21 January 2021, The Tablet

Cardinal condemns bishops' Biden statement

Cardinal condemns bishops' Biden statement

Joe Biden, a devout Catholic, is sworn in on his family Bible.
Andrew Harnik/PA

A senior Catholic cardinal has spoken out against a statement issued by the US Catholic bishops criticising President Joe Biden. There are also Vatican concerns about the tone of the bishops' statement.

The intervention by Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, criticising his own bishops, is highly unusual and illustrates the growing tensions among US Catholic bishops over the new presidency.

Cardinal Cupich makes it clear that he regards the bishops' statement as having been released as a result of “institutional failures” and promises to address these.

Pope Francis reflected the views of many Catholics with his own warm greetings to President Biden when he spoke of reconciliation, the common good and care for the poor. President Biden attended Mass at St Matthew's the Apostle, known as St Matthew's cathedral, in Washington before the inauguration. He was sworn in on a bible that has been in his family since 1893.

Known and respected widely as a deeply-devout Catholic, President Biden has a picture of Pope Francis on his desk. He has made it clear throughout his long career that he is guided by Catholic social teaching on the common good.

Nevertheless, in the statement put out yesterday, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, president of the US bishops’ conference, said: “I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender.”

A Vatican official told Gerard O'Connell of America Magazine: “It is most unfortunate and is likely to create even greater divisions within the church in the United States.” 

And Cardinal Cupich slammed the bishops’ response to the new President of the United States, only the second Catholic to be elected president.

He said in a thread on Twitter: “Today, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an ill-considered statement on the day of President Biden’s inauguration. The statement was crafted without the involvement of the Administrative Committee, a collegial consultation that is normal course for statements that represent and enjoy the considered endorsement of the American bishops.

“The internal institutional failures involved must be addressed, and I look forward to contributing to all efforts to that end, so that, inspired by the Gospel, we can build up the unity of the Church, and together take up the work of healing our nation in this moment of crisis.”

Among those who responded was Mark Dowd, an award-winning British journalist and author of Queer and Catholic.

He said that “the obsession with abortion continues to alienate millions of Catholics worldwide. Where are these Bishops on Climate Justice, on LGBT values, women and racism??”

And Becky O'Donnell, from Kansas, wrote: “So we have Catholic President who is very public about his faith, attends weekly Mass, first day reaches across the aisle and invites Republicans to join him at Mass, makes frequent reference to Catholic teachings, calls for healing & US Conf of Bishops attacks him on Day 1. Argh.”

  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99