BISHOPS in the United States have welcomed the election of the second Roman Catholic US President — and the first since John F. Kennedy was elected in 1961.
The President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, the Most Revd José Gomez, congratulated the President-elect, Joe Biden, and the Vice-President-elect, Kamala Harris — the first woman elected to this office — and called for “our leaders to come together in a spirit of national unity and to commit themselves to dialogue and compromise for the common good”.
In his first address to supporters on Saturday night, when the election had been called in his favour by the media after days of uncertainty, Mr Biden spoke of his faith and called for unity.
Referring to the book of Ecclesiastes, he said: “To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans. The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.”
He ended by quoting a hymn that, he said, meant a lot to him and his family, particularly his son, Beau, who died five years ago from brain cancer, aged 46.
The hymn — “On Eagle’s Wings”, which is often sung at the end of funeral masses — would bring comfort, he hoped, to the families of the 237,000 Americans who have died so far from Covid-19.
Americans celebrated Mr Biden’s victory with spontaneous outpourings and celebrations on city streets. For many, it was the election of the first female Vice-President which was a moment for joy. Ms Harris will also be the first black and first South-Asian American to hold the office. Brought up with both Hinduism and Christianity, she describes herself today as a Black Baptist.
The election result was welcomed on Saturday by the Bishop of Washington, the Rt Revd Mariann Budde, and the Dean of Washington National Cathedral, the Very Revd Randy Hollerith. In a joint statement, they said: “We will begin anew the work of repairing the frayed fabric of our common life.”
Their statement continued: “To President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, we offer our prayers for wisdom, grace and the certain knowledge of God’s presence in the difficult work ahead. To President Trump and Vice President Pence, we give our thanks for their service to our nation, and prayers for God’s guidance as they lay down the powers of their office.
“That we are a bruised and divided nation is not news. Yet only together can we meet the enormous challenges before us. All Americans, and particularly our leaders, must put the healing of the nation above partisan loyalties.”
They called for Americans to show “grace and compassion” to those who voted differently.
Opinion polls suggest that, despite Mr Biden’s known church allegiance, the RC vote was split evenly between both candidates, and that Mr Biden attracted the support of 49 per cent of American RCs, and President Trump 50 per cent. Mr Biden’s support for women’s reproductive rights, particularly abortion, and same-sex marriage, upset many Catholics. Last year, he was denied communion by a priest in South Carolina owing to his stance on abortion.
President Trump also retained the support of many white Evangelicals. Exit polls suggested that three-quarters of all those identifying as white Evangelicals voted Republican, compared with 81 per cent four years ago. RC voters are concentrated in Rust Belt states (in the north-east, which have experienced industrial decline), such as Wisconsin and Michigan. Both flipped their support from Trump to Biden this year.
VoteCast, a poll carried out for the the Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago, broke down the vote along lines of religious affiliation: among white Catholics, 57 per cent for Trump and 42 per cent for Biden; among Hispanic Catholics, 67 per cent for Biden and 32 per cent for Trump. Among voters with no religious affiliation, Biden took 72 per cent while Trump took 26 per cent.
VoteCast also found several other religious voting blocs going overwhelmingly for Biden, including Muslim and Jewish voters.
As the votes in key states began to give Mr Biden the edge on Thursday of last week, President Trump’s spiritual adviser, Paula White-Cain, led an online service praying for divine intervention. She denounced the “demonic confederacies” working against President Trump and called for “angels from Africa, from South America” to come to his aid.
As of Wednesday, President Trump was still refusing to concede the election, and continued to incite protests with posts on Twitter alleging fraud, for which no evidence has been produced. Several lawsuits launched by his team in key states alleging fraud had already been thrown out. A few states had still to complete their counts, including North Carolina and Georgia, but Mr Biden’s wining of Pennsylvania on Saturday gave him the electoral-college votes needed for the presidency.
Read comment on the story here; from Paul Vallely, and in Andrew Brown’s press column