10 September 2020, The Tablet

Holy Joe: How Catholic is Biden?

US presidential election

Holy Joe: How Catholic is Biden?

Pope Francis greets Joe Biden at a conference on adult stem cell research in 2016
Photo: CNS/L’osservatore Romano


On Ash Wednesdays, Joe Biden’s forehead carries a tell-tale smudge. If he wins in November, he will be the second Catholic President of the United States, after John F. Kennedy. Yet his pro-choice position aggravates those who see abortion as the pre-eminent issue in public life

The Republican National Con­vention last month saw legendary Notre Dame football coach, Lou Holtz, claim that former Vice President Joe Biden and politicians like him are “Catholics in name only”. Fr John Jenkins, president of the university, not only disassociated Notre Dame from Holtz’s remarks, but chastised the former coach.

“We Catholics should remind ourselves that while we may judge the objective moral quality of another’s actions, we must never question the sincerity of another’s faith, which is due to the mysterious working of grace in that person’s heart,” Jenkins said.

The ad hominem quality of Holtz’s attack was unprecedented for a national convention, but not entirely surprising. One of the first rules of presidential politics is to identify your opponent’s strength, and turn it into a liability, and people who know Biden know that he takes his faith very seriously.

The first time I met Biden, other than in a Christmas reception line, was in 2015. I was one of eight Catholic leaders invited to a working breakfast at his residence in the grounds of the US Naval Observatory in Washington to discuss the forthcoming visit of Pope Francis. A second breakfast with a dozen prominent Catholics followed. On both occasions, it was clear that the vice president was approaching the need to make the trip a success not only from a political standpoint, but because he was going to get to spend time with the Pope. It was also clear how much he liked Pope Francis and was excited, even proud, to be hosting him. 

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