The Democratic leader will be the second head of state to embrace Catholicism in the history of the United States after John Kennedy. And he has a special bond with the Pontiff.
The same day of the crucial elections in the United States that would have him as the winner, Joe Biden attended mass. It was not a campaign gesture, but an attitude in line with his Catholic faith. More so: with his condition as a practitioner since he regularly complies with the Sunday precept. In addition, he always carries a rosary in his pocket. He will be the second president to embrace Catholicism in the history of the United States after John Kennedy. And perhaps the most politically relevant: has a close relationship with Pope Francis and, above all, it is in tune with its main social postulates.
It does not seem that in his case the prejudices on the part of North American society and its political class that accompanied Kennedy in the beginning, who had to come out to say that he was the representative of the Democratic Party and not of the Catholic Church, will weigh down. , so, I was not going to follow the dictates of the Vatican. It is that, 60 years away, a lot of water ran under the bridges and, in any case, the current suspicion it arouses comes from conservative sectors – including not a few Catholics – who do not agree at all with the profile of the Argentine pontiff.
However, Biden never concealed – nor did he conceal during the campaign – his strong faith, nor his link and harmony with Francisco. Descendant of an Irish family, he highlighted the Jesuit influence – of the order to which the Pope belongs – in his spiritual and intellectual formation. He always said that his belief helped him cope with the hardest moments of his life, which were very hard. First, the death of his wife and little daughter as a result of a car accident, in 1972. And then, in 2015, that of one of his children due to cancer.
Her relationship with Francisco began on March 19, 2013 when he attended as vice president of Barak Obama to his inauguration. But the personal relationship began to take shape in April 2016 when he attended a seminar on the care of cancer patients that both closed with emotional speeches. In September of that year, as part of his visit to the United States, the Pope met in Philadelphia with his entire family to comfort her over the death of her son. “It was a very comforting encounter,” Biden would later say.
To the personal closeness Biden added the coincidence on expensive issues to the pontiff as refugees, migrants and climate change that placed the pontiff at the antipodes of Donald Trump’s thought. For example, he argued with Trump’s idea of building a wall on the border with Mexico. In the last presidential debate, Biden was not shy about citing the Pope’s recent social encyclical. “Francis has asked questions (there) that anyone seeking to lead this great nation should answer,” he said.
However, there is one issue that makes a lot of noise in Biden’s relationship with the Pope and the American Church. And that it will force Francisco to take the link carefully because of his convictions, Catholic doctrine and, especially, so as not to exacerbate the American conservative front. It is about his position in favor of sending a law to legalize abortion in the event that the Court –with a conservative and Catholic majority- advances in a restriction to this practice, as has been speculated for a long time.
Biden had to define himself clearly on this during the campaign after strong pressure from members of his party. “I am not going to impose my faith on all of society,” he said to reassure them. We will have to see how events continue. After his triumph, the president of the Episcopate, José Gómez -a moderate-, He asked him to “defend the sanctity of every human life.” But the conservative American Catholic network EWTN predicted that there would be a setback in provid policies.
The question is very stirring in North American Catholicism. The closeness to Trump, the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan during the campaign caused sting in the progressive sector. In a public letter, thousands of faithful affirmed that “there is nothing provid ”in Trump – alluding to his opposition to abortion – because “it destroys immigrant families, denies climate change, fuels racial division and supports economic policies that harm the poor.”
For now, what the Pope and the US Episcopate hope is that Biden can begin to close the rift that divides Americans and that Trump is in charge of digging with relish. By the way, it will be necessary to see if Francisco succeeds Resistance to his pontificate lessens of the North American conservatives, turned into his main opponents.
Neither Biden nor the Pope have it easy, but they say that shared regrets weigh less.