Catholic leaders, progressive and conservative, condemn the violence at the Capitol

VATICAN CITY (RNS) – ‘Those who resort to inflammatory rhetoric must accept some responsibility for inciting the increasing violence in our nation,’ said Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington.

Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. The mob proceeded to breach the Capitol. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Progressive and conservative Catholic leaders condemned the storming of the Capitol, calling the mob’s actions Wednesday (Jan. 6) “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.”

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.

The president of the U.S. 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.”

People shelter in the House gallery as protesters try to break into the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The 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 criticized 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, criticizing 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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