A time to heal

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley         November 27, 2016

This is not the column I expected to write this week. Truth be told I expected to be writing about the prospects and challenges of a Clinton presidency. It would have been a notable first for the country had we elected our first woman president. That will have to wait. On the other hand, there would certainly have been many very serious concerns: the HHS mandate, same-sex marriage and transgenderism would have secured another powerful and influential advocate in the White House. Foremost in my mind was concern for the type of Supreme Court nominees that a President Hillary Clinton would almost certainly have proposed to the Senate. There would be little or no hope of turning back the expansion of abortion access for the next few decades.

Based on her well-documented record and campaign promises, I expected that we would be bracing for appointees who would have had to pledge allegiance to Roe v. Wade and would have contributed to the further erosion of our first and fundamental freedom, our religious liberty.

Enter President-elect Donald J. Trump. I didn’t see it coming. Perhaps we can breathe easier about some of the concerns that a different administration might have presented. So, what are the prospects of a Trump presidency? What does it mean? Certainly, it means that the pollsters and pundits got it wrong. There was apparently much more discontent with the status quo and where we were headed than previously imagined. It would be hard to pin President-elect Trump’s victory to any single promise or policy proposal. He was a difficult candidate to admire. His language and rhetoric were often outrageous, and certainly he has many character flaws, like most of us.

His most alarming rhetoric, however, seemed calculated to prey upon fear of immigrants. Certainly, securing our borders, public safety and national security are crucially important in an age when narco-trafficking and terrorism threaten our nation and our communities. Perhaps candidate Trump’s most memorable campaign promise was to build a wall across our southern border (and make Mexico pay for it). If we are going to build a wall, as Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said recently, “we need walls with doors because some of our greatest Americans have been immigrants or refugees. … We won’t make America great again by making America mean.”

Overheated campaign rhetoric is causing real alarm among the millions of immigrants living without documents in our nation. I know many of our Catholic people who are afraid of what tomorrow may bring. They are afraid to answer their doors for fear immigration officials are beginning to round up “illegals” and begin mass deportations. Children born in this country (who are citizens) are afraid that their parents may not come home from work because they have been placed in a detention center. These are our parishioners, our brothers and sisters, who share our pews in our churches. The threat of mass deportations of the undocumented is clearly impractical and wrongheaded.

Many people are alarmed at the outcome of this election and mistakenly assume that those who voted for Mr. Trump did so because they are okay with anti-immigrant, racist, anti-Muslim, anti-woman rhetoric. That is not a reasonable assumption. Nor should the new administration assume that it has a mandate to act upon such assumptions.

With the heat of the protracted campaign now behind us, I hope and pray that our president-elect will begin to walk back some of the divisive rhetoric that has caused such fear and alarm in our communities. This rhetoric will make it impossible for our president to heal our nation and to begin the task of governing all Americans. It is antithetical to the spirit of hospitality and welcome that has made this nation of immigrants the greatest country in the world.

Like him or not; whether we voted for him or not; it is our duty to pray for our president. It would have been so, even had the election produced a different result.