wars.” I was kind of startled by that, but you know, there’s something to what he said. He was sent to war in France in 1917, to aid the imperialist British and the imperialist French against the imperialist Germans. While some like to tell war stories, my grandfather was not one of them. I used to try to get him to tell about his experience, but the most he would ever say was, “It was pretty bad, Bobby Max, pretty bad.” My grandmother said that after he returned from war and they were married, one night he screamed in his sleep, jumped out of bed, and grabbing a rifle, he repeatedly fired it out of a window, screaming that the Germans were coming. When she told me that, I understood why he never had a gun in the house. War does things to people.
But we can’t of course blame all this on the Democrats, since all of our wars have ultimately been bipartisan affairs. The Republicans always egg on the Democrats when it comes to death and destruction, and the Democrats have certainly been willing to return the favor when the other party was in power.
In 2008, you and the President promised us peace. You have given the world four more years of violence, terror, death, blood, and destruction. The situation has deteriorated so much that our soldiers in Afghanistan are daily at risk of attack from our own “allies.”
If these are our allies, what do our enemies look like?
Does anyone ever think about the impact of all this violence on the ordinary people of Iraq and Afghanistan? Do you, as a Roman Catholic, ever think about what it must be like, from a child’s perspective, to be blown to smithereens by a drone attack, as you pray Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.
Does it happen quickly, in a subjective instant, so that they “hardly feel anything? Or does the time dilation effect occur, so that their death becomes a prolonged subjective agony and they feel every bit of pain as their body is destroyed by the power and fire of our armaments, the practical equivalent of roasting a child to death over a fire while hitting him or her with hammers? Do you recoil from these plain descriptions of the consequences of your actions for the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan who live under our drone’s reign of terror from the skies?
The “Mother of God” title from our prayer — which originally in Greek was “Theotokos” — is a useful reminder that when Jesus said —
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. . . Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
— he wasn’t just making idle chatter.
Or consider these further thoughts from the same occasion, the Sermon on the Mount —
You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But i tell you, love your enemies.
And when Jesus taught us to pray, he said. . .
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Exactly how does drone warfare, which kills more civilians — including children — than it does our “enemies,” fulfill these words of Christ? Do we love our enemies when we kill them and their children and their neighbors? Is this doing the will of God on earth, as it is in heaven, when we effectively roast children over fires while beating them with hammers?
I think it is more likely that these actions of your administration are the will of the demons who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
This is only the beginning of the sins against justice, charity, life, the poor, and the common good that we could list for the Obama-Biden administration. Virtually all that I listed in the bill of particulars for Congressman Ryan applies to you and the president as well.
- You persist in the constitutional fiction that the United States government has the authority to decide who is a person and who is not a person and thus who is subject to protection of the law and who is outside of the law and thus may be dealt with at will, casually, for no reason, or for unjust reasons.
- Following the trend set during the previous Administration, you have enacted one radical expansion of executive power after another, to the point now where the president can order the extra-judicial killing of any American citizen, anywhere in the world, for any reason or none, by the will of the President and his “Star Chamber” advisers whoever they may be.
- You intervened in Libya without a Declaration of War by Congress, which violates the Constitution.
The Bible says —
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness into light, and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own sight, and prudent in their own esteem! To those who acquit the guilty for bribes, and deprive the just man of his rights! Woe to those who enact unjust statutes and who write oppressive decrees, depriving the needy of judgment and robbing my people’s poor of their rights, making widows their plunder, and orphans their prey!
It is a tragedy of epic proportions that at this critical time in history, our leaders are as blind as the Romanofs in 1917 and the French aristocracy in 1789.
So then, you kings, you rulers the world over, listen to what I say, and learn from it. You govern many lands and are proud that so many people are under your rule, but this authority has been given to you by the Lord Most High. He will examine what you have done and what you plan to do. You rule on behalf of God and his kingdom, and if you do not govern justly, if you do not uphold the law, if you do not live according to God’s will, you will suffer sudden and terrible punishment. Judgment is especially severe on those in power.
The crisis of leadership is very nearly universal. In religion, academia, and economics, as well as politics, our leaders have abandoned the common good in favor of their secular and temporal interests. The Catholic Bishops are not exempt from this indictment, as I have demonstrated elsewhere.
Common people may be mercifully forgiven for their wrongs, but those in power will face a severe judgment. The Lord of all is not afraid of anyone, no matter how great they are. He himself made everyone, great and common alike, and he provided for all equally, but he will judge the conduct of rulers more strictly.
So it comes to pass the we rapidly approach the ash heap of history. When we get there, you can congratulate yourself on your own responsibility for our national fate.
Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City
A PDF of this document, suitable for printing and then mailing to the Vice President, your local bishop, and your local Democratic party officials, is available here.