Bishops-Biden battle intensifies over abortion debate ahead of midterms


(ANALYSIS) The looming midterm elections stun Republicans about the possibility of them taking control of the House and Senate. Democrats, meanwhile, hope to stem the losses knowing they still have President Joe Biden in the White House.

Amidst all this midterm mania, there are the talking points that politicians are pushing in order to appeal to their core constituents. Republicans campaign on inflation and crime and Democrats on diversity and, of course, abortion following the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

Polls show voters care more about inflation, but Democrats are hoping talking about abortion will lift their base. Abortion, however, is not just a political issue. As Biden, a practicing Catholic, promises to make abortion a federal right by codifying Roe vs. Wade in law if Democrats retain a majority, tension between him and several prominent U.S. bishops has again heated up.

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Some of these bishops have made headlines in the past regarding Biden’s support for abortion, threatening to deny him the sacrament of Holy Communion. It was last week that the question came back to the fore. At least it came to the fore in Catholic news publications. In the elite press studied by GetReligion? Not so much or not at all.

This is how Catholic News Agency reported on October 25:

President Joe Biden, a professed Catholic, must end his “resolute” abortion extremism and see humanity in unborn children, the US bishops have said. They said the impact of abortion is “tragic” and urged the president to support mothers.

“The President is gravely wrong to continue to pursue every possible avenue to facilitate abortion, instead of using his power to increase support and care for mothers in difficult situations,” Archbishop William Lori said of Baltimore, chairman of the committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. on pro-life activities, said Oct. 25.

“This stubborn extremism must end, and we implore President Biden to recognize the humanity of the unborn and the real life-saving care women need in this country,” he said.

The U.S. bishops’ statement noted that last week Biden said his top legislative priority after the November election was to codify a national abortion right.

It is a major story that has been covered by the Catholic press, but the major secular newsrooms have ignored it. Why is that? This could happen for several factors.

First, this kind of coverage of the midterm elections could be seen as “useful” for Republicans at a time when it appears a growing bloc of voters are opting for the GOP this election cycle. Latino and suburban voters, who Biden relied on two years ago, could swing for Republicans. Many of those voters are also mass-going Catholics.

While many news organizations seem ready to shed objectivity as a notion, the need for the other side – in this case, the bishops – in the never-ending abortion debate may prove a inconvenience. Here is what I wrote at the time regarding the Communion issue in May 2021:

It should be noted that secular newsrooms do not hate organized religion as many might believe. Instead, they simply don’t like religious leaders who try to uphold the traditional dogmas that govern said faith. Consequently, media coverage is often framed this way: Biden can be both “very Catholic” and pro-choice. He’s a good modern Catholic, not a bad old Catholic.

Another key reason is the news media’s reliance on horse racing election polls – who’s on top or who’s on the bottom? — with questions a secondary part of news coverage. While we know polls aren’t always accurate — pollsters continue to say they’re frustrated even during this election cycle — that hasn’t stopped coverage from relying on them. Knocking on doors, talking to voters and traveling to battleground states is too expensive in an age of tight budgets and newsroom cuts.

Two days before the declarations of certain bishops, CNA reported the following on retired Archbishop Charles Chaput, the former Archbishop of Philadelphia, and what he thinks of Biden:

Archbishop Charles Chaput has said … that Joe Biden “is not in communion with the Catholic faith” and that “any priest who now provides communion to the president is participating in his hypocrisy.”

Speaking at a Eucharistic symposium at the Diocese of Arlington on October 22, the 78-year-old prelate also accused the second Catholic president in US history of “apostasy on the issue of abortion.” .

In his address, titled “Do This in Remembrance of Me: Memory, Culture, Sacrament,” the Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia spoke of “American Catholics and our 200-year struggle to fit into mainstream American culture.”

“We succeeded. But in the process, we were digested and whitewashed by the culture, rather than raising it in a fertile way with a distinctive Catholic witness,” Chaput said.

Chaput’s words have been reported and debated, but only in the vast ecosystem of the Catholic press. The National Catholic Journalist, which is on the doctrinal left in relation to the EWTN-owned CNA, published a column by Michael Sean Winters, author of the 2008 book, “Left At the Altar: How Democrats Lost The Catholics And How Catholics Can Save The Democrats” . Here is what he argues:

The real problem is that Chaput insults the vast majority of bishops in the United States who do not subscribe to Chaput’s position on denial of Communion based on public policy issues, not to mention the bishops around the world who scratch the head to this bizarre American idea. They chose to leave the intensely pastoral matter of confronting Catholic politicians whose public positions conflict with Church teaching to the local bishop. What does Chaput know about the president’s relationship with his local pastor?

Chaput therefore also insults Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory, who explained why he does not deny communion to politicians on the basis of their public policy positions, i.e. he does not wish to politicize the path of communion iron.

Finally, of course, Chaput insults the Holy Father who allegedly told Biden that he was a good Catholic and that he should continue to take communion. The Holy Father has also made a point of saying that he has never refused communion to anyone, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has urged U.S. bishops to consult with other bishops’ conferences about this. practice.

It is Chaput, as much as Biden, who breaks communion with his fellow Catholics. It is Chaput who creates the division within the church.

The pope asked: Who am I to judge? Rather, Chaput asks: Who am I not to judge?

It is a crucial drama that the modern Church is going through and the internal struggles that have dominated Catholicism since Vatican II.

Frankly, the mainstream press doesn’t care about any of this. It is a history of religion within a history of religion. The press prefers to talk about it through a political lens. It’s too complicated an issue for them to cover and it does Biden no favors. The Bishop-Biden battle is only part of a larger story within Catholicism. These internal battles, in fact, occur with abortion as a major backdrop. For example, the question recently ensnared Notre Dame, arguably the best-known Catholic university in the United States.

Tamara Kay, a sociology professor at Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs, had a sign on her office door saying she would provide “information on all health and access issues — confidentially with care and compassion,” according to independent student newspaper The Irish Rover.

Kay said her actions were committed in her capacity as a private citizen and the school gave her permission. She also called the independent student publication a “rag”.

Again, mainstream newsrooms largely ignored this story. It has been covered by conservative news sites such as FoxNews.

Sohrab Ahmari, writing in The American Conservativenoted the following:

What the hell is going on at Notre Dame? The short answer is that large swathes of faculty and administration have traded the university’s Catholic identity and mission for the soup of liberal acceptance and prestige. Father John Jenkins, president of the university, exemplifies the pusillanimity and self-abasement of Notre Dame leaders. In 2009, Jenkins honored newly elected President Barack Obama, a champion of the culture of death. In 2016, he awarded American Catholicism’s highest honor, the Laetare Medal, to Vice President Joe Biden, another pro-abortionist. I hope the liberal whims are worth it, Father!

The deeper answer has to do with the generational crisis in Catholic education. In 1967, prominent Catholic educators, including then-President of Notre Dame, Theodore M. Hesburgh, declared themselves free from “all authority of any kind, secular or clerical, outside the university community itself”, in what became known as Land O’Lakes. Statement (the position paper was adopted at a rally in Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin).

This bold rejection of authority was completely against the ancient precepts of the Catholic university. In the past, Catholic education was inspired by the classical tradition according to which the role of the educator was to teach students to love what is lovely and to despise what is odious or bad. And he recognized the special role of the Church as the divinely ordained guide of mankind in this regard. Free inquiry and free speech, in this narrative, were not absolute masters, but servants that had to be carefully mastered to do a good job.

While Ahmari clearly explains her point of view in this opinion piece (along with providing excellent background information to support her argument), an objective report on what is happening at Notre Dame would make wonderful reading.

Of course, there is also a Biden connection there. In 2009, the school honored then-President Barack Obama. In 2016, then-Vice President Joe Biden received the Laetare Medal, America’s Catholicism’s highest honor, at Notre Dame.

The midterm reviews may be about the economy — gas prices and inflation are the top priority — but the abortion debate continues to loom in the background. The debate within the church and Biden’s role as president and Catholic make this a story the mainstream press can ignore for now, but not in the weeks and months to come.

This post was originally posted on get religion.


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