While from Manhattan to Portland demonstrations contesting President-elect Donald Trump flare up, the US bishops call Catholics to unity exhorting the newly elected representatives to spend themselves for the poor and the defenceless. “Regardless of who was voted, now is the time to remember that the strength of our Republic lies in our unity, as citizens and members of the holy family of God,” said Monsignor Michael Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh in North Carolina. “These relations are the foundations of our society, and we have the duty to promote them. Harmony has the power to further authentic dialogue, and exchange of opinions can be fruitful.”
Respect and dignity. The words of Monsignor Burbidge mirror those of Monsignor Joseph Kurtz, President of the US Bishops’ Conference. “Now is the moment to move toward the responsibility of governing for the common good of all citizens”, the bishops stated in a release. “Let us not see each other in the divisive light of Democrat or Republican or any other political party, but rather, let us see the face of Christ in our neighbours, especially the suffering or those with whom we may disagree.”
“We remember the words of Pope Francis at the Congress”, Kurtz went on, “political activity must always serve to promote the good of the human person and be based on the respect of human dignity.”
Kurtz added that millions of American citizens are struggling to find economic opportunities for their families. The task of elected representatives is to listen to them and act accordingly.
Humanity and security. Mons. Kurtz said he hopes the new administration will be engaged in the protection of human life “from the beginning to its natural end.” “We support policies that offer opportunities to everyone, to the members of all faiths and all social brackets alike”, Kurtz wrote. “It is our firm belief that our sisters and brothers who are migrants and refugees can be welcomed with humanity while not renouncing security”. Concerns over Trump’s first declarations left a mark: the idea of building a wall with Mexico is viewed with widespread concern by large numbers of citizens of Hispanic origin, many of whom are Catholic. “We equally urge to draw attention – Kurtz went on – on the violent persecution that threatens our Christian brothers and sisters, especially in the Middle East and we call upon the new administration to address the theme of religious freedom.”
Trump-Catholics. Since Donald Trump took to the field launching a coarse election campaign, relations with Catholics have repeatedly been stormy. His campaign has been defined by anti-clandestine immigrant sentiments from its inception, hailing his most popular and controversial slogan:
“We will build a wall on the border with Mexico. And Mexico will pay for it.”
He reiterated this slogan over the past days. This attitude clashes against the commitment for the inclusion of thousands of Catholics in the United States and with the hopes of many honest Mexicans fleeing from violence and poverty. During his visit to Mexico past February Pope Francis said: “A person who thinks of building walls is not Christian.” Trump said the Pope’s comment was “disgraceful.” The episode marked a distance with Catholic voters.
Pence’s appointment. However, when it became clear that the winners of the primary election were Trump and Hillary Clinton, known for her liberal positions on the family and abortion, many Catholics reconsidered the New-York entrepreneur as a viable candidate – in spite of his sexism (old and new) and in the light of the appointment of Mike Pence, Governor of Indiana, as Vice-President. Pence is an evangelical born and raised in a Catholic family. He is considered a reliable conservative, unquestionably pro-family and pro-life.
The ethnic question. However, Catholic US citizens, who voted for Trump in slightly higher numbers compared to Clinton, remain divided in terms of ethnicity.
Trump secured 60% of white votes, compared to 27% of Hispanics. Among the themes characterising the Trump-Pence ticket the latter’s pro-life stand is the aspect they most appreciate.
Moreover, many more issues – ranging from the care for migrants to climate change and environmental protection – appear to have been omitted by the new administration, which has impacted the reactions of Catholic groups.
Common home. On the one side, associations such as the promoters of the March for Life positively welcomed the news. “We are very pleased that the election results receive consensus at the Chamber, Senate and Presidency. We strongly support the appointment of a pro-life judge at the Supreme Court”, said Jeanne Mancini, chairman, “March for Life”
The tones of organization Climate Catholic Covenant, active in the field of climate change, are markedly different.
“We will work hard to create an area for debating proposals aimed at the protection of our ‘common home’ that is planet Earth”, the organizers wrote in a release. “We will remain vigil and active. In our experience as Christians, protecting the work of God is not an option, it is a must.”