CHURCH leaders across the United States and the world have decried the violence and insurrection unfolding at the Capitol Building in Washington DC today as US House and Senate members failed to confirm the electoral college vote for President-Elect Joe Biden.
The vote count was interrupted by rioters, who pushed past two police lines, a line of metal barricades and pried open the Capitol Building doors to occupy historic spaces.
Los Angeles auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron said he was “appalled” by the images from Washington DC.
“To see these violent, riotous mobs inside of the US Capitol, someone with his shirt off and a crazy hat on standing at the presidential rostrum in the senate – they appalled me.
“Not just as an American but as a Christian.”
In the chaos of the rioting, one woman had been shot and killed.
Preliminary reports suggest she was wearing a Trump banner when she was shot and was taken away in an ambulance.
Authorities have not yet released her name.
The scenes unfolded at the Capitol as US President Donald Trump held a rally in Georgia, where he repeated unsubstantiated claims that the election had been “stolen” from him and he had won the election.
Mr Trump lost the election in both popular vote and electoral college vote.
At least six House Democrats had called for a renewed impeachment of Mr Trump, claiming he had incited violence at the Capitol.
Others who have decried Mr Trump’s response have suggested invoking the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution, by which the sitting president can be deposed by the National Cabinet and the vice president.
President-Elect Biden said on Twitter that “the scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not represent who we are”.
“What we are seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness,” he said.
“This is not dissent, it’s disorder. It borders on sedition, and it must end.”
The electoral college vote was an important step in ratifying the presidential election towards Mr Biden’s inauguration day on Wednesday, January 20.
Bishop Barron said he had recently finished a book about Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration when the US Civil War was brewing and said even they managed to finish the electoral college count – “something which just amazingly we were not able to do today”.
“And the problem is what we’re seeing it seems to me is a breakdown of one of the great qualities of our liberal democracy, by which I mean the opening up of a nonviolent space, a space of conversation, of debate, of argument, of voting, all these nonviolent means by which we adjudicate our disputes and move forward as a country,” he said.
“To see violent people invading that civilly, sacred space, was what was so disturbing and so unnerving.”
He said the US was going through “difficult times” and the events at the Capitol were a “culminating event”.
“There was a lot of violence this past year, plenty to go around across the ideological spectrum – people attacking our institutions, people refusing to engage in anything like real argument or discussion or civil discourse but resorting to violence,” he said.
“This has got to stop and I say that as an American but again also as a Catholic bishop because many of the best qualities of our democracy are grounded in deeply religious principles – equality, freedom and the dignity of the individual and this nonviolent space for the adjudication of our disputes.”
Bishop Barron called on everyone in the country to engage in a national examination of conscience.
“Are we able to inhabit this healthy space of our democracy or are we resorting to something far more dangerous and far more primitive?” he said.
“Can we all engage in this national examination of conscience and take a good hard look at this very, very negative turn that I think our country has taken.”
House and Senate representatives have said they would return to the Capitol once the rioting had ceased to complete the electoral college vote.