Since his inauguration two weeks ago as the nation’s second Catholic president, Biden’s devout Christian faith has become a new flashpoint within a church already reeling from years of moral and financial crises.
While millions of Catholics have celebrated the ascension of one of their own to the White House, some have been publicly questioning whether Biden should be considered a model of their faith.
“You might have heard that the president is Catholic. Perhaps you heard that. Perhaps you heard that he went to mass,” said the Rev. Brian Lynch of Transfiguration Catholic Church in Oakdale, Minnesota, in a sermon posted online Jan. 22. “I don’t care! That does not impress me!”
Watch the video report below.
Meanwhile, Biden spoke about his faith and the importance of prayer in an exclusive interview with People magazine, published this week:
I don’t want to proselytize. My religion, for me, is a safe place. I never miss mass, because I can be alone. I mean, I’m with my family but just kind of absorbing the fundamental principle that you’ve got to treat everyone with dignity. Jill, when she wants me to get a real message, she tapes it on the mirror above the sink where I shave. And she put up a great quote from Kierkegaard saying, “Faith sees best in the dark.” Other people may meditate. For me, prayer gives me hope, and it centers me.
The Los Angeles Times has also started writing about Biden’s Catholicism and what it calls a “rift” inside the Church:
Biden has been given a surprisingly hostile reception from the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference under the guidance of Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez.
In the intersection of religion and politics, nowhere does the division between conservatives and progressives in the Catholic Church cleave more deeply than in the United States, as Biden’s election reveals.
“It is extraordinary,” said John K. White, professor of politics at the Catholic University of America in Washington, “that a Catholic president, instead of being congratulated [by the bishops] and saying we’ll work together, while recognizing differences, that they have only deepened the schism.”
The rift stems from opposition by many in the church to abortion and same-sex marriage, while others see a broader interpretation of the sanctity of life, promoted by Francis, to include climate change, immigration and fighting poverty.
… The rift inside the church is decades in the making, involving liberal guidelines in the 1960s that subsequent conservative popes — John Paul II and Benedict XVI — overruled. Francis has preached a throwback to progressive grass-roots social activism and a more inclusive church. He’s elevated bishops like the progressive Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the first Black American to become cardinal, but not those further on the right, like Gomez.
Biden’s election brought the Catholic divide to the forefront. Biden’s hometown parish in Wilmington, Del., has always administered Communion to him, but some churches during the campaign refused. A few conservative Catholic leaders have openly raised the highly unlikely prospect of excommunication for the 78-year-old president.
“This is an inflection point of considerable importance” for the church, said George Weigel, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington and conservative biographer of Pope (now St.) John Paul II. “It crystallizes a problem that has been building for years.”