Pope Francis has weighed in on the violence at the US Capitol on Wednesday, January 6. This violence has been condoned or even incited by some of Francis’s critics within the Church, many of whom see loyalty to outgoing President Donald Trump as a greater moral imperative than loyalty to the Successor of Peter. Vatican News reported that Francis observed that “even mature societies can have flaws” and that there are often people “who take a path against the community, against democracy, and against the common good.”
“Understanding is fundamental,” says Francis, as is learning from history. In the case of the storming of the Capitol, this might include learning from other failed putsches and domestic terror incidents in the past. It might also include seeking to understand the path of radicalization taken by many of President Trump’s supporters, including some prominent American Catholics.
Regrettably, it has become clear that there will likely be more violence by pro-Trump extremists before Joe Biden’s inauguration as US President in eleven days’ time. Any Catholic struggling to process or assess such violence would do well to keep Pope Francis’s words in mind. It is, as Francis says, “time for healing.” The United States is walking difficult paths, politically and culturally. As Christians and Catholics, we are all called to earnestly seek reconciliation and build peace as best we can.
UPDATE 1/10/2021: The Pope spoke further of the unrest in the United States after the Sunday Angelus, calling for “a high sense of responsibility in order to soothe tempers, promote national reconciliation, and protect the democratic values rooted in American society.” He concluded with a prayer to the Virgin Mary “to help keep alive the culture of encounter, the culture of care” for the sake of the common good. Unfortunately, as of Sunday, outgoing President Trump did not seem to be heeding that call.
Nathan Turowsky is a native New Englander and now lives in Upstate New York. A lifelong fascination with religious ritual led him into first the Episcopal Church and then the Catholic Church. An alumnus of Boston University School of Theology and one of the relatively few Catholic alumni of that primarily Wesleyan institution, he is unmarried and works in the nonprofit sector. He writes at Silicate Siesta.