U.S. bishops are trying to figure out how to deal with postelection animus

| Rhina Guidos | November 22, 2016 | 6 Comments
Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Wilmington, Ohio, Nov. 4. Trump won the presidency in the Nov. 8 elections. CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, Reuters

Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Wilmington, Ohio, Nov. 4. Trump won the presidency in the Nov. 8 elections. CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, Reuters

Like many others, the U.S. Catholic bishops are trying to figure out how to deal with a president-elect who’s different from anyone they’ve dealt with in the past and one involved in one of the most rancorous elections in modern times.

As a candidate, Republican Donald Trump, said some things that proved hurtful and worrisome to groups of Latino and black Catholics, but also gave hope to Catholics concerned about religious freedom and abortion.

At the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore in mid-November, church leaders tried to urge calm, caution and promote unity following an election season fueled by vitriol, name-calling and fear.

“The dust hasn’t settled on the election yet,” said Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, during a Nov. 14 news conference, adding that as a group of bishops, “we’ve just begun a conversation about how we’re going to move forward.”

This election, Bishop Coyne said, “it’s so beyond the pale of what we’ve faced before.”

“We knew the lay of the land when we approached a Democratic presidency or a Republican presidency, you’d go into Congress and approach them in (certain) ways,” he said. “This election has thrown all that out the window.”

“I think we need to talk about how we as bishops maintain the good news, maintain the things that we stand for as Catholics, seeking always the common good, in ways that serve the best way forward for all of us,” he said.

At the fall general meeting, bishops were peppered with questions about how they’ll work with or approach a Trump administration that made promises to anti-abortion Catholic constituencies yet insulted ethnic groups and threatened mass deportations, which some bishops have publicly opposed.

In a Nov. 15 news conference, Jesuit Father Thomas Reese asked Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who had just been elected president of the conference, whether, as USCCB president, he saw opportunities for dealing with a new Trump administration on pro-life issues and religious freedom issues, such as the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

“I have to admit at this point I’m not sure where the new administration is coming from,” he said.”My hope would be that we can sit down with the administration or meet with them in some fashion, perhaps even in terms of Congress, relative to some pro-life things. I would certainly think some aspects of the Affordable Care Act would be great if we could sit down and see them worked out, relative to, let’s say, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and analogous things.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor have been in the forefront of several Catholic entities fighting a mandate that would require them as employers to cover contraceptives in their employee health plans over their moral objections to such coverage.

Cardinal DiNardo added: “We would like to see the Hyde Amendment extended, as it has always been every year and not with the difficulties that were apparently attached earlier this year to its passage … appointments of judges are important.” The Hyde Amendment prevents federal funds from being used to pay for abortion except in cases of rape or to save the life of the mother.

The day before, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, addressing a question about Trump’s campaign promise to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits certain tax-exempt organizations from endorsing and opposing political candidates, said there was an important distinction to make.

“There’s a big difference between political promises and political action,” he said. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

What concerns him most, said Archbishop Gregory, is finding a peaceful way forward, not just for Catholics divided over the elections, but for the nation.

“One of the things we’re grappling with now is not just bringing Catholics together, but bringing America together,” he said. “We, in the life of the church, are united by our faith, by our religious conviction in liturgical life. This past election was so unusual in its hostility that it lay the foundation for this kind of unusual reaction.”

In any election, he said, there are winners and losers, but when the climate has been so inflamed, there were bound to be protests, no matter who won “because of the animus that marked the entire election,” he said.

“I would hope that we, as Catholics, no matter who you voted for, or (where you) are in the political spectrum, would be able to come together in Eucharist and say, ‘There is one Lord, there is one Eucharist, there is one church, and it’s big enough to embrace all of us,'” said Archbishop Gregory. “I am more worried about the nature of our society that seems to have taken in such violence and venom. … If we’re going to survive as a nation, we have to treat one another much more civilly.”

He also issued a reminder that no political party or political candidate embraces the full range of human life issues that the Catholic Church teaches.

“I’ve looked and I can’t find any,” he said. “There has been no political platform that has been proposed that coincides perfectly with Catholic Social Teaching on the dignity of human life … That’s why it was so difficult for people to vote … (there was) some dimension of human dignity and the respect of life on one political party, and another part on another. But there no one cohesive expression of Catholic Social Teaching can be identified with any political party.”

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  • JJ

    How do you approach him? You approach him with dignity and respect for him as a person and not a preconceived presumption and a motivation to manipulate.
    How do you bring Catholics and all of America together? You might start by not continuing to spread false statements. Mr Trump never anything about ALL Latinos, he made politically incorrect comments about some people coming into our country illegally and committing crimes. He was making shocking statements to get people’s attention, make them think, and bring back to the voting process those who had dropped out. His entire shtick is about negotionation and coming to compromise. He starts by bringing opposite and extreme positions to the table and them working towards a solution both extremes can agree upon.

  • Charles C.

    The bishops seem to think it is their responsibility to bring Catholics and America together. They have the wrong diagnosis so their attempts at a cure will, at best, be ineffectual.

    Animus is a condition, an illness, of the mind and the soul. It is, in almost every case, a choice. Merriam-Webster offers the definition: “a usually prejudiced and often spiteful or malevolent ill will.” The Church declares it to be a sin, calling it wrath or anger.

    Americans were insulted and attacked by the previous president but were able to control themselves. We went through the election of 2012, re-electing a man who had proven to be dishonest, disrespectful of life, the Church, and the Constitution. We survived that election without rioting, physically attacking our opponents, burning and destroying property, calling for the rape of the candidate’s wife, etc.

    As the “animus” which the bishops rightly condemn is an individual act or condition, it must be cured within the individual and not externally. Allow me to offer a suggested course of treatment. These steps may be taken in any order, but they are all beneficial.

    1. Take a deep breath. Now, do it another one or two hundred times.
    2. Grow up. Learn some self-control. God is the center of the Universe, not you or even the United States.
    3. Go to Confession. Frequently.
    4. Get professional help. Whether its from a priest or psychiatrist or both. You have something broken inside, work on getting it fixed.

    When you’re feeling better, let’s sit down and talk about moving forward in all circumstances surrounded by God’s love.

    (Oh, and send a sincere letter of apology to family members you insulted for voting the wrong way, no matter which way that was.)

  • tschraad

    Article stated ” But there no one cohesive expression of Catholic Social Teaching can be identified with any political party.””

    You will never bring America together when you cannot even bring Catholics together.

    We had one candidate who is pro-life and the other candidate who would kill a perfectly healthy human being even as the child was emerging from the birth canal and then allow the human baby to be butchered to sell its part.

    And the bishops feel that this intrinsically evil sin can be overlooked it the candidate believes in climate change.

    The Church will unite as soon as the bishops decide to serve the church and not be political. How much scandal that the Bishops promote through their lack of actions do we Catholics have to absorbed. It appears that the Bishops are more interested in denying jobs and security for Americans and allowing the killing of the unborn child to be
    delegated as not a very important issue. SAD.

  • Dominic Deus

    The Church has well established principles on opposing on racism, misogyny, sexual assault, Islamophobia, religious discrimination in general, treatment of immigrants, sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, and offering refuge to the refugee. So yes, the question of how we deal with President Trump is very much in play. I assume we all agree that we will not compromise those principles for political expediency. Am I wrong? I hope not. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a414a113a8c6d50c3991c34131e5e3f191e5c6b2d4f2d7419c825dee69194812.jpg

    • Charles C.

      Dear Dominic,

      Forgive me if I missed your point, but you’ve got me confused.

      While the Church doesn’t like bad things (rape, racism, general grouchiness), some of what you list has nothing to do with the presidency or the government at all. Most of the rest of the issues are also not addressed by the Church at the level of the government.

      If I don’t happen to like women, blacks, or the religion of Islam, what do you want the government to do about it? Trump is irrelevant to my prejudices or affections.

      You also list the problems of immigrants, and the homeless and hungry. While the Church tells each of us as individuals to care for these people to the extent we are able, she doesn’t tell any government what to do to solve these problems. Coming up with a solution is a matter of prudential judgment. The Church might say that the hungry should be fed, but how that is to be accomplished is up to the government.

      The Church has told us, as individuals, to welcome the stranger, but it also tells governments that they have a right to secure their borders and control immigration and citizenship. The “Open Borders” position, which many believe the Church espouses, or should espouse, is recognized as suicidal.

      “Islamophobia” is an interesting issue. First, what does it even mean? is any fear of Islam, Islamophobia? I part company with anyone who takes that view. So do the citizens of France, Germany, London, Israel, Africa, New York, etc.

      His Holiness, Pope Francis, assures us that “authentic Islam” is “opposed to every form of violence,” so we should not be afraid. But this message was not received by the late Ayatollah Khomeini who was in the habit of
      saying things like, “Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam
      counsels against war. Those are witless…Islam says: Whatever good there is
      exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be
      made obedient except with the sword!”

      The message has also not penetrated to hundreds of millions of Muslims in the world who believe that death is the proper penalty for blaspheming the prophet or leaving Islam.

      So how about if I just declare myself to be “NonauthenticIslamophobic?” (By the way, how would the Pope like it if some Imam announced that “Authentic Catholicsm” required this or that belief? You don’t make friends by telling them what their religion really teaches. They’re pretty sure they know.

      Oh, religious freedom in general? No worries there. In that particular area we should be much more hopeful now than we would have been had someone else been elected.

      • Dominic Deus

        Charles–I thought I wrote it about as clearly as I could.

        “The Church has well established principles on opposing on racism, misogyny, sexual assault, Islamophobia, religious discrimination in general, treatment of immigrants, sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, and offering refuge to the refugee.” Our President-elect has spoken in opposition to those principles as the Church has established them. With are we to do? Stand by the teaching of the Church or ignore it?

        I’ve never read a scripture or prayer that says we should leave feeding the hungry to the government. When injustice, suffering or oppression appears, for a follower of Jesus, the question is always “What am I going to do about it?” The Church offers teaching on that and my question for all of us including myself is “What are we going to do? What did Jesus tell us to do?”What did Senator Robert Byrd warn us about?

        The Holy Father is correct in his description of Islam. As it happens, one of my motivations for becoming a scriptural scholar was to better understand Islam. It is overwhelmingly a peaceful religion and there are actually fewer references to murderous action in the Quran than there are in the Christian Bible. Blaming all Muslims for violent jihad would be like blaming all Christians for the KKK.

        I’m in favor of asking the Catholic Spirit to run a series of stories on Islam and Muslims. All Catholics in the Archdiocese would benefit from this and the discussion I hope would follow.

        Do you know if anyone at the Chancery reads any of this?

        Anyway, lets NOT do this: