Washington D.C., Jun 15, 2021 / 15:35 pm (CNA).
President Joe Biden has advanced policies contrary to Church teaching on life, marriage, and sexuality – and bishops have a duty to address this contradiction, theologians said this week.
Regarding the legitimacy of political opinions in a democracy, “Catholics are free to have these various opinions – as long as they don’t counter moral law, natural law, and faith,” Monsignor Charles Mangan of the Diocese of Sioux Falls told CNA on Tuesday.
“Authentic freedom,” he added, does not mean that Catholic voters and politicians can hold any opinion they want. Rather, it means “we are free in Christ, and we see the Church’s teaching as not a burden, but as something that frees us to embrace what is true,” he added.
He stressed the need for a well-formed conscience. “Conscience does not fall out of the sky. It has to be informed. It has to be taught. It has to be nurtured and matured,” he said.
Speaking with CNA ahead of the U.S. bishops’ virtual meeting which begins on Wednesday, Dr. Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at the Catholic University of America, said the bishops must be clear about where Biden’s administration runs afoul of Church teaching.
“It’s actually not Biden on trial right now, but the bishops,” Pecknold said. He noted that “Biden is almost a perfect pro-abort politician, and yet he claims to be a devout Catholic. The bishops must make a clear statement about precisely that contradiction.”
Biden, who is just the second Catholic president in U.S. history, has pushed for taxpayer-funded abortion while his administration seeks to deregulate the abortion pill regimen and fund international pro-abortion groups.
On the 48th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris issued a statement supporting Roe and stating their intent to codify it in law.
Days later, Biden on January 28 announced a series of executive actions that enabled funding of international pro-abortion groups and supported abortion as an international right.
Biden repealed the Mexico City Policy, an executive policy that bars U.S. funding of foreign NGOs that provide or promote abortions. His administration withdrew from the Geneva Consensus Declaration, a joint statement of the United States and 31 other countries saying there is no international right to abortion.
In domestic abortion policy, Biden moved to allow for federal funding of elective abortions by introducing his budget request for the 2022 fiscal year without the Hyde amendment. That policy, enacted in law since 1976 as a rider to budget bills, prohibited federal funding of most elective abortions in Medicaid.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also deregulated the abortion pill regimen, allowing for it to be prescribed and dispensed remotely during the pandemic instead of in-person, as previously required. Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, has expressed interest in making that rule-change permanent.
Biden’s administration is also moving to allow funding of domestic abortion providers or pro-abortion groups through the Title X program.
While the program was set up in 1970 with express prohibitions against funding of abortion as a method of family planning, the Clinton administration required recipients to provide abortion referrals and counseling upon request.
That 2000 policy stood in place until the Trump administration in 2019 prohibited recipients from referring for abortions or being co-located with abortion clinics, in an attempt to separate taxpayer funding from abortion-related services altogether. Planned Parenthood in 2019 announced it was withdrawing from the program rather than complying with the new requirements.
The Department of Health and Human Services in April proposed to restore the Clinton-era rules for the program, once again allowing abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood to participate.
Biden’s administration has also lifted a moratorium on federally-funded research using fetal tissue derived from elective abortions. The Trump administration in 2019 halted such research at federal facilities, and required other federally-funded research proposals at non-government facilities to undergo review by a federal ethics advisory board. In April, HHS lifted the moratorium and removed the requirement for review by the ethics advisory board.
Meanwhile, Biden has expressed support for LGBT and transgender issues, and his administration has worked to require accommodation for these causes – despite religious or conscientious objections.
On his first day in office on January 20, Biden issued a sweeping executive order redefining sex discrimination. He stated his administration’s policy to uphold sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal civil rights law, extending to them the same protections as race in public accommodations.
“Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” Biden stated.
Biden’s administration began implementing the order in a number of areas, including housing, education, and health care.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has said that male students identifying as transgender females have a right to compete in women’s athletics based on their gender identity.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has weakened protections for women’s shelters, withdrawing a proposed rule that would have allowed them to accept only women clients instead of biological males identifying as transgender females. A Missouri Christian college also sued the administration over its interpretation of sex discrimination, saying that their policy of sex-specific dormitory housing would be at risk.
In May, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a notice that legal experts warned would require doctors and hospitals to provide gender-transition procedures.
A coalition of Catholic doctors and hospitals had already sued the government over the Obama administration’s 2016 transgender mandate. While a federal district court granted some plaintiffs permanent injunctive relief from the mandate, the Biden administration fought to appeal that case to a higher court.
In foreign policy, U.S. embassies have also been permitted to display the LGBT Pride flag during “Pride season.”
Biden also supports the Equality Act, sweeping legislation that would require acknowledgment of sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warned that the bill would “punish” objecting religious groups, and could require church halls to host pro-LGBT events, or women’s locker rooms and shelters to accept biological males.
“The big picture is that America seems only capable of electing Gallicans, Catholic presidents who don’t actually believe they should follow the Church’s teaching but should just follow their own national preferences,” Pecknold said.
“And president Biden has proved himself to be someone who not only doesn’t agree with Church teaching,” he said, “but advances and promotes” policies that contradict Church teaching.
“And he does it in an obstinate refusal of any correction from any bishop, including the pope,” he said.
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a doctrinal note in 2002 on participation of Catholics in political life. The document stressed the need for Catholics to adhere to Church teaching, especially on grave issues such as abortion and euthanasia.
Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the CDF, cited the note in his letter to the U.S. bishops in May on the matter of Communion for Catholic public officials who support permissive legislation on grave evils.
Monsignor Mangan quoted from the 2002 document on the importance of Catholics upholding the Church’s teaching on life. The 2002 document had a lot to do with “the participation of the laity in terms of voting,” he said.
Democracy “succeeds only to the extent that it is based on a correct understanding of the human person,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated. “Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle, for otherwise the witness of the Christian faith in the world, as well as the unity and interior coherence of the faithful, would be non-existent.”
“That word ‘coherence’ is used here,” Monsignor Mangan said, alluding to the recent statements by bishops on “Eucharistic coherence.” The term is “speaking about the unity and interior coherence of the faithful,” he said.
Regarding the authority of a local ordinary in his diocese, Mangan emphasized the duty of a bishop “to teach, to proclaim, to sanctify, and to safeguard.”
“Safeguarding has a place. To safeguard the faith, to safeguard the dignity of human life, and the reverence due to the sacraments, I think that has a real definite place,” he said.