And so it begins: the challenge of our lifetime

Participants carry signs during the Women's March on New York City Jan. 21. (CNS/Octavio Duran)

Saturday, Jan. 21 — the day of the massive Women's March on Washington — was a heartening day, full of hope that resistance to Trump and his policies is, and will continue to be, real and widespread.

I was sandwiched into a packed crowd in D.C., unable to move for a couple hours as thousands poured out of our Metro system and on to Independence Avenue. (Metro later said that the only crowd larger than the Women's March was that for Obama's first inauguration. Trump's crowd was a fraction of either group.)

In the crowd, no one was really comfortable, and no one cared. What was important was the statement we were making: our corporate pledge to resist this new president on every unjust action he takes in every way we can for as long as it takes. And we will champion the American values, indeed the Gospel values, of equality and justice and nondiscrimination.

And this resistance is moving strongly at the local level. Where I live in Prince Georges County, Md., local groups are organizing against Trump's initiatives and nominees, and preparing for the 2018 midterm elections. If the Women's March is any indication, the same organizing is taking place nationwide.

Trump's values don't even come close to the values of the Gospel or Catholic social teaching on justice and equality. The Gospel for Sunday, Jan. 29, lays out the Beatitudes, and my favorite is this: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice … for they shall be satisfied." I, like most NCR readers, do indeed "hunger and thirst" for justice. But we have a lot of "hungering and thirsting" work ahead of us!

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For starters, the Gospel value of justice does not include making "America first." When I heard these words in Trump's inaugural address, I was sick at heart. We are called to cooperate and even lead in the community of nations, but not dominate. This declaration was the incarnation of national selfishness.

It gets worse. I'm watching this new administration threaten the very future of our planet by removing all references to climate change from the White House website, and restricting public communications from the Environmental Protection Agency. I'm witnessing attempts to dismantle Obamacare, which provides health insurance for more than 20 million people who could not afford it before this. It is threatening both Medicare and Medicaid.  And I am seeing a possible resurrection of oil pipelines that can pollute water supplies anew.  Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) summed up many of these policies this way: "Make America Sick Again."

And today, a new immigration policy threatens both Latin Americans and Muslims especially. So much for "love thy neighbor."  

I am waiting for the Catholic bishops to begin to speak out with a loud voice on all these policies. If they don't, they have forfeited their claim to any type of leadership in the U.S. Catholic community.

Defeating these policies (and others to come), and replacing them with a just order, is indeed the challenge of our lifetime. It is our work for the next four years. May God give us the strength to persevere!


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