World news – Biden places his Catholic Faith Front and Center


WHITE HOUSE – Joe Biden, only the second Roman Catholic leader in the United States, is already putting his faith at the center of his presidency.

During the transition and first month in office, the president attended mass weekly and attended church on major religious holidays. At his inauguration, a Jesuit priest offered the invocation. In his first address as president, Biden quoted St. Augustine, an important early church philosopher.

Behind Biden’s desk in the Oval Office is a photo of him meeting Pope Francis. At the White House ceremony on Monday night that killed 500,000 coronaviruses in the country, the president made the sign of the cross as a military band played the Christian anthem « Amazing Grace. »

« This is a man with a rosary in his pocket and talking about his faith, » noted Father Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior analyst for the Religion News Service, who described Biden as a « traditionally devout Catholic. »

Unlike 1960, when 78% of Catholics voted for their co-religionist John F. Kennedy, in 2020 American Catholics were evenly split between Biden and incumbent President Donald Trump, reflecting the current US political divide in faith.

« We’re one of the few religious groups that does, » Reese told VOA. « Most Jews vote democratically, most black Protestants vote democratically, and most white evangelicals vote Republicans. »

Approximately one in five Americans identifies as Roman Catholic.

Mixed views among Catholics

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States also appears to have an initial dual view of Biden, in large part stemming from the new president’s stance on abortion.

The US Bishops’ Conference, which emphasizes that it is a non-partisan group working with all presidents, says it is refreshing to look at Biden as it “explores the meaning of religious belief and institutions in depth and clearly understands personal manner. ”

However, the Inauguration Day statement issued on behalf of Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Gomez, President of the Episcopal Conference, states: “I must point out that our new President has committed to certain guidelines pursue that promote moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most serious in the fields of abortion, contraception, marriage and gender. The freedom of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their conscience are of great importance. « 

In a quick reaction that was seen as unprecedented, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago tweeted his criticism of the statement, calling it « rash ». And Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, told NBC News that the statement was « out of date ».

Other US bishops expressed their support for Gomez’s statement, with a prominent clergyman criticizing Biden even more clearly.

« The president should stop defining himself as a devout Catholic and recognize that his view on abortion contradicts Catholic moral doctrine, » Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, told The Catholic World Report.

« The Catholic bishops are attacking Biden for not following their agenda of making abortion illegal or more difficult in the United States, » Reese noted. “He’s just not there, and many of them feel that it is a moral risk that it is a moral responsibility for a Catholic to do so. And if you don’t, you are a bad Catholic. “

Keeping faith out of politics
According to Reese, Biden does not contradict church teaching on abortion.

« What he’s saying is that as President of the United States, he can’t impose his views on people, not people who are not Catholic, » Reese said.

In his 2007 treatise, « Keeping Promises: On Life and Politics, » Biden wrote that he does not « have the right to impose my point of view on the rest of society ».

As a senator, he has repeatedly voted to uphold a ban on federal funding for abortions. But as president, he said the ban should be lifted.

Biden’s stance on reproductive rights has led some prominent Church figures to suggest that he should not present himself for Holy Communion, a requirement for believers.

“When Catholics receive the Eucharist, they recognize the real presence of Jesus and also believe in the teachings of the Church,” said Naumann. « President Biden does not believe in the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of human life, and he should not put the priest in a position where he has to decide whether or not to receive the Eucharist. He should be after 78 years as a Catholic know. « 

A priest in South Carolina refused to give Biden Holy Communion when he was fighting there in 2019.

As with Kennedy’s ancestors, some von Biden emigrated from Ireland in the late 19th century and brought their faith to a Protestant America that viewed their rituals as « wrong » and feared colonizing the continent for the Pope. Such prejudices persisted in the United States well into the 20th century.

Kennedy’s candidacy raised fears that he would be a papal puppet carrying out the Pope’s offer in the White House.

« I’m not the Catholic presidential candidate, » Kennedy said in a 1960 speech in Houston to a Protestant group. « I’m the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate who also happens to be Catholic. I don’t speak for my church on public matters, and the church doesn’t speak for me. »

Kennedy secured his party’s nomination that same year after a victory in the mostly Protestant state of West Virginia, where he told voters, « I refuse to believe that I was denied the right to be president on the day of my baptism. »
Only under the presidency of Baptist Jimmy Carter did the White House feel comfortable inviting a Pope.

In contradiction to church teaching
Well, some in the Vatican are ironically annoyed that Biden is at odds with church doctrine and allies with the evangelical Protestants who only opposed Kennedy because he was on the other side of Christianity.

However, it’s not just about abortion that Biden has been criticized for. Many of the believers also oppose his liberal views on same-sex marriage and gender identity.

In his welcoming message to Biden, the Pope was more diplomatic than his American bishops.

“At a time when the grave crises of our human family require farsighted and unified responses, I pray that your decisions will be guided by concern about building a society characterized by authentic justice and freedom, along with total respect the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice, ”wrote the Pope.

Observers, including Reese, predict the Holy See will use its diplomatic skills acquired over two millennia in dealing with superpowers to highlight its similarities with the Biden government.

“The Vatican is very smart. They know the best they can do is work with governments in areas where they have mutual interests and agreements, ”Reese said. “They did that with Bill Clinton. You have done it with other presidents. And even did it with Trump ”- a baptized Presbyterian who eventually identified himself as a non-denominational Christian.

Biden’s Catholic supporters point out that his stance on human rights, economic justice and concern for the poor is more in line with the social doctrine of their religion than many previous presidents. They say he is following in the theological footsteps of Jesus, who equated serving or neglecting the oppressed with serving or neglecting God.



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