Letter From a Pastor About a Presidential Candidate

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My dear _______,

I received your letter expressing your disappointment that I mentioned in my column in the bulletin that former Vice President Joseph Biden has clearly taken positions in favor of legalized abortion. You claim that the candidate is pro-life because he stated in a debate with Congressman Paul Ryan that he was “personally opposed” to abortion.

You further state that you believe Mr. Biden is a “sincere politician” who is a devout Catholic. Repeating what seems to have been a package released to the press to shore up Catholic support for him, you remark that he carries a rosary with him, that one of his staff says his presidential bid is a “subtle invocation of Catholic beliefs,” that Pete Buttigieg says Mr. Biden receives “comfort and meaning” from his faith, and that a political colleague of his praises his “pastoral care” of the bereaved.

Of course you know that carrying a rosary is not proof of being pro-life. The “subtlety” of Biden’s “invocation of his Catholic beliefs” is what is a clanger for me. He is far too subtle for me. A man who changed his stance on the Hyde Amendment and is now in favor of taxpayer money going for abortion hardly seems to respect even his own “personal” opposition to abortion. The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) fiercely attacked Biden last year in June about his support for the Hyde Amendment. Shortly after that, Biden “amended” his position from opposition in the name of conscience to approval of public moneys for abortion because of President Trump’s active opposition to abortion on demand at any point in the pregnancy.

 

A Latin American writer, Sergio Ramirez of Nicaragua, a former Sandinista official, wrote a short story that is illustrative about a so-called public servant who forgets his own principles called “Adam and Eve.” It begins, “That February afternoon he left his house determined to have a conversation with his Conscience and for that reason invited her to drink a beer with him.” “He” is a judge and he takes his Conscience out to a dive in Managua because he wants to explain why he is about to take a bribe in a corruption case. He is surprised when she eagerly drinks a beer and orders another. The accused is a sick man who will suffer in prison, he tells her. She asks how much money is offered, and he tells her 2,000 dollars, not cordobas. “Of course, you wouldn’t sell me in the national currency,” she says.

“You know that this is the first time I have done this,” he says to her pleadingly. Of course, he will never do it again, he tells her, and she laughs. Right now it is an emergency. “Until the next one comes along.” There are worse things he could do. “I’m glad you see it that way,” she says. The result is that his Conscience accedes to his corruption. Then the judge looks at her as she continues to drink and thinks, “She is not what she used to be.”

That is what I think of Mr. Biden’s conscience, too—not that he was ever consistently pro-life. NARAL might have been opposed to him, but they gave him a high rating of approval while he was a senator. Now they have endorsed him enthusiastically. This is evidence of a very subtle invocation of Catholic principles if you ask me. It is so subtle that the enemies of life in the womb embrace Mr. Buttigieg’s devoted Catholic with love.

But there is another current example of Mr. Biden’s opposition to Catholic institutions’ freedom of religion. When he was vice president, he argued that church institutions should be exempt from the federal mandate to cover birth control, sterilizations, and abortifacients. The government has since not only recognized the right of the individual to such devices and methods but now makes it a political right imposed on the person’s employers to pay for them. President Obama, consistently pro-abortion even when it comes to live births during abortion procedures, did not agree with Mr. Biden. Now Mr. Biden agrees with him and criticizes the Supreme Court for recognizing the rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor in refusing to pay in conscience for what is opposed to Church teaching and is hardly a constitutional right. When he is president, he will make the good Sisters pay for birth control, abortifacients included. This takes subtlety to a new level.

Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty famously asserts, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” When Alice objects that words cannot be used that way he says, “The question is who is master—that’s all.”

I see the media blitz about the Catholic sensibility of Mr. Biden as an attempt to make Catholics ignore the reality of his very secular and indifferent attitude about things Catholics should deem important. Facta non verba is a Latin saying that means “deeds not words.” Political positions are deeds, and Mr. Biden is signaling an anti-life bias that will no doubt influence his nominations to the judiciary. Because he claims to be a “good” Catholic, he gives us the right to make public our disagreement with him and clarify his divergence from the teachings of the Church. This is also the case with his proactive endorsement of same-sex marriages.

If Mr. Biden were my parishioner, I would have to follow the example of those brave priests who have denied him Communion. This would get me in trouble with bishops and others who want to keep peace by not talking about contradictions. But there is such a thing as truth, even in the midst of a media full court press to unseat the incumbent president by cobbling together a coalition that includes Catholics to support a member of the Church whose conscience has been overcome by confusion, if not simple ambition. Why does a Catholic politician feel the need to placate those who oppose the Church by taking up concrete positions while he does not feel the need to say anything more than sweet nothings to calm his fellow believers?

I hope that you will accept this explanation of why I pointed out to the people in my pastoral care the disappointment I felt with Mr. Biden’s “change of heart,” if you can call it that. My prayers are with you, and I encourage you to pray for our country in the cultural maelstrom we find ourselves in. We must turn to Jesus in all our troubles and ask for the Holy Spirit to give us discernment in times that indeed try men’s souls, sometimes trying them and finding them wanting.

God bless you, and thank you for your honesty in writing me directly. Others prefer to communicate with the chancery, and therefore I appreciate your forthrightness.

In Christ,
Your Pastor

 

Photo credit: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

Pastor Ignotus

By

Pastor Ignotus, a pseudonym, is a priest from a diocese in the Midwestern United States.

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