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What Every Bishop should Say to a President

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With the inauguration of our new President Biden here in the United States, another kind of president, the one heading the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), put out a statement. It was basically an open letter to Biden.

In it, the president of the USCCB, Archbishop Gomez, said he looked forward to working with Biden.

In a time of growing and aggressive secularism in American culture, when religious believers face many challenges, it will be refreshing to engage with a President who clearly understands, in a deep and personal way, the importance of religious faith and institutions. Mr. Biden’s piety and personal story, his moving witness to how his faith has brought him solace in times of darkness and tragedy, his longstanding commitment to the Gospel’s priority for the poor — all of this I find hopeful and inspiring.

Later, however, he outlines points of disagreement that he hopes President Biden will consider.

 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. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.

Not every high-ranking Catholic clergyman was happy with the statement, though. Cardinal Cupich said, in a Tweet, I believe, that

Today, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an ill-considered statement on the day of President Biden’s inauguration. Aside from the fact that there is seemingly no precedent for doing so, the statement, critical of President Biden, came as a surprise to many bishops, who received it just hours before it was released.

Cardinal Cupich

Warms My Heart

I understand that the good Cardinal may have legitimate concerns about stating the obvious truth to a President who, at best, disagrees with the church on a few major issues. But I want to say, as a lowly layperson, Archbishop Gomez’ statement heartens me.

Why? Is it because I have an axe to grind with President Biden? No. Because I think Biden stole the election? No.

It heartens me because it is what every president of the United States ought to hear from Bishops in the United States. There was no vitriol in Gomez’ statement. He praised Biden for the heart of faith he brings to the presidency and work he has already done to help the poor.

But he also lays out clearly the plain truth that Catholics cannot, in good conscience, agree with Biden’s views on abortion, contraception, marriage or gender. Along with his sincerely held faith, he’s bringing those beliefs into the Oval Office with him.

The Catholic Church has a long, proud history of popes and bishops sticking it to world leaders. It is a tradition I hope never dies because the church should never be the tool of the state.

I’ve Got Great Advice!

Still, I can see why this is ruffling feathers. We have a divided country. Perhaps it was indeed “ill-considered”, as Cardinal Cupich put it.

Fair enough. To remedy that, I suggest Archbishop Gomez draft a letter now for whichever Republican president might win in the future. That way no one can accuse the USCCB of being one-sided. It could go something like this.

In a time of growing and aggressive corporatism in American culture, when religious believers face many challenges, it will be refreshing to engage with a President who clearly understands the importance of religious freedom. Your longstanding commitment to the Gospel’s call to a pro-life ethic I find hopeful and inspiring.

But I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance evils, most seriously in the areas of disregard for the planet, unfettered capitalism, and approval of capital punishment.

You can thank me later, Archbishop Gomez. Keep up the good work!

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