The Year of Faith has begun and soon the elections will be behind us. We hope and pray of course that no matter who wins the election, the federal government will respect the religious beliefs of its citizens in accordance with the constitution and basic human rights.
The Holy Father established the Year of Faith to commemorate two important events: the opening of Vatican II and the publication of the Catechism. But he also established it for another reason: belief in God and religious practice in many parts of the developed world is waning (one-fifth of all Americans identify as religiously unaffiliated). As faith and religious practice recede, secularism fills the gap. Secularism used to mean neutrality with respect to religion. The kind of secularism that’s emerging now, however, is more antagonistic. In some cases, like the HHS mandate, secularism seeks to impose its beliefs on religious people and institutions by using the super-incumbent power of the state to force them to do things that violate their beliefs.
The ability of the government to impose secular ideologies on people of faith, however, would not be possible if faith were stronger. CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) did a survey for the USCCB in 2007. They found that just under one-third of adult Catholics (31.4 percent) are estimated to attend Mass in any given week. Msgr. Charles Pope of the diocese of Washington D.C. reiterated these findings, saying
“In the early 1950s there were about 35 million Catholics in the US. Today there are over 75 million. This number however does not distinguish between practicing and non-practicing Catholics. It is estimated that just over 80% of Catholics attended Mass each Sunday in the 1950s. Today it is estimated that about 25% of Catholics go each Sunday. That means that in the early 1950s about 28 million Catholics were in Church each Sunday. Today that number, even with a growing Catholic population, has dropped to 19.2 million. In other words, almost 9 million fewer Catholics are in Church now as compared to the 1950s.”
As faith shrinks so does belief in the sovereignty of Christ. Secularism might tolerate the idea of people going to church on Sunday and praying privately as long they keep their beliefs to themselves. But whether we keep our faith to ourselves or not, the fact is that Jesus Christ is still Lord of heaven and earth. This isn’t just a pious sentiment; it’s a fact. True, Jesus’ kingship is not of this world, but that only means it’s not defined by ordinary political categories (John 18:36). His kingdom does not belong to this world, but that doesn’t mean it’s indifferent toward the world. And how does Christ exercise his kingship in the world? Not by wielding political power, but by telling the truth (John 18:37).
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” Jesus said (Matthew 28:18). The next statement – “Go, therefore …” – implies that that authority was given to the apostles and their successors. The Pope and the bishops in communion with him have no other authority than that which has been given to them by Christ, which is to bear witness to the truth. Speaking truth to power as Jesus did is one of the main functions of a bishop. But that doesn’t relieve us from the responsibility to do the same. By virtue of our baptism we too share in Christ’s kingship, albeit differently than those in holy orders. Here’s what the Catechism says:
“The social duty of Christians is to respect and awaken in each man the love of the true and the good. It requires them to make known the worship of the one true religion which subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church. Christians are called to be the light of the world. Thus, the Church shows forth the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies.” 
That last sentence bears repeating: “The Church shows forth the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies.” Christ exercises his dominion in the world through the Church as we follow him faithfully each day praying: “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
November 25 is the solemnity of Christ the King. Regardless of the outcome of the election, this important solemnity should remind us that Christ was, is and always will be Lord of heaven and earth no matter what the politicians or bureaucrats say, or do.