Pope Francis and Joe Biden Will Meet to Discuss 'Efforts Grounded in Respect for Fundamental Human Dignity'

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Posted: Oct 24, 2021 8:00 AM
Pope Francis and Joe Biden Will Meet to Discuss 'Efforts Grounded in Respect for Fundamental Human Dignity'

Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

On Friday, President Joe Biden is set to have an audience with Pope Francis in Vatican City. During this past Friday's press conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that "they will discuss working together on efforts grounded in respect for fundamental human dignity, including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis, and caring for the poor." Extending that "respect for fundamental human dignity" of the unborn is not mentioned there. 

While the president considers and is heralded by supporters and many in the mainstream media as a "devout Catholic," he is at deep odds with the Catholic Church when it comes to the fundamental position of abortion. 

Pope Francis has held the Church's stance on abortion. As Nicole Winfield reported for Associated Press last month, he reaffirmed that abortion is "homicide" and "murder." He also said that "iff you have an abortion, you kill," and explained that "that’s why the church is so tough on this issue, because if you accept this, you accept homicide daily."

One could look at it that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is looking to keep to that "tough" stance on that most important issue in a teaching document they voted in favor of drafting when it comes to a discussion and clarification of receiving the Eucharist during Holy Communion. This includes the worthiness to receive the Eucharist. The document may be discussed during the bishops' upcoming meeting in November. 

To have such a publicly pro-abortion stance as Joe Biden does is in contradiction with Church teaching and, with Biden being such a prominent Catholic figure, causes a grave public scandal.

Yet as Winfield's reporting included, which was in fact incorporated into her headline of "Pope: No place for politics in Biden Communion flap," is that Francis is shying away from taking a stance:

Francis was asked en route home from Slovakia about the debate in the U.S. church about whether President Joe Biden and other politicians should be denied Communion because of their stances on abortion. U.S. bishops have agreed to draft a “teaching document” that many of them hope will rebuke Catholic politicians, including Biden, for receiving Communion despite their support for abortion rights.

Francis declined to give a “yes” or “no” answer, saying he didn’t know the U.S. case well enough. He repeated that abortion was “homicide,” and that Catholic priests cannot give the Eucharist to someone who is not in communion with the church. He cited the case of a Jew, or someone who isn’t baptized or who has fallen away from the church.

Most importantly, he said, was that priests and bishops must respond pastorally and not politically to any problem that comes before them. He said they must use “the style of God” to accompany the faithful with “closeness, compassion and tenderness.”

“And what should pastors do? Be pastors, and not go condemning, condemning,” Francis said.

The president has currently not been met with issues receiving communion in Washington, D.C., as Cardinal Wilton Gregory says he has no plans to deny him. 

While many are hopeful that Francis will speak to Biden about his stance on abortion being out of line with the Catholic Church, experts don't think this will be the case. 

As David Crary and Holly Meyer more recently reported for AP:

Chad Pecknold, a professor of theology at The Catholic University of America, doubts that the pope will confront Biden over his support for abortion rights, but said many Catholics — bishops included — may wish that would happen.

“I think the Catholic faithful have a right to hope for this, and to express their concern for the soul of Mr. Biden,” Pecknold said.

The Biden-Francis visit “could actually highlight the urgent need to unite around a clear and coherent view of how the bishops should respond to politicians who publicly hold the Church’s teaching in contempt while presenting themselves for Holy Communion,” Pecknold added via email.

Steven Millies, a professor of public theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, said the meeting will affect the debate over abortion and Communion “in a way that will produce a lot of heat and very little light.” He doubts Francis will see a need to discuss abortion with Biden.

“It’s not going to get anybody anywhere,” Millies said. “On the other hand, there’s a great deal to be accomplished by focusing on areas of aligned concerned and shared interest.”

Pope Francis also met with fellow pro-abortion Catholic politician, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The speaker says they discussed the "moral issue" of climate change, which is also a priority of Francis.

Speaker Pelosi's archbishop in her district of San Francisco, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, said on Newsmax TV’s "The Chris Salcedo Show" that "I don’t think Pope Francis could be clearer in his condemnation of abortion" and so the pope was not endorsing Pelosi's pro-abortion views.

Archbishop Cordileone has been more clear than Cardinal Gregory about figures such as Biden and Pelosi being unworthy for taking Communion. On May 1 he issued "A Pastoral Letter on the Human Dignity of the Unborn, Holy Communion, and Catholics in Public Life."

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