- Biden is the first Catholic president since John F. Kennedy
- Conservative bishops say communion should be banned
- Biden says he opposes abortion but can’t force his point on others
- Biden-Pape meeting to be first since inauguration in January
VATICAN CITY, Oct.26 (Reuters) – Devout Catholic Joe Biden meets with Pope Francis in the Vatican on Friday as the US president comes under pressure from Church conservatives for his confrontational stance in the dispute over rights to ‘abortion.
Biden goes to weekly mass regularly and keeps a picture of the Pope behind his desk in the Oval Office. He said he was personally opposed to abortion but could not impose his point of view as an elected leader.
But the conservative Catholic media and American conservative bishops criticized him for this position, with some saying the Democratic president should be banned from receiving Communion, the central sacrament of faith.
At the same time, supporters of the right to abortion have been horrified by a new Texas law that imposes a near-total ban on abortion. The Biden administration has challenged the law and the US Supreme Court will hear the case next Monday. Read more
It’s unclear whether Biden and Pope Francis will discuss the abortion and communion disputes at their private meeting on Friday, their first since Biden took office in January.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday the two would discuss climate change, migration and income inequality.
“It is clear that the Pope does not agree with the President on abortion. He has done so exceptionally clearly,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore told the Catholic News Service.
Asked about the communion debate in the United States last month, the pope told reporters the abortion was “murder.” But he also appeared to criticize the American Catholic bishops for dealing with the issue in a political rather than a pastoral way.
“Communion is not a price for the perfect.… Communion is a gift, the presence of Jesus and his Church,” said the Pope.
Bishops should show “compassion and tenderness” with Catholic politicians who support the right to abortion, he said. Read more
Since his election in 2013 as the first Latin American pope, Francis has said that while the Church should oppose abortion, the issue should not become a consuming battle in cultural wars that would distract attention from issues such as immigration and poverty.
Jo Renee Formicola, professor of political science at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, said the meeting should help Biden in his stalemate with US bishops over abortion and draw attention to social justice concerns that the two men share.
“The optics of the Pope’s meeting with Biden basically say to the American (Catholic) hierarchy, ‘Look, this man and I have the same agenda. … Don’t expect me to compromise my teachings on things like the environment and immigration, ”she told Reuters in a telephone interview.
THE CONSERVATIVES ATTACK
In June, a divided conference of American Catholic bishops
voted to draft a communion statement that some bishops say should specifically rebuke Catholic politicians, including Biden. Read more
The bishops, who have moved forward despite a Vatican warning that it will sow discord rather than unity, will take up the issue again next month.
Catholics hold two of the three highest offices in the United States – the other is Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But instead of uniting co-religionists, as John F. Kennedy’s election as the first Catholic president of the United States did in 1960, Biden and Pelosi were both attacked by Church conservatives. .
They stepped up their criticism of Biden this month when his administration challenged Texas law.
While Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, did not try to prevent Biden from receiving Communion, Archbishop of Pelosi, San Francisco hometown, Salvatore Cordileone, told his priests not to take it. give him.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement last week that the meeting would focus on “collaboration on efforts based on respect for basic human dignity.” This would include ending the COVID-19 pandemic and caring for the poor, she said.
Like Biden, the Pope has urged everyone to get vaccinated and has made numerous calls to defend the environment by reducing the use of fossil fuels. Biden will attend the UN climate change summit in Glasgow and the Pope is expected to send a message.
Reporting by Philip Pullella; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Peter Cooney
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