Joe Biden specifically targeted Catholic voters throughout his presidential campaign, with everything from ads about his own Catholic faith to his campaign plan for the “Catholic community.” But, following the election, Catholic leaders are worrying about issues where Biden appears to contradict the Catholic Church: in particular, abortion.
Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), announced the formation of a bishops’ working group on November 17 to navigate challenges posed by a Biden administration. The bishops’ main concern is abortion, which Biden has promised to protect. Not only do Biden’s policies pose “a serious threat to the common good,” they say, but also could create “confusion with the faithful about what the Church actually teaches.”
According to Archbishop Gomez, today presents a “unique moment in the history of the Church in this country.” This comes as the Catholic Church anticipates a "president who professes the Catholic faith” for the second time in U.S. history, after John F. Kennedy.
“This presents certain opportunities, but also certain challenges,” the archbishop cautioned during the USCCB Fall General Assembly.
That’s because, while the “president-elect has given us reason to believe that his faith commitments will move him to support some good policies,” he has “also given us reason to believe that he will support policies that attack some fundamental values we hold dear as Catholics.”
In other words, policies that promote abortion.
“These policies include the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and the preservation of Roe v. Wade,” he said, referring to the legislative provision that bars federal funding for abortion and the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
“All of these policies undermine our preeminent priority,” he said, or “the elimination of abortion.”
These policies are new for Biden, who voted repeatedly against abortion – for decades. He noticeably flipped on the issue as he prepared for the 2020 election and ran on the Democratic Party platform that calls for “safe and legal abortion.” His switch on abortion became most obvious when he condemned the Hyde Amendment last year – the day after he reaffirmed his support for it.
In addition to abortion, Archbishop Gomez also worried about Biden’s stance on policies including the HHS mandate, the Equality Act, and the “unequal treatment of Catholic schools.”
“These policies pose a serious threat to the common good, whenever any politician supports them,” he continued. “We have long opposed these policies strongly, and we will continue to do so.”
But he still warned that “when politicians who profess the Catholic faith support them, there are additional problems,” including “it creates confusion with the faithful about what the Church actually teaches.”
The Church is steadfast in its position on abortion: the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which summarizes official Church teaching, recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of the unborn.
“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception,” the catechism reads. “From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”
This teaching isn’t new.
“Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion,” the catechism adds. “This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.”
The Church takes abortion, a “crime against human life,” so seriously that obtaining an abortion – and helping someone else obtain an abortion – are grounds for automatic excommunication.
“Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law,” the catechism reads, and “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.”
That said, the Church also stresses the importance of forgiveness and mercy for those who have obtained abortions.
“The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy,” the catechism reads, but instead “makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.”
This position doesn’t come across when Biden calls himself personally pro-life, but publicly Catholic.
“I’m a practicing Catholic,” Biden is quoted on his website as saying. “And the first obligation we all have is, ‘Love your God,’ the second one is, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ … ‘Treat people with dignity.’ Everyone’s entitled to dignity, that’s a basic tenet in my household.”
Everyone, that is, except the unborn.