Elections

Biden Plays the Catholic Card

Former vice president Joe Biden and his sister Valerie Biden Owens are greeted by Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s Basilica, 2013. (Osservatore Romano/Reuters)
His campaign’s ‘faith outreach’ effort falls short.

In a speech in Ohio last week, President Trump remarked that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden aims to “take away your guns, destroy your Second Amendment,” adding: “No religion, no anything. Hurt the Bible, hurt God. He’s against God, he’s against guns.”

Biden took umbrage at this rather incoherent assertion, issuing a statement that called his faith “the bedrock foundation” of his life — though nowhere in his lengthy response did he mention Catholicism, the specific faith he professes. Some of Biden’s supporters used Trump’s comments as an occasion to tout Biden’s faith, such as this inaccurate tweet from The Lincoln Project:

The theme of Biden as a devout Catholic has received plenty of media attention over his decades in public life, most often because he tends to point to his faith background to justify certain parts of his policy platform, such as his support for a vast welfare state and unlimited immigration. Just last summer, he began opposing capital punishment.

But when it comes to subjects on which the Left disagrees vehemently with the Catholic Church — where progressivism conflicts with the Church’s nonnegotiable dogma rather than merely with the views of some of its prelates on prudential matters such as immigration or climate change — Biden falls curiously silent about its tenets.

Though he has often referred to himself as “personally pro-life,” for instance, the former vice president has spent his entire career backing legal abortion, and he’s grown more supportive of it over the years.

As a senator, he was a long-time supporter of the bipartisan Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal Medicaid funding from directly reimbursing for elective abortion procedures. But last summer, Biden abandoned that position — a final vestige of his supposed personal opposition to abortion and respect for the consciences of pro-lifers. He  now formally embraces taxpayer-funded abortion.

Meanwhile, he has promised to nominate only Supreme Court justices who believe that Roe v. Wade was rightly decided, and he has vowed to “codify Roe.” This is current Democratic Party parlance for “support only policies that ensure elective abortion remains legal throughout pregnancy.” He has not in this election cycle enumerated a single restriction on abortion that he would find acceptable.

On marriage, gender, and religious liberty, as on abortion, Biden has studiously moved to the left along with his party. As Barack Obama’s vice president, he joined the administration in coercing religious employers, including Catholic universities and an order of charitable Catholic nuns, to subsidize contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, which violate Church teaching on human sexuality and the dignity of the human person. In so doing, he disrespected not only the religious freedom of the groups involved but also some of Catholicism’s most fundamental teachings.

When the Supreme Court decided last month that the Trump administration had the authority to grant religious orders such as the Little Sisters of the Poor an exemption from that contraceptive mandate, Biden issued a statement promising to undo those exemptions if elected. He is so wedded to the progressive agenda, in other words, that he would authorize his administration to haul nuns who care for the elderly poor to court when they follow the precepts of the very faith he himself claims to embrace.

But these glaring contradictions have done little to stop the media, including self-identified Catholic outlets, from heaping adulation on Biden for his supposed dedication to Church teaching, most often in an attempt to draw a contrast between him and Trump.

In the National Catholic Reporter — the same outlet whose executive editor recently opined that socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is “the future of the Catholic Church” in the U.S. — writer Christopher White penned a lengthy profile of Biden, elaborating on how his “Catholic roots” have shaped his political career. Here’s part of how White puts it (though he does note later on that Biden’s stance on abortion has drawn criticism from Church officials):

Biden credits those Catholic roots — which first took seed in parishes and parochial schools in Pennsylvania and Delaware — with teaching him the importance of the human dignity of all people, a core principle of Catholic social teaching. They also shaped his understanding of solidarity, especially with the poor and the working class, which he regularly cites when talking about job security and economic policy.

With the assistance of articles such as these, Biden’s campaign has undertaken a vigorous “faith outreach” program, making the pitch that he could chip away at Trump’s base by appealing to some religious conservatives.

The Church’s teachings on human nature and sexuality are not, of course, all that it has to offer a secular world in need of the Gospel. And whatever is in Biden’s heart when it comes to his faith is, ultimately, between him and his maker. But given his longstanding, public opposition to key components of the Catholic faith — on issues as fundamental as the dignity and value of every human life from conception to death — he shouldn’t expect religious conservatives to buy the message that his witness to his faith is reason enough to support him.

Editor’s note: This piece has been amended to clarify Biden’s stance on the death penalty.

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