by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
A friend of mine in St. Louis, who is pastor of a very large, vibrant parish, shared that he was weary from receiving complaints this past fall that he failed to endorse from the pulpit his parishioners’ preferred candidates.
He had printed up small cards that were red, white, and blue stating: “Jesus 2020!”
On Jan. 6, when a violent riot desecrated our nation’s Capitol, I was on retreat in Wichita with the bishops of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa. Attempting to shut out the noise of the world, I was not checking news media.
I was stunned when I was informed about the tragic events that were occurring in Washington, D.C.
For a democratic republic to flourish, much less survive, violence can never be the way we attempt to resolve issues of disagreement. There can be no excuse for the behavior of those who stormed the Capitol, threatening the lives of members of Congress and their staffs.
A Capitol police officer died as a result of injuries inflicted by rioters. One of the rioters died from a gunshot wound she received while attempting to enter the speaker’s chambers. Three other participants in the demonstration died from medical emergencies. What senseless tragedies!
President Trump needs to take some responsibility for the tragic events of Jan. 6. If nothing else, he failed as a leader by not attempting to intervene quickly to stop the riot. The House of Representatives has impeached President Trump for the second time. By the time you read this article, Donald Trump will no longer be president.
Evidently, the point of pursuing a possible Senate conviction is to make certain that Trump is barred from ever again seeking elected office.
Unfortunately, there is plenty of blame to go around. Those leading the charge for a Senate trial of Trump claimed that he incited an insurrection by questioning the results of this past November’s election.
Ironically, these are some of the same individuals who questioned for four years the legitimacy of the 2016 election. They also failed to condemn the violence of last summer’s urban riots that destroyed businesses, neighborhoods and resulted in deaths of both citizens and police officers.
They cheered the 2017 Women’s March where one of the featured speakers admitted fantasizing about bombing the White House. They also stoked the legitimate fears of many Americans by threatening to pack the U.S. Supreme Court, add new states to the country and eliminate the Electoral College.
Sadly, during his meteoric political career, Donald Trump lowered the level of public discourse. The former president did not only criticize the wisdom of the ideas and policy positions of those with whom he differed, but Trump chose to attack personally, even to the point of mocking the physical appearance of, those with whom he disagreed.
I disagreed with several of Trump’s public policy positions, especially in the area of immigration. It was disappointing that our nation has still failed to grant some form of legal status to individuals who were brought to the United States as children.
While there are legitimate concerns about illegal immigration and the failure to control our nation’s borders, harming both undocumented immigrants as well as U.S. citizens, successful reform needs to include generous opportunities for legal immigration and workers’ visas.
Trump’s position of wanting to limit immigration only to highly educated and skilled individuals is not consistent with our history.
Most of our ancestors who immigrated to the United States decades ago would have been denied admission under such standards. Even more troubling were the severe limitations by the Trump administration on refugee status for those fleeing violence and persecution in their homelands.
Yet, Trump also did many good things. Part of this billionaire’s popularity with many working class Americans was they felt Trump was genuinely concerned about issues that mattered to them.
From job creation to record low unemployment for minority groups, to opportunity zones in financially stressed neighborhoods, to criminal justice reform, to his efforts to bring back manufacturing plants to the U.S., to opening up new avenues for peace in the Middle East, to the development of a Covid vaccine more rapidly than anyone thought possible, despite all of his frailties and egocentric persona there were some very positive developments during the past four years.
Today marks the 48th anniversary of the Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion on demand throughout the United States. More than 60 million American children have been killed by abortion over the past 48 years. The fathers and mothers of these aborted children are not unscathed by the deaths of their daughters and sons.
Just a year ago, Pope Francis in a meeting with the bishops of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska reminded us that abortion is not primarily a religious issue, but a human rights issue.
The Holy Father said that in his dialogue with those who support abortion, he always asked two questions: 1) Is it ever right to kill a child to solve a problem? 2) Is it ever right to hire someone to kill a child to solve a problem?
One of the positive achievements of the Trump presidency was the appointment of many well-qualified federal judges and three Supreme Court justices who recognize and respect the limits of the courts’ authority. Their responsibility is to judge cases based on their compliance with the U.S. Constitution, not to invent rights and/or impose their personal philosophical beliefs on the nation.
President Trump also accomplished much through his cabinet appointments, executive orders and the interpretation and implementation of regulations that resulted in protecting unborn children, religious freedom and conscience rights.
During the campaign, President Biden promised not only to keep abortion legal but even to force taxpayers to fund abortion. He promised to renew government efforts to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide abortifacients in their lay employee health plans.
I hope that these are promises our new president will fail to keep. We must pray for President Biden to have a conversion of mind and heart on this most fundamental of all human rights issues.
It is a scandal to have a president who proudly professes to be a devout Catholic and at the same time has, in essence, pledged to be the most pro-abortion president in our history.
We need to pray for our new president, Joseph Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris, that the Lord will bless them in fulfilling their responsibilities to lead our country.
We need to pray for the good of our nation that the Lord will bring forth blessings from a Biden presidency.
Based on his proposed cabinet appointments and the promises he made during the campaign, I anticipate the next four years will be very difficult and I will have to disagree vigorously with several of President Biden’s policy initiatives.
In a democratic republic, we need to be able to debate vigorously and honestly important public policy issues.
However, while we defend passionately the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human person, let us not villainize those with whom we differ.
Just as it makes no sense to destroy lives in our effort to defend the sanctity of human life, so also it is inconsistent to uphold the dignity of the human person by denigrating those with whom we disagree.
If we place Jesus first in 2021, then we can count on his help in speaking the truth with love as we strive to build a culture of life and a civilization of love.
All things are possible with God. Jesus 2021!