At last the election is over and even those who are disappointed in the outcome must breathe a sigh of relief that the endless verbal bombardment, the endless rushing about, rallying, endless, endless speeches, the vast majority of them saying essentially the same thing is now behind us. I have asked this question in this blog before and I have asked it many times – is this the right way to do it? Should it really take two years and more than a billion dollars in order to select the person for this all important office at the top of the United States government? I think not.
I have never heard a serious political figure say that we should take a good look at the system in Europe and discuss using it as a possibility. In Europe, whoever is the head of one of the powerful parties is but one step from being head of state, head of government. A few months ago, the dominant party in France lost the election. The premier stepped down and the head of the opposing party assumed the role of prime minister immediately. It may not sound like much preparation for the office but we must remember that this person was head of the shadow government possibly for years and was watching the unfolding development of events day by day. In my opinion, such a background would make a person much more capable of taking over the government quickly rather than someone who had spent the two preceding years running from primary to primary and any time they weren’t running would be out raising money. Much better to have the man in the shadows with his hand on the tiller ready to take over at a moment’s instance.
As I said, no one suggests that but shouldn’t we at least think about it during these quiet days after the election when we are all so tired of the issue.
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There can be no doubt that Roman Catholics in Western Europe and in North America have left the Church over the last 25 years in large numbers. I frequently asserted that the second largest identifiable religious group in the United States is made up of former Catholics. Whether or not that is absolutely accurate cannot be determined but a very real problem is facing the Church today.
But what about the Church across the world? There are some really wonderful bright spots and causes for hope and optimism. John Allen, of the National Catholic Reporter, asserts that, “The last half century has witnessed the greatest period of missionary expansion in the 2,000 year history of Catholicism.” He states that in sub-Sahara Africa the Catholic population at the dawn of the 20th century was 1.9 million but at the end of that century it was more than 130 million, representing a staggering growth rate of 6,000%, whereas the global numbers for the Church were at 266 million in 1900 and 1.1 billion a century later, well ahead of the overall rate increase in world population. Despite tragic losses in this country, the Catholic population has been holding steady for several decades at 25% and this is due to a great extent to the rapidly increasing Hispanic population.
Allen quotes David Brooks as poking fun at secular elites who like to believe that religion is in decline. “A great Niagara of religious fervor is cascading down around them,” he wrote, “while they stand obtuse and dry in the little cave of their own parochialism.” What a delightful expression!
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