President Joe Biden became just the second Catholic to take the oath of office on Wednesday, but the nation’s top bishop is warning that his pro-choice policies will ‘advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity.’
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, who currently holds the presidency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, released a statement wishing Biden well.
But he also condemned the president for his stance on abortion.
‘I am praying that God grant him wisdom and courage to lead this great nation and that God help him to meet the tests of these times, to heal the wounds caused by this pandemic, to ease our intense political and cultural divisions, and to bring people together with renewed dedication to America’s founding purposes, to be one nation under God committed to liberty and equality for all,’ Archbishop Gomez said.
As Biden is sworn in, president of U.S. bishops assails him over abortion https://t.co/AsG8rJ3NbM— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 21, 2021
But, he continued, ‘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.
‘Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.’
The strongly worded statement was slammed by Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, who called it ‘ill-considered.’
‘Aside from the fact that there is seemingly no precedent for doing so, the statement, critical of President Biden came as a surprise to many bishops, who received it just hours before it was released.’
Cupich, who is considered an ally of Pope Francis, said the statement by Gomez was drafted without input from the conference’s administrative committee.
He said Gomez avoided ‘a collegial consultation that is [the] normal course for statements that represent and enjoy the considered endorsement of the American bishops.’
Cupich added: ‘The internal institutional failures involved must be addressed, and I look forward to contributing to all efforts to that end, so that, inspired by the Gospel, we can build up the unity of the Church, and together take up the work of healing our nation in this moment of crisis.’
Last month, Charles J. Chaput, a retired Catholic archbishop, said that Biden should not receive Holy Communion because of his stance on 'evil' abortion and same-sex relationships.
Chaput, 76, stepped down as archbishop of Philadelphia last year.
He claimed that the president's pro-choice support has created a 'scandal' for the faithful, and means 'he is not in full Communion with the Catholic Church.'
Biden’s continued support for Roe v Wade, which first protected a woman's right to abortion in the US in 1973, as well as same-sex marriage, which was legalized federally in 2015, has caused a schism between Catholic leaders.
Writing in the conservative, religious journal, First Things, Chaput said: 'The implications for the present moment are clear. 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.'
He added that bishops who give Biden Communion 'without clearly teaching the gravity of his facilitating the evil of abortion (and his approval of same-sex relationships), they do a serious disservice to their brother bishops and their people.'
Washington archbishop and soon-to-be Cardinal Wilton Gregory, who is now Biden's local bishop after the president moved in to the White House on Wednesday, said last month that he would not deny Biden a Communion and called the issue of denial a 'confusion' over Church teaching.
Chaput does note that Biden 'has championed many causes and issues that do serve the common good.'
But he added that 'many of his actions and words have also supported or smoothed the way for grave moral evils in our public life that have resulted in the destruction of millions of innocent lives.'
Chaput, who is a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, was the second Native American to be consecrated a bishop in the United States and the first Native American archbishop.
He was the ninth archbishop of Philadelphia, serving from 2011 until 2020 and previously served as Archbishop of Denver (1997–2011) and Bishop of Rapid City (1988–1997).
Unlike many of his predecessors as archbishop of Philadelphia, the Capuchin Franciscan was not made a cardinal.
Pope Francis told Biden on Wednesday that he was praying that God would guide his efforts to bring reconciliation in the United States.
In a message sent shortly after the second Catholic president was sworn in, Francis also said he hoped Biden would work towards a society marked by true justice, freedom and respect for the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those with no voice.
'Under your leadership, may the American people continue to draw strength from the lofty political, ethical and religious values that have inspired the nation since its founding,' Francis said.
'I likewise ask God, the source of all wisdom and truth, to guide your efforts to foster understanding, reconciliation and peace within the United States and among the nations of the world in order to advance the universal common good,' he said.
Three days after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Congress by supporters of former president Donald Trump, Francis said the violence had left him 'astonished.'
In Wednesday's message to Biden, the pope said the 'grave crises facing our human family call for farsighted and united responses.'
The first Catholic to ever become president of the United States was John F. Kennedy in 1961.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.