Along with “democratic socialism,” “protectionism,” and “Berning,” the word “populism” has become part of 2016 America’s vernacular thanks to the circus that is the presidential election. Like it sounds, “populism” deals with popularity, in this case among American voters. In a new op/ed for the Detroit News, Samuel Gregg explains why populism will absolutely not make America great again.
This isn’t the first time populism has appeared in American or world history. “It often manifests itself,” Gregg argues, “whenever enough people conclude — sometimes correctly — that the political system is rigged in favor of insider-elites who pursue their own interests rather than the common good.” An individual capitilizes on disgust with “insider-elites” and the “establishment” for his or her own benefits. This person sees the opportunity to utilize “frustration with the status quo” and he or she then promises the people real and serious change. Voters are lulled into trusting that once this charismatic leader is elected, he or she will fix everything and make the world a better place for the voters who felt overlooked by previous leaders.
Gregg explains some characteristics of the “populist leader:”
Over time, the actual content of the populist leader’s words starts to matter less and less. [Voters] ignore obvious contradictions in the leader’s statements and policy positions. These are never especially clear and regularly “evolve,” depending on the need or audience.
Yesterday in his personal column for the Diocese of Madison’s Catholic Herald, Bishop Robert C. Morlino issued a call to arms to Catholics battling for their religious freedom.
But such a battle, he says, is one that should emulate Christ’s loving nature, while being resolutely clear and firm in rejecting the obligation of Catholic institutions to provide healthcare that includes contraceptives and abortifacients under the Obama administration’s controversial HHS mandate (see recent reactions below on EWTN by U.S. bishops and Acton’s President, Rev. Robert Sirico).
While no doubt the Madison bishop is aware of Christianity’s bloody history of self-sacrifice in defense of religious liberty, any fight should not, in his opinion, automatically involve escalations of physical violence and warfare.
This non-violent perception is very unlike that of the Hollywood film of heroic Catholic martyrdom – Cristiada – which I reviewed last week at a Vatican screening. Perhaps many of us might daydream of Bishop Morlino trading in his miter for a sombrero and staff for a rifle to become the invincible Zorro-like Generale Gorostieta of the Cristiada film – gunning down one federale after another all the way to a Catholic coup d’état of ObamaCare. Surely mental fodder for another Hollywood epic drama!
For this Catholic bishop it is the simple power of Christian Truth and Charitable Love that will help Catholics prevail in their frustrating battles with the U.S. government. The laity need to arm themselves with these two great weapons of faith. Bishop Morlino believes in putting up a good fight, especially one that respects the Vatican II’s encouragement of building up an effective, reasoning Catholic culture of “lay mission”.
In witnessing the 500-strong that protested peacefully in front of a Madison federal building, Morlino was proud to see the laity shouldering the burden in defending Catholic religious liberty in a charitable, yet determined fashion:
I was privileged to be a witness to religious freedom and freedom of conscience with nearly 500 faithful people at the Federal building in downtown Madison. Such rallies had been quickly organized around our nation and I know that not all who might have come were able (or even aware of the events).
Those who were able to gather, however, were in large part Catholic (though not all), and in being there, they were really doing what the Second Vatican Council meant by “lay mission,” that is, applying the standards of God’s Kingdom to the real world.
That is the true role that the Church was trying to enliven in the laity through Vatican II — faithful people witnessing actively to today’s world, bringing the Church into the world of today (as opposed to the idea that the main way one can be an “active” Catholic is by performing different liturgical roles)…
Let’s make sure we are charitable, but let’s make sure we are clear and we are heard. Sometimes we can be tempted wrongly to think that charity and reasonableness are excuses for acting like wimps.
To read the rest of Bishop Morlino’s column and his pastoral advice to Catholics go here.