NEW YORK — By mid-morning Nov. 7, Joe Biden was projected by news organizations, to capture enough electoral college votes to win the 2020 election and make history as the second Catholic commander-in-chief in United States history.
As that happened, reactions among American Catholics broadly reflected the divisions that will remain in the country long after the last ballot is counted.
President Trump hasn’t conceded the election. The Trump campaign continues to dispute the result announced by the media on Saturday, Nov. 7, and vowed to file lawsuits in several battleground states.
Biden did, however, address the nation Saturday night, offering his favorite Catholic hymn, “On Eagle’s Wings,” as a message of solace for the nation, especially those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“And he will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand,” Biden said.
On Saturday, many across the country took to the streets and social media to congratulate Biden and running mate Kamala Harris — who would be the first black, first Asian, and first female vice president.
Biden’s Catholic supporters say that after four years of what they call polarization and divisive rhetoric from President Trump, the country needs Biden to bring the country back together. However, with a Biden presidency, many Catholics fear an expansion of abortion rights is now inevitable because of his pro-choice beliefs.
“I envision Joe Biden being someone who will look at the different factions that have us at each other’s throats across the country and bring us together,” said Father Bob Bonnet, executive director of the Association of United States Catholic Priests.
Bonnet has faith in Biden because of the pro-life ideals he has beyond his pro-choice abortion stance. Abortion is just one piece of it, he said. The larger pro-life perspective includes respect for the dignity of every human being. Immigration, climate change, and international affairs are a few areas Bonnet sees Biden propelling the country forward.
The AP called the election for Biden nearly five days after mail-in ballots delayed the counting process in several states. His more than 75 million individual votes are the most ever. It’s still too early to tell what percentage of the Catholic vote he got.
Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States Neomi De Anda, however, saw an overwhelming number of young Hispanic and Latino/Latina Catholics vote for Biden because of his immigration policy.
“These are people carrying votes not just for themselves but others in the country and they have to deal with the ramifications of whoever’s in office for the next four years,” De Anda said.
That reality is part of the reason she expects a sense of relief from many in this community. It won’t be “pushing a square wheel uphill for another four years with a chance of it falling on you the whole way up,” she said.
But De Anda also fears some will get complacent and think that if Biden is finally elected problems will magically disappear. There are still issues in education availability, education balance, immigration, and the prison industrial complex, she said.
There were other single-issue voters, however, that see a potential Biden presidency completely different. Immigration was the issue for some, but the unborn was the priority for others that voted to re-elect President Trump.
Mary FioRito, the Cardinal George Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, doesn’t understand how people excuse Biden’s pro-choice stance when he talks about his Catholic foundation.
“When you’re talking about this being an important part of your life, if you take that foundation of social Catholic teaching out it’s like a house of cards,” FioRito said.
Theresa Farnan shares this stance on abortion, but with a more specific concern.
Her focus is on eugenic abortion. As a mother of a child with Down syndrome, she fears fewer abortion restrictions will open the door for women to get an abortion because the baby has Down Syndrome or another disability.
Farnan is the author of “Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child From Public School Before It’s Too Late,” and a Catholic Women’s Forum advisory board member.
“I’m actually very sad about it,” she said. “I really am worried that the full-bore ‘pedal to the metal’ approach of democrats in support of unrestricted abortion rights is going to lead to even more pressure on expecting mothers.”
When she looks at other issues like climate change and immigration Farnan sees issues that people can disagree on and have a discussion on how to best solve the problem. Abortion is different. It’s a very clear cut, right or wrong issue, she said.
Added to the list of possible Biden presidency concerns for FioRito is the economy shutting down. Farnan worries about the state of Catholic schools.
Executive Director of NETWORK Sister Simone Campbell couldn’t disagree more with FioRito and Farnan’s abortion stance. In her opinion, the way to take care of the unborn is by taking care of their mothers with proper access to things like nutrition, housing, childcare, and healthcare.
She, like Bonnet, said Biden is someone who would help bring the country back together.
“He has a much better sense of governance and calm. What he says about governing for those that vote for him and those that don’t. I’ve seen him engage in what Pope Francis calls the ‘politics of encounter’ — meeting people, talking to people, hearing their stories,” Campbell said.
The importance of people on both sides of the aisle coming together was a message spread by many Catholics both before and after there were election results. Campbell said figuring out how is one of the most important questions the country faces.
“I think what we have to be careful about is often when people come together they mean to agree with me. I think what we have got to figure out is how do we listen to each other with ears that can hear a different perspective, a different point of view respectively,” she said.
The President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, had a similar message of unity in a statement Saturday night. He also congratulated Biden after The AP called the election for him saying that “he joins the late President John F. Kennedy as the second United States president to profess the Catholic faith.”
“Democracy requires that all of us conduct ourselves as people of virtue and self-discipline,” Archbishop Gomez said in the statement. “It requires that we respect the free expression of opinions and that we treat one another with charity and civility, even as we might disagree deeply in our debates on matters of law and public policy.”