WASHINGTON — Seeing the U.S. Capitol building being stormed by
a rioting mob Jan. 6 brought a visceral reaction from Congressman Jeff
Fortenberry, a Republican from Nebraska. Fortenberry, who is Catholic
and often attends daily Mass at St. Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill,
called the attack a “desecration.”
Supporters of outgoing
President Donald Trump broke through windows and doors, overwhelmed
Capitol Police lines and rampaged through the building, causing members
of Congress and staff to flee to secure areas, as the mob proceeded to
ransack congressional offices and wander into the abandoned Senate
chamber. Congress temporarily halted the count of electoral votes, a
process which was completed early in the morning Jan. 7.
saw (TV images of) a fool in the chair of the presiding officer of the
Senate, my visceral reaction was (this is) desecration,” Fortenberry
said in a Jan. 8 interview with the Catholic Standard, newspaper and
website of the Archdiocese of Washington.
The congressman, who has
a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University and a
master’s degree in theology from the Franciscan University of
Steubenville, Ohio, said, “The degradation of culture leads to these
moments where violence can be pursued in the name of justice. That’s how
twisted this is.”
When the crowd stormed the Capitol, Fortenberry
was quarantined in his office because of COVID-19 exposure, although he
was allowed to return for votes under safety precautions.
jarring and surreal at the same time,” he said. “I could not imagine
this could happen in the United States of America … To think somehow in
the pursuit of justice and democracy, people would take over the
Capitol. It’s not only jarring, but outrageous.”
Rep. Chris Smith
was in his office in the Rayburn House Office Building, writing remarks
to acknowledge the tally of the presidential election results when
Smith, R- New Jersey, who is co-chair of the
Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, emphasized the importance of dialogue
when there is disagreement, saying in a statement: “The enactment of
wise public policy to benefit all Americans requires robust dialogue and
debate — and genuine respect for one another especially when there is
fundamental disagreement. We must be committed to zero-tolerance toward
violence in any form.”
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles,
president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement
the evening of Jan. 6 saying he joined “people of good will in
condemning the violence today at the United States Capitol.”
is not who we are as Americans,” he said, adding that he is praying for
members of Congress, Capitol Hill staff members, police officers “and
all those working to restore order and public safety.”
reports also said explosive devices were found at the national offices
for the Republican and Democratic parties. A Capitol Police officer died
from injuries, and one person was shot. The woman who was shot died
later, and police stated that three other people died from “medical
Much of the country, and the world, watched aghast
at scenes coming out of the nation’s capital after Vice President Mike
Pence said he had no authority to change the results of the election,
affirming President-elect Joe Biden as the next commander-in-chief.
Francis offered prayers for the people of the United States “shaken by
the recent siege on Congress” and prayed for the five people who lost
their lives “in those dramatic moments” when protesters stormed the
Capitol Jan. 6.
Remarking on the events after reciting the Angelus
prayer Jan. 10, the pope insisted that “violence is always
self-destructive. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost.”
Mitchell Rozanski of St. Louis issued a statement on social media Jan.
6. “I join my brother U.S. bishops in condemning the violence we
witnessed today in our nation’s capital and condemning the events and
rhetoric leading to the mob violence,” he wrote. “We are called to act
for the greater good, seeking the way of peace, not violence, to foster
true healing for our United States. This nation has been a resilient
beacon of democracy, under God, that peacefully and respectfully defends
the rights of all our sisters and brothers. We will continue to do so
by joining in an understanding of God’s love for each and every one of
his children. I ask you to join me in prayer for peace and unity, and
for the repose of the soul of the young woman who lost her life during
today’s violence. Pray also for our lawmakers, that the Holy Spirit will
guide them, and that all of their actions will be for the greater good
of the people of the United States of America.”
including the vice president, were rushed to safety after the angry mob
broke into the building. Images on Twitter showed them breaking down
doors and some asking the whereabouts of the vice president. With “Trump
2020” flags, they freely roamed the halls of the capitol as scared
lawmakers crowded together to pray, some reported.
“It is my
considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution
constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which
electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence wrote
lawmakers in a letter just before a joint session of Congress to tally
the Electoral College count, raising Trump’s ire.
Pence ended the letter with “so help me God.”
earlier, Trump had publicly urged Pence via Twitter to refute
congressional certification of the results, even though Biden won the
popular as well as the electoral vote.
Utah Republican Sen. Mitt
Romney told a reporter for The New York Times who was seeking safety
along with lawmakers: “This is what the president has caused today, this
Many criticized those who had taken part in the chaos while also carrying “Jesus saves” flags mixed in with Trump paraphernalia.
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Rhode Island said he would be celebrating Mass “for our troubled nation.”
this holy season, as we continue to observe the birth of the Christ
Child, may peace, harmony, unity and fraternity be restored in our
country. May God bless and guide America!,” he wrote.
Archbishop William E. Lori released a statement later in the day saying
that “our hearts are heavy as we witness the shocking and unlawful
protests occurring in our nation’s capital.”
“We fervently pray
for peace and for God’s protection over our country, our lawmakers, and
all those in harm’s way this terrible day. May peace-loving Americans of
good will throughout the United States come together to engender peace,
reconciliation and healing in our wounded and broken nation, which
remains and must always be one, under God,” he said.
Rhina Guidos, Kurt Jensen, Carol Zimmermann and Mark Zimmermann contributed to this report.