WASHINGTON (CNS) — All the distrust, vitriol and rancor stirred up during the 2016 presidential election campaign did not go away when votes were tallied.
The Nov. 8 election’s outcome, for many, only added more layers of frustration, anger and fear, prompting dozens of protests across the country.
Political leaders, including Hillary Clinton, President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama, acknowledged the disunity and urged people after the election to try to work together.
Catholic leaders have been making similar pleas, not only for the nation, but also recognizing the division that exists among the church’s own members who split their vote — 45 percent for Clinton and 52 percent for Trump.
Four days before the election, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, told a Catholic group in Arlington, Virginia, that regardless of the election’s outcome, “our country will remain deeply divided and those divisions are, to a very real extent, also reflected within our own Catholic faith community.”
The question before Catholics, he said, is whether we will be “a source of unity and reconciliation, or whether we will be a cause of further division.”
That view also was expressed in a Nov. 9 editorial in the National Catholic Reporter newspaper describing the political climate as a “profound moment in our nation’s history and in our church’s history. … The question now is whether we have the courage and leadership to confront these hurts, work for justice and begin the healing process.”
Putting it even more succinctly was an Election Day tweet by Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis: “Whatever happens at the polls, God will reign. Our work begins tomorrow, building bridges and healing wounds.”
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said: “Every election brings a new beginning. Some may wonder whether the country can reconcile, work together and fulfill the promise of a more perfect union. Through the hope Christ offers, I believe God will give us the strength to heal and unite.”
And Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice lobbying organization Network, said her faith dictates that “now, more than ever, we need to mend the gaps and bridge the divides among us.”
“If anger fueled the election, we need to listen deeply to this reality, not dismiss it,” said the Sister of Social Service. “The temptation is to immediately think about how we will fight back, but fighting back will only reinforce this mess we’re in. Instead, we have to fight for a vision that eases people’s fears, brings us together and solves problems.”
Days before the election, Jesuit Father Jim Martin, author and editor at large at America, a weekly magazine published by the Jesuits, said after the election Catholics might want to say the “Prayer for Christian Unity,” which is meant for interfaith unity but has an apt message at a time when many “will feel excluded and unwelcome.”
It turns out the Catholic “Prayer for After an Election” also highlights unity, asking God to “heal us from our differences and unite us, O Lord, with a common purpose, dedication and commitment to achieve liberty and justice in the years ahead.”