Joe Biden has a weekend routine. Whether or not the US president is in Washington, DC, or his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, each Saturday afternoon — and infrequently Sunday morning — his motorcade rolls to a nearby Catholic church.
Biden is simply the second Roman Catholic president in US historical past. However whereas the primary, John F Kennedy, distanced himself from the Vatican to safe Protestant votes, Biden, 78, has lengthy embraced religion as a part of his political identification.
On the campaign trail, he continuously invoked his Catholic roots, with tales concerning the nuns who taught him in main faculty, or how faith helped him after the lack of his first spouse and two kids. He wears the rosary beads of his late son, Beau, round his wrist. When he was declared the winner of November’s election, he quoted “On Eagle’s Wings”, a hymn typically performed at Catholic funerals, in his acceptance speech.
However now, simply over 100 days into his administration, Biden is underneath hearth from American Catholic bishops who argue his assist for abortion rights ought to make him ineligible to obtain communion — a central function of the Catholic religion. When the US bishops convene subsequent month, they are going to vote on whether or not to censure the president.
Catholic church teaching argues that human life begins at conception, and abortion is subsequently “gravely opposite to the ethical regulation”. Biden was lengthy a holdout within the Democratic occasion for his reluctance to completely embrace abortion entry within the US. However in 2019, shortly after he launched his bid for president, he dropped his assist for the Hyde Modification, which bans using federal funding for abortions.
“As a result of President Biden is Catholic, it presents a novel drawback for us,” Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas Metropolis lately advised the Associated Press. “It will possibly create confusion . . . How can he say he’s a religious Catholic and he’s doing this stuff which are opposite to the church’s instructing?”
Abortion has lengthy been a divisive subject in US politics, with Democrats largely supporting extra abortion rights and Republicans endorsing a so-called “pro-life” agenda to limit or outlaw the procedures. In 2004, when one other Catholic, John Kerry, was the Democratic presidential candidate, a number of bishops instructed they might refuse to provide him communion over his pro-abortion rights stance.
However a lot has modified since then. As a reckoning over clerical sexual abuse continues, the decline in church attendance amongst US Catholics has accelerated quickly, whereas the speed of churchgoing amongst Protestants has stayed the identical, in keeping with Gallup. Fewer than 40 per cent of American Catholics attend church in a given week, down from a median of 45 per cent 15 years in the past, the polls present.
On the identical time, Pope Francis, who was elected in 2013, has preached a extra liberal, ecumenical model of Catholicism that has attracted reward from the left and criticism from the precise.
Opinion polls present nearly all of US Catholics usually tend to aspect with Biden than the bishops. In keeping with Edison exit polls, Biden acquired an estimated 52 per cent of Catholic votes, in contrast with 47 per cent for Donald Trump in final 12 months’s election. And a 2019 Pew Analysis Heart survey discovered 56 per cent of US Catholics stated abortion needs to be authorized in all or most instances. Roughly two-thirds stated they opposed overturning Roe vs Wade, the landmark Supreme Court docket choice that enshrined the constitutional proper to an abortion.
In different phrases, if the bishops choose a battle with the president, they’re additional distancing themselves from their already dwindling flock — one thing I’ve seen for myself as a Catholic faculty graduate who can rely on one hand the variety of pals who nonetheless usually attend church.
To this point, the White Home has remained mum on the difficulty. However the dialogue jogs my memory of one other chief who in 1996 attracted the ire of the Catholic hierarchy for taking communion at his native parish in north London regardless of being an Anglican.
Then UK Labour occasion chief Tony Blair apologised in writing to the cardinal who ordered him to cease, however added: “I’m wondering what Jesus would have made from it?”