U.S. Catholics weigh in with mixed reaction on projected Biden win

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden joins vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris onstage at a rally in Wilmington, Del., Nov. 7, 2020, after news media declared they had won the presidential election. (CNS/Jim Bourg, Reuters)

By Rhina Guidos / Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The bishop of the Delaware Catholic diocese where the nation’s future 46th president has worshipped for decades offered his congratulations Nov. 8, as well as hopes that voters set aside political differences and heed the Gospel’s call for unity.

“Today I congratulate President-elect (Joe) Biden. We all must pray for the president-elect and President (Donald) Trump during this time of transition and we look to the future with hope that as one nation under God, we will continue be a beacon of freedom and prosperity to the world,” said Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware, in a statement.

“No matter where we might fall on the political spectrum, we must seize this moment as an opportunity to begin to heal the crippling divisions in our great nation,” he said. “These fractures were forged over decades and reconciliation will take time and patience.”

Change begins, he said, “with each of us.”

Biden is the second Catholic to be elected to the nation’s highest office. Sixty years ago, on Nov. 8, 1960, John F. Kennedy became the first. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is the first woman and the first person of color to be elected to the second highest office.

However, some Catholics and other organizations weren’t ready yet to accept the projection of Biden as the winner. As of Nov. 9, President Trump had yet to concede and had initiated legal challenges on the vote count..

Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, said in a Nov. 8 statement that this was “a time for prudence and patience since the results had not been authenticated.”

It is typical to project the winner before results are certified, which can take from days to weeks depending on the state. The same process took place in 2016 when Trump was projected as the winner and also took place in previous presidential elections.

Republicans and Democrats have been currently projected winners in the various races for political offices around the country. Organizations project winners as initial vote counts show whether certain candidates have viable paths to victory left.

“OUR STRENGTH LIES IN OUR UNITY”

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago said that “as we now have the results of the election, it is good to remember that our strength in America lies in our unity.”

“We commend all who had the courage to compete in the electoral process and participate in our democracy,” the cardinal said. “We pray that the Lord will enlighten and sustain those elected in their service to all the people of our country.

“Let us also ask God to free our hearts of regrets and resentments, of pride and contemptuousness. Particularly in this time of pandemic, we must set aside whatever partisan concerns have divided us and turn our energy and passion to serving the common good.”

In the Diocese of Peoria, Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka posted a similar call on his Facebook site.

“Let us offer a prayer for the new administration,” he wrote. “May God grant them the wisdom to lead us in all the challenges we face, especially the challenge of bringing unity to our country.”

Likewise, organizations such as the Catholic Health Association of the United States, through its CEO and president, Mercy Sister Mary Haddad, offered prayers “for the renewal of cooperation.”

“As people of faith, we join the voices of those working to unify our country and look forward to working with the new administration to promote the common good for all,” said Sister Haddad. “We take great pride that upon his inauguration, he will be the second Catholic ever elected to the highest office in the country. ”

She offered cooperation from the organization in dealing with tasks ahead, citing the “profound crisis” of the coronavirus pandemic that has left more than 237,000 dead in the U.S. and millions unemployed.

“PRAY FOR PEACE, EACH CANDIDATE”

Bishop Olson in his statement referenced the president’s upcoming legal challenges to the vote count.

“It appears that there will be recourse made in the courts so it is best for us in the meantime to pray for peace in our society and nation and that the integrity of our republic, one nation under God, might be maintained for the common good of all,” he wrote.

“We need to pray for each presidential candidate, that each will maintain a commitment to just and due process in accord with right reason and the rule of law for the sake of justice and peace,” Bishop Olson added.

Some Trump supporters, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said Trump has a constitutional right to take his grievances to the courts.

The day after the projections were made by various media networks, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, congratulated Biden on the win.

“We thank God for the blessings of liberty,” Archbishop Gomez said. “Now is the time for our leaders to come together in a spirit of national unity and to commit themselves to dialogue and compromise for the common good.”

Catholics have a special duty to be peacemakers, Archbishop Gomez said, “to promote fraternity and mutual trust, and to pray for a renewed spirit of true patriotism in our country.”

“As we do this, we recognize that Joseph R. Biden, Jr., has received enough votes to be elected the 46th president of the United States,” he said. “We congratulate Mr. Biden and acknowledge that he joins the late President John F. Kennedy as the second United States president to profess the Catholic faith.

“We also congratulate Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California, who becomes the first woman ever elected as vice president.”

The views reflected the divisions among U.S. Catholics over the two candidates. Among Catholics, news agency AP in its VoteCast showed ballots cast were split between the two, with 50% of Catholics backing Trump and 49% Biden, who received majority support from Latino Catholics, the second largest ethnic group in the church in the U.S.

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