CNA Staff, Sep 1, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Former vice president Joe Biden invoked Pope St. John Paul II during a campaign speech on Monday. The Democratic nominee cited the former pope in an address in Pittsburgh, in which he urged voters to embrace hope in the face of civil unrest, but drew criticism from some Catholics for his continued support for expanded abortion access.
“The campaign for the presidency has come down to fear,” said Biden during an appearance in Pittsburgh on Monday, August 31. “But I believe Americans are stronger than that. I believe we’ll be guided by the words of Pope John Paul II, words drawn from the scriptures: ‘Be not afraid. Be not afraid.’”
“Fear never builds the future,” said Biden. “Hope does. And building the future is what America does.”
Biden, who has met with successive popes during his political career, has made his Catholic faith a frequent feature during his campaign for the presidency. During the Democratic National Convention, speakers repeatedly praised Biden for his deep devotion to his religious beliefs, and the former vice president offered anecdotes about being educated by nuns as a child.
Despite this, Biden is running on a platform that would legalize the taxpayer funding of abortions up until birth, has pedged to codify a right to abortion in federal law, and also committed to revoking conscience and religious liberty protections for religous orders concerning the HHS contraceptive mandate.
His choice Monday to reference St. John Paul II came despite the pope’s vocal opposition to pro-choice politicians during his reign.
In the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, the late pope wrote “Laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny the equality of everyone before the law,” and “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it.’”
Under St. John Paul II, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger issued a letter in 2004 to then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the Archdiocese of Washington, specifically outlining the policy positions that would render a Catholic politician ineligible for Communion.
“Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist,” wrote the future Pope Benedict XVI.
If the politician remains in “obstinate persistence” in attempting to receive communion despite abortion advocacy, they are to be denied communion, said Ratzinger.
Biden’s website currently states that “ Biden will work to codify Roe v. Wade, and his Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate Roe v. Wade.”
Biden’s Pittsburgh speech drew criticism from some Catholics, who noted his stated policy positions which contradict both Church teaching and the writing of St. John Paul II.
National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez urged Biden to “spare us” the references to the pope until he was willing to accept the “Gospel of life” in a column published on Monday.
“I grieve when I hear Joe Biden talk this way because he should know better,” said Lopez. “Don’t use the Catholic faith to push the abortion agenda that is rotten to the core and part of the reason we are where we are today, so miserable and violent and often making no natural sense,” she said.
“Abortion is the opposite of health care, the opposite of love, the opposite of life.”
Marjorie Dannfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, chair of Pro-Life Voices for Trump and a member of Catholics for Trump, said in a statement on Monday
“Joe Biden may try to appeal to religious Americans, especially Catholics, by quoting scripture and St. John Paul II,” she said. “But this does nothing to change the fact that his extreme pro-abortion policy positions are deeply offensive to Americans of faith and conscience.”
“Claiming to be a devout Catholic while supporting radical, deeply unpopular policies is disingenuous. Pro-life Americans of all faiths will not be fooled.”