“For many people now, the great concern about Biden is, ‘Is he a faithful enough Catholic?'”
The encounter between President Joe Biden and Pope Francis comes amid a movement by hardline bishops to withhold Communion to politicians who support abortion rights.
The bishops unanimously authorized the creation of a “teaching document” in July, which many of them anticipate would condemn Catholic politicians who receive Communion despite their support for abortion rights. Though any paper is unlikely to mention Biden by name, its passage would be a direct rebuke to the president of the United States.
Analysts believe Francis will not scold Biden about his support for abortion rights during their Friday encounter. The two leaders will almost certainly focus on subjects to find common ground, such as the environment, immigration, and assisting the poor.
“They’re going to talk about far greater topics that they feel have the potential to unify people rather than subjects that they believe have the potential to separate people,” Formicola said.
Francis has previously expressed his displeasure with the conservative bishops’ campaign to withhold Communion to politicians who support abortion rights. “I have never rejected someone the Eucharist,” Francis told journalists in September, stressing that pastors must “be a pastor, don’t go judging.”
Even if he doesn’t say it on Friday, his encounter with Biden will help strengthen that message, according to Massimo Faggioli, writer of “Joe Biden and Catholicism in the United States,” an assessment of Biden’s Catholicism in the fabric of American politics.
“The Vatican does not support Joe Biden’s pro-abortion views and actions, nor does his White House or administration,” Faggioli stated. “The Vatican is just attempting to preserve the Catholic Church in the United States from the fanaticism of some Catholic bishops.”
Unlike Kennedy, who faced anti-Catholic bias and had his faith viewed as an impediment when he ran for president in 1960, Biden has spoken openly about his Catholicism and how it has helped him through the darkest chapters of his life, particularly the death of his first wife and infant daughter in a car accident in 1972.
After the catastrophe, he informed The Christian Science Monitor, “I never doubted that there was a God, but I was angry with God.”
Biden, who briefly explored joining a seminary in Baltimore to become a priest in junior high, reiterated during the same interview that he considers himself a committed Catholic despite his support for abortion rights.
“My beliefs are completely consistent with Catholic social theology,” he asserted. “There are forces inside the church that believe that if you disagree with any of the church’s beliefs, you conflict with the church.” “I believe the church is larger than that.”
‘Men with profound faith.’
As president, Biden has promoted an “equality agenda” based on his Christian beliefs. During his first days in office, he issued executive orders to promote equitable treatment for underrepresented groups in housing and other areas and reinforced anti-discrimination rights for homosexual and transgender Americans.
When Biden talks with Francis, social justice campaigners want him to discuss immigration and human rights problems. “I would very much want to see something happen in that meeting where the pope may question President Biden on some of the challenges at the border and encourage him to extend human dignity and respect for human dignity,” said Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky.