(RNS) – US Catholic bishops are often at odds with President Joe Biden, the second Catholic president in US history. They unite with Republicans and evangelical leaders to fight him on abortion and the application of LGBTQ rights to religious institutions.
Many also wanted to deny him communion, but this decision was refused by Pope Francis.
However, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did not hesitate to recognize Biden’s victory. The US bishops have never joined the Republican and evangelical leaders who backed Donald Trump’s lie that the election was stolen.
A year ago, on the day of Biden’s inauguration, USCCB President Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles issued a statement that, while far more negative than the letter sent by Pope Francis at the same time, never questioned the legitimacy of Biden’s election. .
Gomez was quick to note in the statement that “as with any administration, there will be areas where we will agree and work closely together and areas where we will disagree in principle and have strong opposition.” “.
He then highlighted the points of disagreement.
“Our new president is committed to pursuing certain policies that would advance moral ills and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage and gender,” he said. complained Gomez.
“For the country’s bishops,” he added, “the continuing injustice of abortion remains the ‘top priority.’ He left little room for areas of agreement with the president.
But he never questioned that Joe Biden was president.
Indeed, four days after the 2020 elections, the Archbishop called on “our leaders to come together in a spirit of national unity and to engage in dialogue and compromise for the common good.”
He clearly stated, “We recognize that Joseph R. Biden, Jr., received enough votes to be elected as the 46th President of the United States.
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The episcopal conference also did not hesitate to condemn the assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
“I join people of good will in condemning today’s violence at the United States Capitol,” Gomez said. “That’s not who we are as Americans. I pray for congressional and Capitol staff, as well as the police and all who work to restore public order and safety.
“The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of this great nation,” he said. “At this troubling time, we must recommit to the values and principles of our democracy and come together as one nation under God.”
In response to threats against state capitals the following week, the USCCB asked Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of its Commission on Homeland Justice and Human Development, to expand on this condemnation.
“Like Pope Francis, after seeing the riot at the United States Capitol on January 6, I was ‘astonished’: a violent attack on a peaceful political process at the heart of our democracy, bombs planted at the headquarters of ‘a political party, the murder of a police officer and others dead and injured, symbols of racial hatred, calls to execute politicians, a gallows and a noose,’ Coakley said in a statement.
“There were also people present who appropriated Christian symbols,” he noted.
Coakley said those contemplating further violence “are being misled by a voice that does not come from God”.
He asked those tempted to use violence to look at what happened on January 6, the posts that accompanied the day’s events on social media and the symbols of racial hatred in the crowd. They are not the fruits of the Holy Spirit, he said, who “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, meekness, self-control. (Gal 5:22-23).”
He continued, “The January 6 violence and the many voices that encouraged it, including some political leaders, were the opposite of those things.
Quoting Saint Paul, the archbishop named what opposes the Spirit: “hatred, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of rage, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions…” (Galatians 5, 20).
He pleaded, “Do not listen to those who sow hatred, anger and divisions! They take you away from God. Although sometimes masked by deception or seemingly demanded by fear, for your sake and that of others, do not confuse empty promises with the love and peace that only come from God.
A year later, too many people, including Catholic Trump supporters, haven’t listened to the bishops. Indeed, I’m afraid most Catholics don’t even know what the bishops said about election and insurrection. Catholics have not heard the bishops repeat this message. They haven’t read anything about it in their papers or online. They didn’t hear it from the pulpit.
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The media prefers to quote bishops only when attacking the president. Conservatives only selectively cite bishops; the liberals simply ignore them. The priests, watching over a divided congregation, prefer to be silent.
But this month and in the future, their words are worth repeating. The bishops show that people can disagree with the president without believing the big lie.