Chanting "Not my president" at Donald Trump isn't Catholic or catholic

Demonstrators shout and hold signs in front of the White House in Washington Nov. 10 following President-elect Donald Trump's victory in the Nov. 8 election (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters). Demonstrators shout and hold signs in front of the White House in Washington Nov. 10 following President-elect Donald Trump's victory in the Nov. 8 election (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters).

Cambridge, MA.—Today is Dec. 8, and so it is a month since the election that saw Donald J. Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. In contemplating the election results, the ensuing formation of the new government, and the deep despair and anxiety among many of my friends and colleagues and students, I have been tempted to join those chanting “not my president.” There is so little reason to have any faith at all in Mr. Trump, his intentions and his words, and his competence for office. It would be easy for me simply to step back, withdraw: safe in my Jesuit and Harvard tower, merely rejecting the very idea of a Trump presidency. “Not my president” becomes an attractive response.

But this “not” is no solution, whether it is hurled against Mr. Trump or against Presidents Obama or Bush by their opponents. The rhetoric of “not” is the symptom of a still deeper American problem, the increasing fragmentation of community into ever more selective and narrower sub-groups, defined by their difference from everyone else; even individuals become increasingly complex and set apart, unlike anyone else, pure in difference.

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But we share a single country, and it is nearly inconceivable to imagine pure islands of difference adding up to a wholesome society. There is no opting out, since in fact we keep living next to one another, benefiting and suffering from the good and bad things we do to one another. This is our country. I am reminded here of the words of Dorothy Day:

We in America are being afflicted for our own sins, and for the sins of our country. To me that phrase, “My country right or wrong,” means that we are all responsible. We are our brothers’ keeper. It was the first murderer who said “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (The Catholic Worker, February 1971)

2017 will not be the time for us to walk away from civic responsibility, or to disown the elected government, no matter how offensive we find its policies and postures to be. We are Americans, we had an election, we elected this president; we are in this together, for better or worse. Or as Day put it in another version of the idea I cited above, as she pondered the evils ever arising around us:

It is not just Vietnam, it is South Africa, it is Nigeria, the Congo, Indonesia, all of Latin America. It is not just the pictures of all the women and children who have been burnt alive in Vietnam, or the men who have been tortured, and died. It is not just the headless victims of the war in Colombia.

It is not just the words of Cardinal Spellman and Archbishop Hannan. It is the fact that whether we like it or not, we are Americans. It is indeed our country, right or wrong, as the Cardinal said in another context. We are warm and fed and secure (aside from occasional muggings and murders amongst us). We are the nation the most powerful, the most armed and we are supplying arms and money to the rest of the world where we are not ourselves fighting. We are eating while there is famine in the world…

When the apostles wanted to call down fire from heaven on the inhospitable Samaritans, the “enemies” of the Jews, Jesus said to them, “You know not of what Spirit you are.” Deliver us, O Lord, from the fear of our enemies, which makes cowards of us all. (The Catholic Worker, January 1967)

Mohandas K. Gandhi himself warned his followers, would-be activists for peace and liberation, against reducing our opponents to mere enemies; the point of satyagraha—the grasping of truth—lies into turning our enemies into sisters and brothers.

Those of us who are Catholic ought also to remember that a strength of Catholic tradition is its stubborn refusal to be un-catholic, sectarian, exclusive and purist. Being Catholic cannot today be fueled by animosity to all things Protestant; being Catholic is not about retreating into a Christendom that excludes or shows contempt for other faith traditions or plans to expand by colonizing our religious others. Our religious other is never merely a non-Catholic or non-Christian; we need to learn and give words to what each person is, not just what she is not. So, too, in a church that affirms ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, a Catholic view of America will be one that affirms the right and good of a multi-religious society, one that rejects homogeneity even while not papering over deep, even intractable differences. A Catholic view of America will also refuse to give up on our social order and our political system, even when the methods and fruits of our politics are deeply disappointing.

“Not my president” is neither catholic nor Catholic. Four years, or eight years, of a deeply worrisome and partisan government may lie before us, but it is our government, in this single land we inhabit, on this single planet Earth. For now, Mr. Trump will soon become “my president,” and a Catholic response, however deep our stubborn resistance to unwise and dangerous policies, will be to resist the divisive and exclusive policies of his government—and also divisive and exclusive language entertained by some of those in deep disagreement with him.

Or, most simply: Dec. 8 is of course the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which marks, too, the role of Mary as guiding protector of the United States. Mary is gracious to all, here for all Americans, not just people like ourselves.

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Brian Pinter
1 year ago
I appreciate what Prof. Clooney is saying here and I would like to hear his thoughts about the sense of nearly 66 million Americans that the election of Trump is illegitimate, i.e. it comes through a loophole in our constitution known as the electoral college; his "victory" does not express the will of the people. In light of this reality I can understand why people would be inclined to say "not my president." As a New Yorker I am very frustrated by the fact that in a presidential election the vote of someone in a far less populated state could count for more than 3 times what mine does. That's not fair and can lead one to lose confidence and hope in American governmental institutions. What kind of country is this where the person who gets fewer votes wins and then has the power to make consequential decisions with no mandate from the people in whose name he governs? One could be forgiven for saying that such a nation is not a "great" one.
Anne Chapman
1 year ago
Although I believe that you mean well, I disagree with your disagreement with those who assert that Trump is not their president. I say now, and will continue to say, that Trump will not be my president even if he is sworn in to that office on Jan 20. There are plenty of examples of people elected to high office who are not worthy of that office. It has occurred throughout the world's history. Many would have agreed that someone was the official leader of their country, but would have distanced themselves by saying "He/she is not "my" president, chancellor, prime minister or whatever" . Trump has been elected to the presidency of our country through a fluke of our electoral system. His views and what he stands for do not represent those of the majority of those who voted in this election. It appears likely that on January 20, he will become president of the country of my birth and citizenship. But he does not represent my values as a christian, nor as an American. His views and rhetoric are diametrically opposed to both my religious beliefs and to the values that America has stood for - until now. So he will be the president of this country, but he will not my president. Because he will not be my president, nor the president of a majority of Americans, I (and others for whom this man is not "their" president)' most definitely will not be "walking away" from responsibilities to our nation's citizens, nor from the citizen's of the world. I, and the others who do not accept him as representing American values, will have to double down, to work to mitigatae the harm that his administration is likely to inflict.
Lisa Weber
1 year ago
Saying "he's not my president" is just a reflection of the truth that there is no way that I can support what he stands for or what he plans to do. I can say "this is my country" and do my best to do what is good for the country - and that will probably mean opposing everything that Trump tries to do. If that results in gridlock, that will be better than the actions that he proposes.
Gino Giombetti
1 year ago
You are being all together too reasonable. The Republic has never seen the likes of this charlatan and I believe is probably in mortal peril right now.
Francis X. Clooney
1 year ago

"You are being all together too reasonable" - I think not. My point is not to minimize the current danger, or to say "let's all get together," but rather to create a capacious frame within to respond to the situation and a coming four years of likely assaults on cherished values. Whether we like it or not, Mr Trump was elected in accord with the electoral college process, and in fact will be the president as of January 20, in charge of our government, working with a Republican Congress. To reject "not my president" language is not to minimize the problems, but to insist that "our president" or at least "not 'not my present'" reflects the reality within which any grounded and spiritually substantive resistance must occur. That was the point of quoting Dorothy Day and Mahatma Gandhi - neither of whom was romantic or idealistic about the challenges they faced. But thanks for writing your comment. FXC

James MacGregor
1 year ago
To inform your fellow readers, I suppose you would have to present a definition of charlatan and illustrate Mr. Trump's characteristics that fit the definition. (Or, maybe I misunderstood Fr. Mathew's freshman logic class at Fordham all these years.) If we accept the Merriam-Webster definition - "one making usually showy pretenses to knowledge or ability" - we would then have to demonstrate that his publicized knowledge and ability are not real but only pretenses. Which areas of Mr. Trump's publicized knowledge and ability do you believe to be pretenses?
J Cosgrove
1 year ago
There is apparently two Donald Trumps. One was the characteur we saw in a lot of the campaign of a short fused hot head who used frequent insults to get his way. Another is a very level headed organizer of his post election win and transition team. Which is the real Donald Trump? Or is there a third one? I am hoping the Donald Trump we see overseeing the transition is the real one. He will be a friend of the Catholic Church and religion in general as well as an advocate for the average American. He is certainly giving the liberal elites some fits. We will see.
Joan Hill
1 year ago
“Chanting 'Not my President' at Donald Trump isn't Catholic ...”; "But this “not” is no solution, whether it is hurled against Mr. Trump or against Presidents Obama or Bush by their opponents." My arguing morality with a Jesuit is certainly hubris on my part. :) However, I do think that that opposition to Trump is definitely Catholic, or at least moral and morally required. If the transition were to Pence or Bush that would be another thing. But Trump is qualitatively different. Stating unequivocally one's separation from a racist, a white supremacist, who has no regard for truth or justice, who violates the most basic human rights,and has no regard for the Constitution, is an obligation. Reconciliation, or even just trying to work with the opposition is generally good and I support it, but Trump is so evil and dangerous in what he says and does that vocal opposition is the only option. "The only thing needed for evil to exist is that good men do nothing." I saw a post recently where over 600 rabbis spoke out in a pledge, “We will not be silent," about holding Trump accountable for protecting human rights. http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5149/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=23793&offset=150 I ached that it was needed, but overjoyed that someone had spoken so eloquently. One can perhaps argue the prudence of a massive march, but, I think, not the need for saying unequivocally, publicly, “No, not again, not in my lifetime.”
Joan Hill
1 year ago
The "Chanting .. is not Catholic" is from the FB post headline. Sorry.
Charles Erlinger
1 year ago
Reference two of your sentences: "Mohandas K. Gandhi himself warned his followers, would-be activists for peace and liberation, against reducing our opponents to mere enemies; the point of satyagraha—the grasping of truth—lies into turning our enemies into sisters and brothers." And "A Catholic view of America will also refuse to give up on our social order and our political system, even when the methods and fruits of our politics are deeply disappointing." Although parts of your essay suggest advice to behave passively, the two sentences quoted here seem to advise very active agency. It is hard to begin "turning our enemies into" anything without actively doing something to them. Similarly, if we "refuse to give up" then we had better envision counterattack, not just passive resistance. In view of this advice, ancient principles apply. First, who exactly are the opponents (who are not to be regarded as mere enemies)? What are their names? Secondly, if our policy objective is to turn them into sisters and brothers, how would we describe their end-states in terms of attitudes and behaviors that would satisfy our criteria? Thirdly, what would be our strategy for achieving the desired end-states? What specific steps, in what specific sequence, would be employed? I ask these questions hours after learning in mainstream news that earlier this year, the president had asked a bipartisan group of legislators to agree to tell the American people that Russia had hacked not only the Democratic communications, which were then selectively released through Wikipedia, but also Republican communications, which were not released, from which behavior the CIA (presumably among other agencies) estimated that the intention was to influence the outcome of the U.S. Election. According to the published report, the Senate Majority leader did not agree, resulting in an abandonment of the president's request. In consequence, the logical assumption was that Russia might well have retained hacked info which could be embarrassing to Republicans but which, for the time at least, would not be released. This event was followed in due course by the nomination of the Majority Leader's wife to a cabinet position. Who then should be included in the list of opponents who are not mere enemies, and what are their names? And which specific aspects of our "social order and our political system" should we refuse to give up?
Anne Chapman
1 year ago
Fr. Clooney, a piece from the New York Times offers some interesting thoughts for reflection. I, for one, do not wish to look in a mirror in a year or two and see a rhinocerous looking back at me. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/11/magazine/a-time-for-refusal.html
Francis X. Clooney
1 year ago

Yes, indeed - action now is needed, and resistance needs to be a course of ordinary practice over the next four year: but my point still stands, that it would not help to disown the government we in fact have, which was in fact elected by the rules we have (unless it was really "rigged" by the Russians). If the Electoral College refuses to elect Mr Trump, or if a year from now Congress impeaches him and removes him from office, that would be very good indeed, and yet still in accord with our system of government and democracy. But to divide us further - the rhetoric of "not my president" - does not help, and only accentuates further fragmentation, not only on the left, but even more extremely on the right. We need, therefore, to be catholic, and Catholic: for community, even in a time of resistance. FXC

J Cosgrove
1 year ago
If the Electoral College refuses to elect Mr Trump, or if a year from now Congress impeaches him and removes him from office, that would be very good indeed, and yet still in accord with our system of government and democracy
Another Jesuit wishing for the overturn of the US election based on his own arrogance and poor judgment. I wonder if Fr, Clooney understands the implication of such an event. It would truly tear the country apart with the likelihood of thousands of deaths. If chaos is an objective, then such will result from the failure of the electoral college to validate the election. I suggest that Fr. Clooney turn to praying for a good result for the Trump administration. And try to understand what led to his election. I will give him a clue. It had nothing to do with Russia.
Tom Maher
1 year ago
Wishing for the overturn of a U.S. election by the electoral college is a delusional loss of reality. I have to agree with you very strongly, J. Cosgrove, Fr. Clooney does not understand the disastrous implications of even wishing such an event let alone attempting to cause such an event would have on society. Effectively Fr. Clooney is wishing for the electoral college to seize power it does not have under the Constitution and set aside the election of someone validly chosen by the voters for someone else not chosen by the voters. Overturning an election by the electoral college is a raw power play creating a political coup. Even wishing for a electoral coup is not a solution. Denying an elected person the Presidency in favor of someone not elected is not authorized or prescribed by the Constitution. Why confuse people who are already confused with false hopes of a despotic intervention by the an electoral college gone rouge? Suggesting to the gullible that the electoral college has powers it does not have is harmfully bad advice and ethical malpractice. The Constitution needs to be faithfully followed as it is written as the electors are sworn to do. People are not helped by wishful interpretations and rationalizations. People need to be reminded that the ends do not justify the means. Apparently some people who very strongly do not like Trump somehow justifies the electoral college excluding Trump and the tens of millions of people who voted for Trump from the benefits and protections of the law and the Constitution. Working outside the law and Constitution is anarchy which no one needs or wants. People need to understand that the election has been decided by the voters and the voters choice will not be overturned by the electoral college.
Chuck Kotlarz
1 year ago
What is the constitutional provision requiring Electors to vote based on the results of the popular vote in their states? Why would Electors not defend the United States against an election compromised by a foreign power?
Derrick Weiller
1 year ago
Nicely said.
J Cosgrove
1 year ago
Why would Electors not defend the United States against an election compromised by a foreign power?
Because it is a scam by the Democrats. This has been known for months and dismissed. See what a vert liberal publication said:
Now wait a minute, all you upper-case “D” Democrats. A flood light suddenly shines on your party apparatus, revealing its grossly corrupt machinations to fix the primary process and sink the Sanders campaign, and within a day you are on about the evil Russians having hacked into your computers to sabotage our elections — on behalf of Donald Trump, no less? Is this a joke? Are you kidding? Is nothing beneath your dignity? Is this how lowly you rate the intelligence of American voters? My answers to these, in order: yes, but the kind one cannot laugh at; no, we’re not kidding; no, we will do anything, and yes, we have no regard whatsoever for Americans so long as we can connive them out of their votes every four years. Clowns. Subversives. Do you know who you remind me of? I will tell you: Nixon, in his famously red-baiting campaign — a disgusting episode — against the right-thinking Helen Gahagan Douglas during his first run for the Senate, in 1950. Your political tricks are as transparent and anti-democratic as his, it is perfectly fair to say.
See http://bit.ly/2hwel5m
Chuck Kotlarz
1 year ago
The reply to Mr. Tom Maher contains two question marks clearly indicating questions (about the constitution). Also, note the reply has the words “an election” (referring to elections in general) and not the words “this election” referring to Trump’s election.
Tom Maher
12 months ago
The short answer is that under today's Constitution as amended the Electoral College is NOT a deliberative body. Please be advised that only a few years after the Constitution was ratified it was amended by the 12th Amendment in 1804 to redefine the very limited functioning of the Electoral College we have today. The Electoral College we have today is defined by the 12th Amendment not the original Constitution which is described by Hamilton in Federalist 68 which is mistakenly being widely referenced by the "Hamilton Electors" who want to overturn voters choice of Donald Trump in favor of someone else. The original deliberative Electoral College did not test out well in real life use and had major problem prolonged deadlocking preventing a timely and reasonable certification of who is the President. The Constitution had to be Amended. No one should want to go back to this forgotten time in history by invoking the old Elector College which did not work as envisioned in Hamilton's Federalist 68. Hamilton's Electoral College of his Federalist 68 is made obsolete by the 12th Amendment which greatly limits the functioning of the Electoral College and its electors. Electors are supposed to faithfully reflect the choice of the voters and for over two centuries the electors have faithfully done jus that with very rare exception of "faithless electors". Electors' role are only to reflect the choices of the voters. CNN online 12/14/2016 article by Robert Alexander titled "Will Hamilton electors throw away their shot?" presents a scholarly article on the today's electoral college vs the pre-1804 original electoral college obsolescence due to the rise of political parties which Hamilton did not envision. Robert M. Alexander is a professor of political science at Ohio Northern University and author of "Presidential Electors and the Electoral College: An Examination of Lobbying Wavering Electors and Campaigns for Faithless Votes".
Anne Chapman
1 year ago
Saying that Trump is "my" president would imply a reconciliation of some sort to what he stands for. Since I am opposed to everything he stands for with every cell in my body, as a christian and as an American, I will never say that he is "my" president. He is the president-elect of my country, but he is not my president. Those students and others on your campus are probably saying the same thing. They are not reducing Trump supporters to "enemies", nor are they withdrawing from the American community. Instead they may repeat the prayer of Jesus (re Trump supporters) "they know not what they do" and work to forgive them, but they are also energized to show that Trump does not represent most Americans (the majority voted for his opponent) and he does not represent American values or traditions. So, instead of withdrawing, they are working more actively for the good of their communities - at all levels. Those of us who say "Trump is not my president" are definitely NOT saying "this is not our country", we are NOT opting out. Quite the opposite is true..That is why we must vocally demonstrate our commitment to our country, to our fellow Americans, a commitment and responsibility that will require active opposition to much of Trump's proposed agenda. Like you, I pray for an electoral college miracle because I fear that so much harm could be done in the next four years by Trump that it will not be easy, or perhaps even possible, to save the US and the world from an historic turning point that would take us back decades, perhaps even to the very dark times that prevailed during the first half of the 20th century. His cabinet choices do not indicate that he will have anyone surrounding him to check his worse impulses. His refusal to sell his properties and put the assets into a blind trust indicate that for him, his personal business interests and family wealth, will always take priority over what is best for the United States. Within our own country alone, the damage could be widespread - to our relationships with our allies, and even with our not-allies, like China. To our economy, to the experience of minorities in our country. Religious, racial and cultural minorities are afraid, and with very good reasons. So many women wearing hijabs have been attacked that some are taking them off, to protect themselves and their children. Can you imagine the outcry of women wearing a cross around their neck had people attack them and pull of the cross? https://www.ncronline.org/news/politics/assaults-muslim-women-force-some-rethink-hijab), Threats to the environment include returning to the much less clean air and water of 50 years ago, etc. More thoughts from others more erudite than I. https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/not-time-reconciliation Following the bitter presidential election, many Catholic pastors and religious writers are calling for reconciliation. I think this call is premature. ... willing the good to everyone does not mean we ought to contrive a cheap reconciliation that ignores the danger presented by Donald Trump not only to our own society but also to the wider world. Christian reconciliation involves a renewal of broken relationships based upon shared acknowledgement of truth and mutual respect for the claims of justice. If we want peace, Pope Paul VI observed more succinctly, we must work for justice.
Tim O'Leary
12 months ago
Interesting story about the Rhino below. I would note that Donald Trump is hardly a Republican in the sense of the term used just a few months ago (and he was a Democrat for most of his life, up until a few years ago). So, the term RINO (Republican in Name only) would seem to fit. Also, since so many Obama voters voted for him, along with many other self-identifying Democrats, one could say in this election, the DINO elected the RINO. or, to keep the animal analogy going - the dinosaurs elected the rhinoceros. As to the Not-My-President slogan, I believe it first came into common usage when George Bush was elected, and grew in popularity with Obama's election. I would note that Hillary Clinton did something similar in 2002, in a speech where she said President Bush was selected, not elected. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/newsweek-hillary-clinton-to-crowd-at-fund-raiser-in-los-angeles-bush-was-selected-president-not-elected-says-bushs-machine-has-raised-far-more-money-to-ruin-the-reputations-of-our-candidates-76491792.html. Finally, since several celebrities (Barbara Streisand, Bryan Cranston, Chelsea handler, Stephen King, Lena Dunham, etc.) has said they will move to Canada, then they can honestly say Trump is "Not-my-President" after they leave.
J Cosgrove
12 months ago
There was something last night on a news show that said that Trump's children could not vote for him in the New York primary because they were registered Democrats. I have said several times on this site that I opposed Trump because he was a liberal Democrat who hijacked the Republican nomination. He often seemed unfocused during the campaign but his cabinet and advisers are a conservative's dream team. And his first 100/200 days plans are more than any other Republican could ever hope or seem possible to accomplish. If he would only not tweet.
Tim O'Leary
12 months ago
Despite my nevertrump position before the election, I too will give him a chance to see if he can accomplish some good things, especially in the first year. He remains a blowhard vulgarian with a fraudulent past and certainly can be a loose cannon (esp. on twitter as you say) and things could get very dangerous internationally. Thank goodness we have a Republican Congress to temper his autocratic style at home. But, he is in a new situation and perhaps, he can rise to the occasion. If he does the following domestically, I will be very impressed: 1) puts a pro-life, pro-family constitutional originalist or 2 on the Supreme Court, 2) defunds planned parenthood, 3) restores/strengthens religious liberty protections, 4) repeals AND replaces Obamacare, 5) tracks down the criminal (violent/thief) element in illegal immigration while NOT deporting law-abiding truly patriotic immigrants (the patriotic is critical to me - the nation should not permit illegal immigrants who do not love America to stay here - Canada can take them) 6) brings school choice to Catholic schools, 7) balances the budget while stimulating jobs and businesses.
Tim O'Leary
12 months ago
Can't believe it. More Clinton electors defected than Trump electors. What a crazy year!

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