Joe Biden delivers a speech © Andrew Harnik/AP
Nearly 60 years after the election of John F. Kennedy's, Americans again send a Catholic to the White House with Joe Biden. While Kennedy had his church behind him then, this time the faithful are divided.
On the night of his triumph, Joe Biden quotes from the Bible. There is a time for everything, the Democrat proclaimed the winner of Saturday's election in front of the Chase Center in Wilmington refers to a passage from the Old Testament. "This is the time to heal".
Joe Biden, a Catholic
The regular Mass-goer didn't stop there in his victory speech. Repeatedly returning to the theme of reconciliation, he ended his remarks with a life lesson. He said his grandfather had always urged him to remain faithful to his faith. "My grandma told me to spread the faith". Either way, the self-image of the practicing Catholic, who celebrates Election Day on 3. November by attending Mass and always carrying a rosary, doesn't sit well with the caricature of him drawn by his opponents.
Conservative Catholics resent Biden's liberal stance on abortion, which he personally opposes but won't legally criminalize. A minority went so far as to question the Irish-born candidate's Catholic faith.
Church and Society
"The Catholic Church in the U.S. is as divided as the politics of the country," said David Gibson, director of the Center for Religion and Culture at Jesuit Fordham University, explaining the tense climate within the church ahead of the election. Bishops would be well advised not to question Biden's love for his church. "He is behaving like the vast majority of practicing Catholics in this country."
In fact, there is a growing chasm between the teachings of the church and the beliefs of the faithful on controversial social ies such as abortion and same-sex marriage. With Biden siding with the majority of his brothers and sisters in the faith.
U.S. bishops congratulate Biden and Harris
In its initial reaction, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops left no doubt about the new head of state. Biden had received "enough votes to be the 46th president of the United States," they said. elected president of the United States," an official statement from the shepherds said Saturday. "We congratulate Mr. Biden and recognize that he is the second president after the late President John F. Kennedy is who professes the Catholic faith."
The bishops also expressly congratulated Kamala Harris, who has been sharply attacked by conservatives. "She will be the first woman to ever serve as vice president".
Thought leaders in the U.S. Catholic Church such as Stephen Schneck, who taught political science at Catholic University in Washington before retiring and campaigned for Biden, also hope for intra-church healing. The division that Trump has brought to society is reflected in the Church, he said. "Biden's election creates the possibility of a fresh start," Schneck said.
Tough going for Biden in any case with an eye on approval among Catholics, according to post-election polls. The Associated Press news agency's "VoteCast" system accounts for an outright split in Catholic votes. 50 percent went to Trump, according to the report, while 49 percent went to Biden.
Schneck is convinced there won't be too much friction between church leaders and Biden besides the abortion ie. "He offers himself as a reliable partner for the bishops on the ies of social justice, the integrity of creation and peace." These are all also priorities of Pope Francis.
Criticism from conservative U.S. Catholics
Criticism of Biden among conservative U.S. Catholics nevertheless remains massive. Raymond Arroyo of influential broadcaster EWTN even stooped to the assertion, backed by nothing, that Americans "may never know the extent of voter fraud in these elections." So argues "CatholicVote," a lobbying group for Trump that identifies "a cloud of lack of legitimacy" over Biden.
Sure these are extreme voices, but there is a lot of skepticism in the divided Catholic electorate. Or as Faith in Public Life Action chief John Gehring puts it, "There is no decree or encyclical that will change those views."