Last Friday, President Joe Biden met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. No doubt the President was delighted to have such an apparently warm and friendly meeting, with the cameras projecting to the world the appearance of strong unity between the country’s second Catholic President and the Church to which he rarely misses an opportunity to remind people he “devoutly” belongs.
The mainstream media, for their part, also seemed strangely eager to highlight all the evidence of the President’s Catholicism – strange, I say, given the same media’s typical scorn for the overt religiosity of almost any other public official, particularly if they tilt rightwards politically or socially. Many news reports included the standard – indeed seemingly required – phrase, “Devout Roman Catholic Joe Biden…”
It is surreal for those of us engaged in the fight to protect human life and the integrity of the family to read this phrase over and over again, even as it seems that every week brings some new attack against everything we believe in, direct from the Oval Office. Indeed, the most conspicuous feature of this administration is not Biden’s “devout” Catholicism, but rather his administration’s almost religious commitment to the anti-life and anti-family values of wokeness and progressivism.
A Pro-Abortion “Gender Equity” Strategy
In fact, just days before President Biden flew to Rome, his administration released a 42-page “National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality.” The document, as you might expect, gives the nod to every woke, anti-life, and anti-family trope.
In one section of the document, for instance, the administration explains that they are following an “intersectional” approach to address the alleged failure to give fair treatment to “Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons,” etc., etc.
What all this has to do with gender equality isn’t entirely clear, but for the Biden administration’s progressive supporters, language like this pushes all the right buttons.
But that’s hardly the worst of it. As the editors of National Review wrote, the fact that the administration lists “health care” as a gender crisis in the document seems “strange” given that “women outlive men in this country by 5.7 years and that gap has been growing over the past decade.” “But of course,” they astutely add, “the ‘women’s health’ issue that most excites the imagination of progressives is the continued right to exterminate the unborn.”
Among other promises, the White House document pledges to “protect the constitutional right to safe and legal abortion established in Roe v. Wade in the United States, while promoting access to sexual and reproductive health and rights both at home and abroad.” Specifically, the document pledges to codify Roe v. Wade in law, and to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which bans domestic taxpayer funding of abortion.
The administration also laments that “[r]eproductive health and rights in the United States are under attack.” In particular, they highlight Texas’ Heartbeat law, which they say “blatantly violates women’s constitutional rights” by “eviscerating access to abortion in our nation’s second largest state and threatening reproductive rights across the country.”
This opposition to a law that is saving thousands of human lives clashes jarringly with the introduction to the document, in which President Biden and Vice President Harris write that the strategy is part of the “noble American tradition” since, “America is unique among the nations of the world because we were built on an idea: that every one of us is equal in dignity and deserves to be treated equally.”
For Biden and Harris, it would seem that “every one of us is equal,” except for the unborn.
Thankfully some bishops in the United States have not hesitated to point out the disconnect between the “devout Catholic” rhetoric and the reality of President Biden’s woefully un-Catholic moral stances.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, recently told EWTN News Nightly that he finds it “sad” that the Biden administration is “in the control of abortion extremists.”
“[Biden] likes to call himself a devout Catholic,” added Archbishop Naumann. “I would urge him to begin to act like one, especially on the life issues. And to let his faith really inform his conscience and the decisions that he’s making, not the platform of his party.”
Recently, former Democrat Congressman Daniel Lipinski, who was one of the last truly pro-life federal Democrat politicians, wrote an interesting op-ed for The Washington Post. In it, he warned that those who argue that pro-abortion Catholic politicians like Biden and Pelosi are fully aligned with Pope Francis because they agree with him on issues like immigration are imposing narrow, American political categories on the Catholic Church.
“The challenging reality for Democrats who would seek to claim Pope Francis for their ‘side’ is that there is direct conflict between many of the party’s policies and the teachings of the Catholic Church, especially those regarding the preeminent issues of life and human dignity,” wrote Lipinski.
Less than two weeks after both Biden and Pelosi (D-Calif.) blasted the Texas law that effectively banned most surgical abortions, the pope said that “those who carry out abortions kill,” and once compared abortion to hiring “a hitman to resolve a problem.” The pope has also said that “gender theory” is “dangerous” and has rejected same-sex marriage, explaining “marriage is a sacrament [and] the Church doesn’t have the power to change the sacraments.”
Lipinski is right to point out that Pope Francis has made some very strong statements on the topic of abortion and gender ideology, and that Biden’s views are woefully out of step with official Church teaching. Unfortunately, however, the Holy Father’s stances on those issues were almost nowhere to be seen during his meeting with President Biden on Friday.
A brief press release from the Vatican stated only that the pair talked about “the protection and care of the planet, the healthcare situation and the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the theme of refugees and assistance to migrants.” Almost as an afterthought, the statement notes that, “Reference was also made to the protection of human rights, including freedom of religion and conscience.”
As important as these first issues are, it is difficult to understand why they should take such priority at a time when the supposedly Catholic president is launching an all-out assault on life and family in the United States. There is simply no question that the Biden administration is the greatest threat to the Culture of Life and Family in the United States right now.
In a statement released last week, Cardinal Raymond Burke lamented the “long-term and gravely scandalous situation of Catholic politicians who persist in supporting and advancing programs, policies and laws in grievous violation of the most fundamental precepts of the moral law, while, at the same time, claiming to be devout Catholics, especially by presenting themselves to receive Holy Communion.”
Cardinal Burke wrote the statement prior to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual meeting in November, where they are expected to discuss the question of pro-abortion politicians and Communion. Unfortunately, however, at the very moment when U.S. bishops are pondering whether to take a strong stance in defense of life, they are receiving mixed messages about priorities from the Vatican and the Holy Father.
Unfortunately, after leaving his meeting with the Pope, President Biden told the media that the Holy Father had told him that he was a “good Catholic” and that he should continue to receive Communion. When asked about this remark, a Vatican spokesman simply said that, “It’s a private conversation.”
We don’t know all the details of what Pope Francis and Biden spoke about. We can certainly hope that the Holy Father issued a strong call to Biden’s conscience. However, it is worth noting that in a recent interview Pope Francis indicated that he has never refused anyone Communion.
But even if the Pope did not call Biden to account, the truth is right there for Biden to find. It’s been there the whole time. As Pope St. John Paul II made perfectly clear in Evangelium Vitae:
It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. A society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized. (no. 101)
It is strange to pro-life activists like myself that Pope Francis so forthrightly condemns abortion as murder, as the “hiring of a hitman,” and yet would not strongly emphasize this most essential issue during a rare meeting with the pro-abortion Catholic President of the United States. As Cardinal Burke rightly emphasizes in his letter, the scandal of having so many prominent “Catholic” politicians openly supporting abortion is difficult to overstate. Even the appearance that the Holy Father does not think this issue important enough to discuss with the President certainly makes the work of pro-life activists and bishops in the U.S. more challenging.
We must pray for the Holy Father, that he uses his friendship and influence with President Biden to call him to conversion on this most urgent of all issues. And we must pray for President Biden, who is approaching the final years of his life, that he may yet learn to use his enormous power to protect, rather than to attack life and family, thereby undoing some of the great harm he has caused throughout his long political career.