Early this morning, in accordance with the Constitution and federal law (enacted in the Electoral Count Act of 1887), Congress certified the results of the 2020 presidential election. This vital work has been carried out by Congress throughout our history regardless of any crisis in our country, including the Civil War.

As did many, I watched in shock and sadness yesterday as a riotous mob penetrated the U.S. Capitol and sought to illegally disrupt this process. This was such a stark reminder that democracy is fragile. It is a privilege that cannot be taken for granted and must be cherished and protected.

As a Catholic university with a mission of advancing the common good, we have an important role to play in this. Democracy requires that we can come together with different beliefs, priorities and needs and work together within the framework of our Constitution to find a path that is best for the whole. Thus, our work to help our students understand, discern and pursue the common good and to prepare our law students to interpret and uphold the constitutional framework of our democracy is vital.

Democracy also requires legitimate facts and data. Tragically, the trusted sources for such information have been drowned out for many by the exploding digital content of social media, where unverified content can be presented as fact. We have an educational role to play here as well. For the purpose of our work is to help our students develop the skills to do their own analysis and to distinguish fact and fiction, as well as to be empathetic and to seek the common good.

Please join me in gratitude for our public servants whose work undergirds our privilege of living in a democratic country. And please join me in prayer for our country and all its residents. May the horror we witnessed yesterday be a turning point. May 2021 be a year when we make real progress in the hard work it takes to overcome the magnetic pull of polarization. Pope Francis points out in his recent book, Let Us Dream, that social conflict lies in the fraying of the bonds of belonging. He urges us “to restore an ethics of fraternity and solidarity, regenerating the bonds of trust and belonging.”

Our Civic Engagement, Voter Engagement & Education and Advocacy (CEVEA) task force is coordinating an opportunity for our community to discuss the peaceful transfer of power. Look for more information in the coming days.

In the meantime, please take care of yourself. Give yourself the opportunity to break away from the coverage and restore your soul with mindfulness and reflection. As always, I am praying for your well-being and am grateful for each and every one of you.

Editor’s Note: This letter has been updated to reflect Dr. Sullivan’s deep regret for using the phrase “angry protestors.” She wrote to us to say: “These individuals constituted a riotous mob who committed domestic terrorism in attacking the core of our constitutional democracy. I apologize for suggesting otherwise.  This was not protesting, which is an important means of dissent and call for change in a democratic society and is a right we must uphold.” As a result, the phrase “riotous mob” has been substituted in her letter.

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