by Johnny Zokovitch
Executive Director, Pax Christi USA
For me as a Catholic, the image below – taken by a photojournalist at the rally at the White House just prior to the mob violence at the U.S. Capitol – was perhaps the most disturbing. (Note especially the “Stop the Steal” button worn by the sister in the middle.)
What is so disturbing is that I know what a role many in our Church – bishops and priests, influential lay leaders, Catholic organizations, Catholic media outlets, blogs, and others – played in setting the table for what happened on January 6th at the U.S. Capitol. Too many within our Church were responsible for enabling this president, either by looking the other way and excusing his behavior or actively cultivating the lies, misogyny, racism, and division to benefit their own agendas. And the violence of January 6th was the all-too-predictable result.
In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis wrote, “… We are called to love everyone, without exception; at the same time, loving an oppressor does not mean allowing him to keep oppressing us, or letting him think that what he does is acceptable. On the contrary, true love for an oppressor means seeking ways to make him cease his oppression; it means stripping him of a power that he does not know how to use, and that diminishes his own humanity and that of others.”
As we approach the inauguration this week, all of us – Catholics in every capacity within our Church, people of faith throughout our movement – need to unequivocally speak out and rebuke the lies about election fraud or any other claim that suggests the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was illicit in any way. Too many people, too many Catholics, embraced Trump’s lie. Violence aimed at dismantling the will of the people as determined through a fair and free election is unconscionable. Such violence undermines the most basic rights deriving from our common humanity and demanded by respect for human dignity – and sadly, predictably, led to loss of life – five people dead. The way that the crowd on January 6 was allowed to easily enter and swarm the U.S. Capitol was a blatant, grotesque demonstration of the power of white privilege. Furthermore, it drove home the point that Fr. Bryan Massingale made in his reflection on the day of the riot: that many in our country would rather live under a white dictatorship than in a multiracial democracy.
Again in Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis states that “no family, no group of neighbours, no ethnic group, much less a nation, has a future if the force that unites them, brings them together and resolves their differences is vengeance and hatred.”
Let this moment be the moment our Church unmistakably demonstrates that the gospel has no tolerance for the hatred, racism and lies which led to the violence at the U.S. Capitol and is being threatened throughout the land this week. Let us not be afraid to dig at the roots of the violence and division we are experiencing today – roots which extend back not 4 years but centuries deep into our history. And let this week be the moment when we, as a community of disciples to Jesus, motivated by his redemptive love, claim our vocation as truth-tellers, healers, reconcilers, and peacemakers.
With the resources in this week’s Pray-Study-Act e-bulletin, we invite you to move intentionally through this week, in prayer, study and action, as we approach the inauguration and, with hope, a new chapter in our nation’s history.