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US Catholic leaders, progressive and conservative, condemn the violence at the Capitol; Faith groups join calls for impeachment

Vatican CIty

Progressive and conservative Catholic leaders condemned the storming of the Capitol, calling the mob’s actions on Wednesday “sinful” and “appalling,” while reminding Catholic faithful “this is not who we are as Americans”.

“We Americans should honor the place where our nation’s laws and policies are debated and decided,” said Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the Archbishop of Washington, in a statement on Thursday.

“We should feel violated when the legacy of freedom enshrined in that building is disrespected and desecrated.”

US Capitol attack west wall

Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the the US Capitol on Wednesday, 6th January, in Washington. PICTURE: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana.

Gregory, who became the first African American cardinal in history in November, placed an emphasis on coming together “in this critical moment”. He urged the nation to overcome the “divisive tone” that has dominated the political discourse in the United States, calling individuals to respect the opinions of those with whom they disagree.

“Those who resort to inflammatory rhetoric must accept some responsibility for inciting the increasing violence in our nation,” he said.


Faith groups, immigrant rights activists and Democratic organisations issued a statement on Wednesday night calling for President Donald Trump’s impeachment, removal and prosecution after a mob of his supporters violently occupied the US Capitol.

“Every moment that he remains in office is a severe danger to our country,” the statement read.

The hours long occupation began after Trump repeated unfounded claims of election fraud to  demonstrators he’d invited to Washington. Many then surged to the Capitol, pushing through barriers and climbing the building, after Trump incited them to go there as lawmakers debated the electoral votes.

The rampage led to the deaths of four people, including a woman who was shot by the US Capitol Police and three others who died in “medical emergencies,” according to  The Associated Press. Law enforcement and Trump supporters deployed chemical irritants during the  occupation before it was cleared Wednesday evening, police said.

Hours later, Congress returned to the building and officially confirmed Joe Biden’s presidential election victory.

Among the faith groups pushing for Trump’s impeachment are: Faith for Black Lives, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism, Movement in Faith and Transform Network.

Other organisations include RAICES, Progressive Democrats of America, and DemCast USA.

In the statement, the groups also said members of Congress who “joined Trump in inciting [Wednesday’s] violent coup attempt based on baseless, provable lies must be held accountable through censure, expulsion, or other means.”


The president of the US bishops conference, Archbishop Josè Gomez of Los Angeles, extended his support and prayers to the staff of the Capitol and Congress who were exposed to danger during the riots, which resulted in the deaths of four individuals.

“This is not who we are as Americans,” Gomez said in a statement released on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website on Wednesday. “In this troubling moment, we must recommit ourselves to the values and principles of our democracy and come together as one nation under God.”

Rev James Martin, editor of America Magazine and advocate for LGBTQ Catholics, took to Twitter to address the “terrible events” that rocked the increasingly fragile democracy of the United States.

“This is a result of the lies that have been spread about President Trump and many of his supporters,” he said in the post, calling out the “sinful actions” of those who sowed division and undermined the nations’ institutions and electoral system.

In particular, he criticised those Christian prelates and leaders who polarized the national discourse surrounding the election in the United States, calling this moment a “wake-up call.”

Several Catholic conservative leaders and prelates spoke up on social media, criticising the events at the Capitol, some more vehemently than others.

“We must resist the temptation to indulge in hatred and anger and instead offer prayers for healing and reconciliation for our divided nation,” tweeted Archbishop Paul S Coakley of Oklahoma City, who in the past has taken conservative positions on moral questions such as civil unions for gay couples.

Bishop Thomas J Tobin of Rhode Island, who has opposed Pope Francis on several issues and is a staunch defender of the unborn, called for “peace, harmony, unity and fraternity” and announced he would be celebrating Mass for “our troubled nation”.

Considered a conservative prelate, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn also called the nation to prayer “on this unprecedented day of national chaos,” urging respect for the rule of law and the peaceful transfer of power.

“We are better than this,” he tweeted.

Dawn Eden Goldstein, a Catholic scholar and author, accused conservative Catholic media outlets, such as EWTN and Lifesite News, of inciting violence and fomenting the already deep divisions in the country. Among those she singled out is Raymond Arroyo, the spearhead of EWTN and recurring commentator on Fox news.

Arroyo called the riot at the Capitol building “disgraceful” on Twitter, before underlining he believes the same indignation should have occurred during the marches against Donald Trump and the Black Lives Matter protests. “All mob violence is wrong…all of it,” he wrote.

The mob insurgence in Washington occurred during the Catholic feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the Magi arriving at the manger where Christ was born. This, coupled with the election of the first Catholic president in decades, makes the position of Catholics even more poignant.

In this time of celebration for Catholics, “we witness an appalling assault on the central seat and process of American democracy which must stop,” said the members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States in a statement on Wednesday.

The prelates denounced the use of Jesus’ name to justify the actions that occurred in Washington and urged Catholic and non-Catholic leaders to call for unity and repentance.

Meanwhile, at the Vatican it is highly unlikely the Pope and his prelates will publicly comment on the events that transpired in another sovereign nation, but while their lips may remain sealed their eyes are surely watching.



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