As Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., the first Roman Catholic president in 60 years, took the oath of office to become the 46th president of the United States, the head of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a historic rebuke of Biden’s promised policies.
José H. Gomez, the archbishop of Los Angeles and USCCB president, began his statement by expressing his prayers for the new president. He noted that Biden is the “first president in 60 years to profess the Catholic faith” and he celebrated the fact that Biden “clearly understands, in a deep and personal way, the importance of religious faith and institutions.”
Yet Gomez had to stand up for Catholic moral principles that Biden has betrayed. He noted that the Catholic bishops’ publication Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship addresses central moral concerns for Catholics, such as “abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, immigration, racism, poverty, care for the environment, criminal justice reform, economic development, and international peace.”
Gomez argued that “the nation’s bishops are given the duty of proclaiming the Gospel in all its truth and power, in season and out of season, even when that teaching is inconvenient or when the Gospel’s truths run contrary to the directions of the wider society and culture.”
“So, I must point out 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,” the USCCB president lamented. “Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.”
Gomez carefully explained that the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion and to LGBT activism is not rooted in bigotry but in Jesus Christ’s commandments to love and protect the most vulnerable. In fact, he persuasively argued that abortion is a social justice issue.
Our commitments on issues of human sexuality and the family, as with our commitments in every other area — such as abolishing the death penalty or seeking a health care system and economy that truly serves the human person — are guided by Christ’s great commandment to love and to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable.
For the nation’s bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the “preeminent priority.” Preeminent does not mean “only.” We have deep concerns about many threats to human life and dignity in our society. But 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.
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.
Gomez expressed hope that Biden would reconsider some of his extreme stances.
“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. My hope is that we can begin a dialogue to address the complicated cultural and economic factors that are driving abortion and discouraging families,” the USCCB president said.
He also expressed hope that Biden would work with Catholic Bishops “to finally put in place a coherent family policy in this country, one that acknowledges the crucial importance of strong marriages and parenting to the well-being of children and the stability of communities. If the President, with full respect for the Church’s religious freedom, were to engage in this conversation, it would go a long way toward restoring the civil balance and healing our country’s needs.”
Tragically, Biden’s “unity” rhetoric apparently does not apply to his policies. While the legacy media hails the president as a “moderate,” Biden has already pursued radical and divisive policies on abortion and LGBT issues. On his very first day in office, Biden reversed the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits U.S. taxpayer dollars from funding abortion overseas. He also ordered the military to kowtow to transgender identity and outlawed discrimination on the basis of gender identity, forcing women’s spaces to open up to biological males.
Biden’s policies do not just expand abortion and transgender identity — they treat people who disagree with abortion and transgenderism as bigoted and “discriminatory.”
The president has pledged to restore the Obamacare contraception mandate that forced Catholic organizations to pay for forms of contraception that cause abortion in some cases. The Little Sisters of the Poor fought this mandate all the way up to the Supreme Court — twice! The latest Supreme Court decision ruled that the Trump administration could legally withdraw the mandate, but it did not bar future administrations from imposing the rule that so egregiously violated the religious freedom of a group of Catholic nuns.
Biden has long championed LGBT activism, and in 2018 at an LGBT activist group, he attacked people who have “tried to define family” in the U.S. as “the dregs of society.” At the CNN LGBT town hall in October 2019, Biden called for a kind of terror watchlist to monitor organizations that oppose same-sex marriage and transgender identity. Biden firmly supports the Equality Act, which would outlaw discrimination against LGBT people. While Americans do not support discrimination, laws like this have been weaponized to punish Christians for refusing to celebrate same-sex weddings.
Gomez was right to express concern about “the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.” Biden represents a real threat to the religious freedom of Catholics and evangelical Christians who follow the Bible in opposing abortion and LGBT activism.
Biden should listen to Gomez’s rebuke, but it seems unlikely that he will consider altering his increasingly radical positions. Biden may be the first Catholic president in six decades, but he represents a threat to the religious freedom of conservative Catholics, nonetheless.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.