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Is Biden a 'Faithful Catholic?' Traditionalists and Progressives Within the Church Disagree

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President Biden's position on abortion is creating quite the divide among his fellow Catholic faithful. 

His critics say the President is "cloaking himself in Catholicism" by talking about his faith, while not following Church teachings. 

Millions of Catholics celebrate President Biden, including the Pope and members of his new parish at Holy Trinity in Washington, DC.

Still, many question whether he's going against long-held tenets of the faith in favor of a more progressive approach.  

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Attending Mass each Sunday, rosary in hand, Biden has long put his faith front and center. 

A position the nations' second Catholic President, felt the need to justify six decades ago.

Unlike John F. Kennedy, Biden's faith is celebrated by many news outlets who are praising his personal devotion and his liberal views on abortion. 

"They saw an opportunity to laud Joe Biden for his Catholicism, a Catholicism they tend to agree with," said Matthew Bunson, Senior Contributor for EWTN. 

That positive response from the media stands in stark contrast to the outcry over the beliefs of confirmed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a pro-life Catholic. 

This different standard infuriates many members of the clergy. 

"You see a clear bias. She was being lambasted by much of the media because of her deep devotion to Christian faith. Along comes President Joe Biden. I pray for him every day as we should pray for elected officials, but he is not a faithful Catholic Christian," said Deacon Keith Fournier, a constitutional lawyer, theologian and Dean of Online Catholic School. 

Since taking office, Biden is targeting rules that protect the unborn, including the Mexico City Policy prohibiting taxpayer funds for abortions abroad, which he previously opposed. 

He's also changed his position on the Hyde Amendment blocking federal funding for abortion services.

In the 1980s, Biden voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to allow states to overturn Roe v. Wade. In the 1990s, he voted against federal funds for abortion at least 50 times.  

"I think there's an agenda. Who is behind it? I do not want to speculate anymore on that. I am worried," said Fournier. 

So is Archbishop Joseph Naumann, Chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops who fears Biden is using his new title and office to confuse the faithful. 

"We've had other Presidents that didn't support our view on the sanctity of human life, but now we have one who professes to be a Catholic yet he's going against a core fundamental moral teaching of the Church. Americans have given him a lot of power and authority. One power he doesn't have is to define what is means to be Catholic," said Naumann.

The President is even being criticized for using religion to avoid scrutiny of abortion policies, which some believe reflects a growing divide in the Catholic church over his Presidency. 
"Particularly, when you are talking about American Catholicism where you have very fervent liberals and progressives within Catholicism and very passionate conservatives in the same movement," said Jack Jenkins, national reporter for Religion News Service. 

A debate among several Catholic bishops is going on now suggesting Biden be denied Holy Communion as he was on the campaign trail in 2019 by a priest in South Carolina. 

But DC's new Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory says he will not deny him the sacrament. 

Some religious observers, including Rabbi Brad Hirschfield say the attention on Biden's abortion position overshadows common ground on other key issues.

"It's true that many Christians are concerned about the President's stance on abortion, but you have to remember that there are many Christians who are utterly energized by his stances on poverty and immigration," said Hirschfield. 

Meanwhile, despite the church's teachings, a recent survey of US Catholics found more than half think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. 

"This is the first time we have an unequivocally pro-choice Catholic in the White House, and what for us is most significant about that is he represents the majority of Catholics in their position on abortion rights," said Jamie Manson of Catholics for Choice.

Catholic leaders aren't the only ones worried about the trend. Pastor Gary Hamrick says this is a wake-up call for all Christians.

"The sad trend is selective Christianity. The pulpits have been silent and therefore the people have not been properly equipped to recognize that it's not only right to stand up for things that are right and true, but necessary for the preservation of a society If Christians don't stand up for what is morally right and true who will?" said Senior Pastor Gary Hamrick of Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, VA.

Biden's Christian critics say the most powerful man in the world should take the lead.

"The Church belongs to Jesus. That's why I implore the President, turn away from this error – you know it's an error – and be faithful to what the church teaches and lead this nation on the path to truth," said Fournier. 

There's been speculation on how JFK regarded the unborn. The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the US was handed down well after Kennedy's death. Scrutiny over Biden's abortion views carries much more weight now that abortion is legal and the President's position on the issue has been, at times, a moving target. 

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About The Author


Tara Mergener is an award-winning journalist and expert storyteller who spent the majority of her career as a correspondent in Washington, D.C. She worked at CBS Newspath for many years, reporting for all CBS platforms, including CBS News and CBS affiliates throughout the nation. Tara also reported at CNN, Hearst’s Washington, D.C. Bureau, and was a contributor on Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren. Tara has won dozens of awards for her investigative and political reporting, including Headliner Foundation’s Best Reporter in Texas, multiple Edward R. Murrow awards, Texas Associated Press