In this age of secularism, when political life is separate from religious life, it is commendable that a United States President presents himself as a practicing Catholic and publicly participates in the Church’s sacraments.
However, President Biden’s Catholicism is sui generis. He does not follow Catholic doctrine and morals concerning procured abortion and homosexual sin.
Contrast With Catholic Doctrine
Throughout his political career, including the 2020 general election, Mr. Biden has favored the legalization of procured abortion. In more recent years, he embraced same-sex “marriage,” officiating at one while vice president.
Post-inauguration, his administration issued a statement specifying its support for abortion and contraception, not only in America but around the world:
In the past four years, reproductive health, including the right to choose, has been under relentless and extreme attack. … The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to codifying Roe v. Wadeand appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe. We are also committed to ensuring that we work to eliminate maternal and infant health disparities, increase access to contraception, and support families economically so that all parents can raise their families with dignity [sic]. This commitment extends to our critical work on health outcomes around the world.1
Regarding homosexuality and “transgenderism,” the pro-LGBT sentiment of his cabinet and cabinet-level appointments is well-known. Mr. Biden also signed an executive order affirming that his administration’s policy is that “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”2 Likewise, he reinstated “transgenderism” in the Armed Forces,3 and, according to Antony Blinken, his now-confirmed Secretary of State, “he plans to swiftly appoint an LGBTI envoy, [and] allow embassies to fly the pride flag.”4
One Who Does Not Fully Accept the Entire Doctrine of the Church Is Not a Catholic
Procured abortion, homosexual sin and “transgenderism” are undoubtedly contrary to Catholic doctrine and morals. Scripture and Tradition, as well as the ecclesiastical Magisterium, are indisputable in this regard.5
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Now, a Catholic must accept fully and follow both the Church’s dogmatic teaching and the moral truths revealed by God. Therefore, whoever rejects even one of those revealed truths—whether of a dogmatic or moral nature—rejects the entire deposit of the Faith and expels himself from the Church. Every revealed truth, without exception, must be accepted.
This is what Pope Leo XIII teaches in the encyclical Satis Cognitum, on the unity of the Church:
[The Church has always] regarded as rebels and expelled from the ranks of her children all who held beliefs on any point of doctrine different from her own.…
He who dissents even in one point from divinely revealed truth absolutely rejects all faith, since he thereby refuses to honor God as the supreme truth and the formal motive of faith.6
“Let Him Be Considered as a Heathen and a Publican”
For his part, in his encyclical on the Mystical Body of Christ, Pope Pius XII stated:
Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. … And therefore, if a man refuse to hear the Church, let him be considered—so the Lord commands—as a heathen and a publican [See Matt. 18:17, 19]. It follows that those who are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit.…
For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy.7
Therefore, those who defend procured abortion, homosexual sin, or “transgenderism” not just theoretically, but promoting or effecting their legalization, cannot be considered Catholic.
“Whenever You Eat This Bread…”
Dealing with the Holy Eucharist, the Council of Florence (1438–1445) taught that “the effect of this sacrament which He operates in the soul of him who takes it worthily is the union of man with Christ.”8As Our Lord said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in that person.”9
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Given the sanctity of this sacrament, Saint Paul warns of the consequences of receiving it improperly:
Whenever you eat this bread, then, and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily is answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone is to examine himself and only then eat of the bread or drink from the cup; because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the body is eating and drinking his own condemnation.10
Some Prelates Warn Mr. Biden…
In an interview with Thomas McKenna, Raymond Cardinal Burke, former prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, warned that Mr. Biden has no conditions to receive Communion:
So, first of all, 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.
But also he should not approach to receive Holy Communion because he gives scandal to everyone. 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.11
Most Rev. Charles Chaput, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia, commented in the same line: “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. And bishops give similar scandal by not speaking up publicly about the issue and danger of sacrilege.”12
Others Bishops Support Him
However, some prelates, such as Wilton Cardinal Gregory, have spoken out differently. Catholic News Service journalist Cindy Wooden interviewed the Archbishop of Washington, D.C. She writes: “While some Catholics believe Biden should not be allowed to receive Communion when he goes to Mass, Cardinal-designate Gregory said that for eight years as vice president, Biden went to Mass and received Communion. ‘I’m not going to veer from that,’ he said.”13
Do We See Two Churches, Side by Side?
These diverging attitudes in the Catholic hierarchy make one wonder if they both hold the same Catholic Faith or if we see a new religion emerging from the shadow of the Catholic Church.
Is there one church based on Revelation which denies Holy Communion to people who speak out publicly and act against Catholic doctrine and morals, “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin”?14And then another religion which allows such people to receive Holy Communion without any public display of repentance?
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Only the first position is legitimate, and it corresponds to that of the Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ, “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic,” as we pray in the Nicene Creed. The second is not.
What Is It to Be Catholic?
The conduct of the country’s new President and that of bishops such as the newly appointed Wilton Cardinal Gregory begs the question: What does it mean to be a Catholic?
As shown in the above excerpts from Popes Leo XIII and Pius XII, this question has long been answered. Many more statements by popes, councils, and from Canon Law could be added. To summarize them, however, a Catholic is one who has been baptized and believes and professes all the doctrine revealed and proposed by the Church’s Magisterium in both dogmatic and moral matters.
As for anyone who rejects even a single point of Catholic doctrine and morals, Pope Pius XII teaches, “let him be considered—so the Lord commands—as a heathen and a publican.”
- “Statement from President Biden and Vice President Harris on the 48th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” Jan. 22, 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/01/22/statement-from-president-biden-and-vice-president-harris-on-the-48th-anniversary-of-roe-v-wade/.
- “Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation,” Jan. 20, 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/20/executive-order-preventing-and-combating-discrimination-on-basis-of-gender-identity-or-sexual-orientation/.
- “Executive Order on Enabling All Qualified Americans to Serve Their Country in Uniform,” Jan. 25, 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/25/executive-order-on-enabling-all-qualified-americans-to-serve-their-country-in-uniform/.
- Paul LeBlanc and Jennifer Hansler, “Biden’s secretary of state pick vows to appoint LGBTI envoy and allow embassies to fly pride flag,” CNN, Jan. 19, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/19/politics/antony-blinken-lgbti-pride-flag-biden-administration/index.html.
- See Francesco Cardinal Roberti and Msgr. Pietro Palazzini, s.v. “Abortion,” in Dictionary of Moral Theology (Westminster, Md.: The Newman Press, 1962); TFP Committee on American Issues, Defending a Higher Law: Why We Must Resist Same Sex “Marriage” and the Homosexual Movement(Spring Grove, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, 2012).
- Leo XIII, encyclical Satis Cognitum, June 29, 1896, no. 9, http://www.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_29061896_satis-cognitum.html.
- Pius XII, encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, June 29, 1943, nos. 22–23, http://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_29061943_mystici-corporis-christi.html. (Our emphasis.)
- Denzinger, no. 698.
- John 6:56. (New Jerusalem Bible).
- 1 Cor. 26:29.
- “Cardinal Burke: Joe Biden Should Not Receive Holy Communion,” National Catholic Register, Sept. 29, 2020, https://www.ncregister.com/news/cardinal-burke-joe-biden-should-not-receive-holy-communion.
- Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., “Mr. Biden and the Matter of Scandal,” First Things, Dec. 4, 2020, https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2020/12/mr-biden-and-the-matter-of-scandal.
- Cindy Wooden, “In Washington, with new president, cardinal-designate hopes for dialogue,” Catholic News Service, Nov. 24, 2020, https://www.catholicnews.com/in-washington-with-new-president-cardinal-designate-hopes-for-dialogue/.
- Canon 915, http://www.vatican.va/archive/cod-iuris-canonii/eng/documents/cic_lib4-cann879-958_en.html#TITLE_III.