In his 1960 presidential campaign John F. Kennedy was forced to answer a question: As a Catholic, where did his loyalty lie? With the Church or with the American people? After all, as Pope Boniface VIII’s 1302 papal bull, Unum Sanctum, explains; Catholics have a duty of submission to the Pope. JFK was able to show that his loyalty was to the people by telling voters that he believed in a separation of church and state and won the presidential election. Now, Joe Biden, an Irish Catholic, is running for president and the same fears may arise. Will Joe Biden show submission to the Pope and accept Catholic teaching to make his policy decisions? Let me ease your mind and tell you that there is no need to fear: Joe Biden doesn’t plan on listening to the Catholic Church at all when it comes to policy-making. Below are two examples which make that clear.
Legalizing Homosexual Marriage
The church has recently made clear their position on the legalization of homosexual marriage. The Congregation for the Doctine of Faith is clear in their document, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons that the Catholic Church does not support the legal recognition of homosexual marriages. They argue that “[l]egal recognition of homosexual unions would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage”.
Biden, however, does not have the same view as the official church teaching. In a 2012 interview Biden explains that he is “absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying one other are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights , all the civil liberties”. Biden explained further that he doesn’t “see much of a distinction beyond that” and gave the following to explain what marriage is: “Who do you love ? Who do you love and will you be loyal to the person you love? And that’s what people are finding out is what all marriages at their root are about”. This is, of course, a little bit different than the Catholic teaching on marriage which is that marriage is “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized”.
The Catholic Church recognizes the absolute sanctity of life from conception positing that “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception”. The Catholic position finds solace in Jeremiah 1:5 in which God tells Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations”. Thus, the catholic position on legalizing abortions is that when “a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law.” The Catholic Church thus condemns the legalization of abortion.
Biden, who does not feel himself beholden to Catholic law, does not share the sentiment. In his 2007 book Promises to Keep Biden says that he is “personally opposed to abortion” but didn’t feel he had the “right to impose [his] view on the rest of society”. At a Planned Parenthood forum, Biden explained that he plans to “codify” Roe v. Wade which ruled that it was unconstitutional for states to make abortion illegal. While Biden says that he doesn’t feel he should impose his views on the rest of society, Biden has no problem forcing Catholics to pay for abortions through taxes by opposing the Hyde Act which makes it illegal to use federal funds to pay for abortions.
So, if you were worried about Biden walking the Catholic line when it comes to abortion, worry no more! Biden has no plans to uphold Catholic law on abortion. In fact, the Catholic Church has even tried to deny politicians like Biden participation in parts of their worship. Pope Benedict XVI wrote a memorandum to U.S. Bishops urging them not to give Holy Communion, the highest form of Catholic worship, to those politicians who vote for “permissive abortion … laws”. He writes:
Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.
Just as there was no need to think that JFK would feel himself beholden to Catholic law, the same can be said about Joe Biden. If you’re casting your vote for the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election, there’s no need to consider Biden’s Catholicism; it’s nothing but malarkey.