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Bishop Barron calls for national examination of conscience

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John Nacion / NurPhoto / NurPhoto via AFP

John Burger - published on 01/07/21

Catholic bishops react to Wednesday's violence in U.S. capitol.

In the wake of a violent protest inside the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, in which four people died and the halls of Congress were ransacked, Catholic bishops around the nation called for a recommitment to democratic principles and a peaceful adjudication of differences.

Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles called for a “national examination of conscience,” after a year in which he has seen a degradation of our core values of democratic discourse.

“What we’re seeing, it seems to me, is a breakdown of one of the great qualities of our liberal democracy, by which I mean the opening up of a non-violent space — a space of conversation, of debate, of argument, of voting — all these non-violent means by which we adjudicate our disputes and move forward as a country,” Bishop Barron said in a video posted on Facebook and Twitter. “To see violent people invading that civilly sacred space was what was so disturbing and so unnerving.”

Barron, who founded the popular Catholic apostolate called Word on Fire, noted that there has been “a lot of violence this past year — plenty to go around, across the ideological spectrum: people attacking our institutions, people refusing to engage in anything like real argument or discussion or civil discourse, but resorting to violence. This has got to stop.”

He noted that “many of the best qualities of our democracy are grounded in deeply religious principles: equality and freedom and the dignity of the individual — and this nonviolent space for the adjudication of our disputes.”

“I think all of us have to engage in a sort of national examination of conscience and really look at the way — and this is across the board, from social media to our streets, and now to the Capitol itself — how are we adjudicating our disputes?” Barron urged. “Are we able to inhabit this healthy space of our democracy, or are we resorting to something far more dangerous, far more primitive? Can we all … take a good hard look at this very negative turn our country has taken?”

“One nation under God”

It was while Congress was certifying the Electoral College votes from November’s presidential election — and after President Trump had finished addressing a large rally of supporters on the Ellipse — that protestors, streaming over from that rally, forced their way into the Capitol. Security, which was overwhelmed, put the building on lockdown while protestors entered, some attempting to get into the House of Representatives chamber and others vandalizing offices of representatives. Vice President Michael R. Pence, who was presiding over the vote confirmation, was taken to a secure, undisclosed location. 

Capitol police shot a Trump supporter during the melee, and the woman subsequently died. Three other persons died in separate medical emergencies near the Capitol as the mob charged the building.   

The building was secured later in the afternoon, and Congress resumed its proceedings, certifying Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Electoral College victory later in the evening.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued a statement condemning the violence, saying, “This is not who we are as Americans.”

“The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of this great nation,” Archbishop Gomez said. “In this troubling moment, we must recommit ourselves to the values and principles of our democracy and come together as one nation under God.”

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, issued a statement Wednesday evening, calling the Capitol “sacred ground and a place where people over the past centuries have rightly demonstrated, representing a wide variety of opinions.”

“We Americans should honor the place where our nation’s laws and policies are debated and decided,” Cardinal Gregory said. “We should feel violated when the legacy of freedom enshrined in that building is disrespected and desecrated.”

The cardinal also called for an end the the “divisive tone that has recently so dominated our national conversations. Those who resort to inflammatory rhetoric must accept some responsibility for inciting the increasing violence in our nation.”

Read more:
US bishops congratulate Biden, recall that democracy requires ‘virtue and self-discipline’

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