Questioning Biden's faith over abortion stance is 'repugnant,' Catholic bishop says

Former vice president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (R) prays with community leaders at Bethel AME in Wilmington, Delaware, on June 1, 2020.
Former vice president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (R) prays with community leaders at Bethel AME in Wilmington, Delaware, on June 1, 2020. | Biden for President/Adam Schultz

A Roman Catholic Church bishop has denounced those who question the sincerity of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s Catholic beliefs due to his stance on abortion.

In a virtual event held Tuesday, Bishop Robert McElroy of the Catholic Diocese of San Diego addressed claims by some conservatives that Biden is not a true Catholic because of his pro-choice political positions. 

The California-based bishop criticized what he described as “the public denial of candidates' identity as Catholics because of a specific policy position they have taken.”

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“Such denials are injurious because they reduce Catholic social teaching to a single issue,” stated McElroy, as reported by The National Catholic Reporter.

He added that such an argument is “offensive because they constitute an assault on the meaning of what it is to be Catholic.”

“To reduce that magnificent, multidimensional gift of God's love to a single question of public policy is repugnant and should have no place in public discourse,” the bishop contended. 

McElroy, 66, explained that being a Catholic “means having a grace-filled relationship with God.”

“Being Catholic means loving the Church. Being Catholic means participating in the sacramental life of the church,” he added. “Being a Catholic means trying to transform the world by the light of the Gospel.”

Although the bishop went on to describe abortion as “intrinsically evil,” he believed “the formulation of individual laws regarding abortion is not.” He added that Catholics should “seek legal protections for the unborn.”

“Like the issues of fighting poverty and addressing climate change, the issue of abortion in law and public policy is a realm where prudential judgment is essential and determinative,” he continued.

McElroy’s comments were part of a virtual conversation titled “Voting as an Authentic Disciple,” which was sponsored in part by Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana, and by the University of Notre Dame's Campus Ministry.

Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, Washington responded to McElroy’s comments in an interview with The National Catholic Register Wednesday. 

“Reading through Bishop McElroy’s statement, I noticed that he never mentions that abortion is the ‘preeminent’ moral issue for Catholics,” Daly said.

“Bishop McElroy is a moral theologian, but one of the most important roles of a bishop is to teach, and he never mentions the Church’s teaching that abortion is the ‘preeminent’ moral issue for Catholics.”

Daily went on to say that before the November 2019 vote on updating the U.S. bishop’s election-year statement, “Cardinal [Blase] Cupich and Bishop McElroy wanted changes in the document, with Bishop McElroy arguing that it isn’t Catholic teaching that abortion is the preeminent issue that we face as a world, and Archbishop [Charles] Chaput stood to challenge that statement.”

The Biden campaign has touted the religious beliefs and practices of the former vice president, who would be the second Catholic to become president if elected.

In September, for example, the campaign released an ad featuring narration from a woman who belongs to the same Wilmington, Delaware parish as the Biden family.

“Joe Biden has been part of our parish for more than 40 years,” she explained in the campaign video. “Even now, when Joe’s back home, we see him at mass on Sunday. You can tell how important Joe’s faith is to him. It’s what motivates everything: Joe’s beliefs, his values, the kind of president Joe would be.”

Conservatives and pro-life activists have argued that Biden is not a good Catholic due to his public support for policies at odds with the Catholic Church’s teaching, especially regarding the sanctity of life and the definition of marriage.

Recently, prominent conservative Catholic leader Cardinal Raymond Burke stated that he did not consider Biden to be a “Catholic in good standing” over his pro-choice public policy views.

In an interview with Catholic Action for Faith and Family, Burke argued that Biden “has not only been actively supporting procured abortion in our country, but has announced publicly in his campaign that he intends to make the practice of procured abortion available to everyone in the widest possible form, and to repeal the restrictions on this practice which have been put in place.”

“I would tell him not to approach Holy Communion out of charity toward him, because that would be a sacrilege, and a danger to the salvation of his own soul,” Burke claimed.

“Because if someone says ‘Well, I’m a devout Catholic’ and at the same time is promoting abortion, it gives the impression to others that it’s acceptable for a Catholic to be in favor of abortion. And of course, it’s absolutely not acceptable. It never has been, it never will be.”

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