The Catholic Church has a Joe Biden problem. With Thursday’s announcement the Biden administration has reversed the Mexico City Policy’s ban on U.S. taxpayers funding foreign abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood International, church leaders now must make a choice: Either condemn Joe Biden’s pro-abortion governance or become complicit in the president’s scandalous support of abortion and lose the moral authority necessary to pastor the flock.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden relied on his Catholic roots to woo a segment of middle-class voters who had abandoned the Democratic Party to vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Trump and his cohorts “look down their nose on people like Irish Catholics, like me, [who] grew up in Scranton,” Biden charged during his first presidential debate, in an attempt to reclaim the Catholic voting bloc that helped elect John F. Kennedy the first Catholic president more than a half-century ago.
While peddling his claimed Catholicism in battleground states, Biden was genuflecting at the altar of the extreme abortion left, promising to undo the many pro-life policies adopted by the Trump administration. During the campaign, Biden even “rescinded his long-held support for the Hyde Amendment,” which prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for U.S. abortions.
Biden’s strong advocacy for unrestricted and government-funded abortion—an intrinsic evil according to church teaching—coupled with his campaign casting him as a “practicing Catholic” created a conundrum for the American hierarchy. This metastasized following Biden’s election as the 46th president of the United States.
By mid-November, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced the establishment of a task force “to address issues surrounding the election of a Catholic president and policies that may come about that would be in conflict with Catholic teaching.” In announcing the task force, the organization’s president, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, California, noted that “we are facing a unique moment in the history of our country” with the election of Joe Biden as this country’s only second Catholic president.
“This presents certain opportunities but also certain challenges,” Archbishop Gomez noted, adding that while “the president-elect has given us reason to believe his faith commitments will lead to certain policies that we favor,” he also “support[s] policies that are against some fundamental values we hold dear as Catholics.” “This includes repeal of the Hyde Amendment and his support for Roe v. Wade,” the USCCB’s president noted.
Gomez reaffirmed his commitment to addressing the challenge Biden presents to the church when, shortly after the long-time politician took his oath of office, Gomez released a statement on Jan. 20, 2021, sharing his prayers for the new president and our country. In this same statement, after calling President Biden’s “piety” a “moving witness to how his faith has brought him solace in times off darkness and tragedy,” and his “longstanding commitment to the Gospel’s priority for the poor” “hopeful and inspiring,” Gomez highlighted that “our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender.”
“For the nation’s bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the “preeminent priority,” Gomez continued. “As Pope Francis teaches, we cannot stay silent when nearly a million unborn lives are being cast aside in our country year after year through abortion.” He continued:
Abortion is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family. It is not only a private matter, it raises troubling and fundamental questions of fraternity, solidarity, and inclusion in the human community. It is also a matter of social justice. We cannot ignore the reality that abortion rates are much higher among the poor and minorities, and that the procedure is regularly used to eliminate children who would be born with disabilities. Rather than impose further expansions of abortion and contraception, as he has promised, I am hopeful that the new President and his administration will work with the Church and others of good will.
Gomez’s statement caused bristling by at least one of his brothers in Christ. Cardinal Blasé J. Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, posting a Twitter thread chastising the supposedly “ill-considered statement” that was “critical of President Biden.”
Cupich took no issue with the veracity of Gomez’s statement—or with President Biden’s pro-abortion proclivities. Instead he complained that the issuance of the statement represented an “internal institutional failure,” which Cupich proclaimed “must be addressed” so that together they can “take up the work of healing our nation in this moment of crisis.”
Cupich’s bureaucratic wallowing took on an even more pedantic tone when Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, faced questioning about Biden’s forthcoming abortion policy later that same day. Owen Jensen from the Catholic network EWTN asked Psaki about Biden’s plans related to “two big concerns for pro-life Americans: the Hyde Amendment, which of course keeps taxpayer dollars, from paying for abortions, and the Mexico City Policy, which keeps tax dollars [from funding abortions overseas.”
Psaki response was scandalous: “I think we’ll have more to say on the Mexico City Policy in the coming days,” she began, adding, “But I will just take the opportunity to remind all of you that [Biden] is a devout Catholic and somebody who attends church regularly. He started his day attending church with his family this morning. But I don’t have anything more for you on that.”
As promised, last Thursday, President Biden had “more to say on the Mexico City Policy.” In an executive order signed that day, the president rescinded the Mexico City Policy and with the stroke of his pen authorized American tax dollars to fund international organizations that counsel women on abortion services, perform abortions, and lobby foreign governments to legalize abortion.
The Catholic Church can no longer ignore President Biden’s support for the grave moral evil of abortion and his clear demonstration “that he is not in full communion with the Catholic Church.” By signing the executive order rescinding the Mexico City Policy, President Biden has turned promises and policy positions—such as his assurance on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade that “the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to codifying Roe v. Wade and appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe”—into unequivocal formal cooperation with the grave sin of abortion.
If church leaders continue to ignore President Biden’s formal cooperation with abortion, they will become complicit in the scandal. Here, non-Catholics must understand “scandal” refers not to some tabloid concept, but to a grave evil. As the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” explains, the evil of scandal proves gravely dangerous to the souls of our Christian brothers and sisters:
Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense. Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion. Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to ‘social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.’
Shortly after Biden’s election, Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia Charles J. Chaput spoke of the scandal his oxymoronic profession of his Catholic faith and his extreme abortion positions caused: “Public figures who identify as ‘Catholic’ give scandal to the faithful when receiving Communion by creating the impression that the moral laws of the Church are optional.”
Chaput did not stop there. He called out the church hierarchy, writing “bishops give similar scandal by not speaking up publicly about the issue and danger of sacrilege.”
With President Biden’s single-handed reversal of the Mexico City Policy, “speaking up publicly” is no longer enough. If that is all American bishops do, they will cement the impression that the moral laws of the church are optional for politicians and that ecclesiastical laws, such as Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, are optional for the church hierarchy.
Canon 915 makes clear that Catholics “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.” As then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), who at the time served as the head of the church’s doctrinal office, wrote in 2004, a Catholic politician “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” is engaged in “manifest” and “formal cooperation” in grave sin.
To the pro-life lay Catholic, 40-plus years of campaigning and voting for permissive abortion laws would seem pretty obstinate. Yet even before Biden was sworn in as president, then-archbishop, now Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. rejected the idea that President Biden would be denied communion in his home archdiocese.
“The kind of relationship that I hope we will have is a conversational relationship where we can discover areas where we can cooperate that reflect the social teachings of the church, knowing full well that there are some areas where we won’t agree,” Gregory said, noting that there “are areas where the church’s position is very clear,” such as in regard to abortion. But “in deciding when to collaborate and when to criticize,” he added, “I hope that I don’t highlight one over the other.”
But two things have changed since Gregory spoke of a hoped “conversational relationship:” In responding to a question about the Mexico City Policy, President Biden’s press secretary directly connected the forthcoming decision to Biden’s supposed status as “a devout Catholic and somebody who attends church regularly.” And Biden has since unilaterally directed taxpayers’ money to international abortion providers.
The relationship needed now is not a conversational one, but a pastoral one—both for President Biden’s benefit and the benefit of all Catholics. Cardinal Gregory can no longer merely focus on areas of agreement: He must publicly and clearly state the grave sin Biden committed in signing the executive order.
As the 2004 guidance Benedict XVI detailed, he should meet privately with President Biden, “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.” Should Biden ignore this pastoral correction and refuse to reinstate the Mexico City Policy while still presenting himself for Holy Communion, there will be no choice left but to deny President Biden communion.
No Catholic should want this outcome, but anything less will render the church complicit in Biden’s heresy.