Just after the election, Archbishop Jose Gomez issued a statement congratulating Biden, saying “he joins the late President John F. Kennedy as the second United States president to profess the Catholic faith.”
However, Gomez, who serves as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), later announced a working group in preparation for Biden’s presidency, and issued a statement about the “problems” created by a Catholic president who supports certain progressive policies.
“The president-elect has given us reason to believe that his faith commitments will move him to support some good policies. This includes policies of immigration reform, refugees and the poor, and against racism, the death penalty, and climate change,” he said at the USCCB Fall Assembly on Nov. 17.
“He has also given us reason to believe that he will support policies that are against some fundamental values that we hold dear as Catholics. These policies include: the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and the preservation of Roe vs. Wade. Both of these policies undermine our preeminent priority of the elimination of abortion,” Gomez added.
He warned that supporting certain policies would create “confusion among the faithful about what the Church actually teaches on these questions.”
Catholic Vote, which launched an anti-Biden campaign before the election, and the Catholic Association both expressed support for Gomez after he made those statements.
“The Biden administration poses such a threat to Catholic values that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is setting up a preemptive working group in preparation,” read a Catholic Association post.
Biden’s faith has been a touchy subject as he’s leading a party viewed by critics on the right as moving to the extreme left on abortion. Then-candidate Biden notably reversed in 2019 his support for the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funding for most abortions.
For years, Biden supported the Hyde Amendment with the rationale that religious Americans shouldn’t have to pay for procedures they fundamentally oppose. That’s why his reversal on the policy last year sent shockwaves through the media. Biden, however, appeared to personally flout church teaching when he officiated a same-sex wedding ceremony in 2016.
In August, Cardinal Raymond Burke said the former vice president shouldn’t receive communion and wasn’t a Catholic “in good standing.” Shortly after those comments caught headlines in September, the Biden campaign released a series of ads touting his faith.
The ads portray Biden as turning to his religion in dark times and knowing “what it means to be your brother’s keeper.” In one ad, Biden tells a Jesuit priest and magazine editor that “my father would say the cardinal sin of all sins is the abuse of power.”
But Biden has chided those who are anti-abortion.
Both the Catholic Catechism and some clergy have indicated that politicians have an obligation to support anti-abortion legislation. The section of the Catechism discussing abortion says that the procedure and infanticide “are abominable crimes.”
On Thursday, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, tweeted a plea for Biden “to repent of his dissent from Catholic teaching on abortion & marriage for his own salvation & for the good of our nation.”
Amid the wave of criticism, though, Biden has received backing from religious leaders like Sr. Simone Campbell, a Catholic nun who has been critical of Republicans and recently suggested Biden’s faith shouldn’t be reduced to one issue.
Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin also came to Biden’s defense in the weeks following the election. In a tweet on Tuesday, Martin quoted an article warning that bishops should “be careful” in their attacks on Biden to refrain from “jeopardizing cooperation on other issues of importance to the church.”
In another tweet, Martin denounced Trump’s rhetoric and claimed “[i]f President Biden does nothing more than stop the name calling he will be a success.”