The Biden presidency is already exposing fissures within the Church. On inauguration day, his Catholic apologists bathed him in praise and took bitter issue with Archbishop José Gomez for daring to criticize his anti-Catholic stances. Gomez, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, issued a tame statement, offering prayers and good wishes while noting, “Our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils.” But that was too much for Cardinal Blase Cupich, who declared Gomez’s statement “ill-considered.”
Other members of the bloc of bishops aligned most closely with Pope Francis also moved to undermine Gomez’s statement. San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, building on the pope’s criticism-free approach to Biden, wrote,
Pope Francis’ message to President Biden fundamentally speaks to him in his humanity, a man of Catholic faith striving to serve his nation and his God. This is how we, the bishops of the United States, should encourage our new President: by entering into a relationship of dialogue, not judgment; collaboration, not isolation; truth in charity, not harshness.
Apart from the criticism of Gomez, Biden enjoyed almost a Catholic coronation on inauguration day. It began with a Mass in his honor at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, where the homilist, Jesuit Father Kevin O’Brien, burbled, “We have much to look forward to as a country because of your and Kamala Harris’ leadership.”
By the end of that day, Biden had already signed an executive order promoting transgenderism, the opening shot in what is sure to be the most anti-Catholic presidency ever. In his inaugural address, he had the gall to quote St. Augustine, whose warnings about the decadent “city of man” perfectly apply to Joe Biden’s vision for America. St. Augustine taught that realizing the common good requires adherence to the natural moral law. Joe Biden’s agenda is to reject the natural moral law in favor of a woke relativism that reflects nothing more than the caprice of powerful elites.
Cupich and company won’t abide any criticism of Biden’s heretical Catholicism for the simple reason that they share much of it. Indeed, he is a product of their decades-long project to reduce Catholicism to left-wing politics and modernist theology. They see in his presidency an opportunity to advance that project at the expense of the traditional Catholics whom they dislike.
It is a measure of the success of that project that secularists and leftists no longer fear a Catholic in the presidency. In the 1960s, they warned John F. Kennedy not to let the Vatican influence his politics. Now they clamor for Vatican influence on presidential politics. In the New Yorker, Paul Elie rhapsodizes,
Biden could draw on Francis’s critique of globalized society to move the emboldened Democratic majorities in Congress emphatically leftward. He could cite the vastly popular Pope to help make the case for regular payments to pandemic-stricken families (a form of basic income), tax and banking reform, a national minimum-wage increase, debt forgiveness, and aggressive action on climate change.
The Left has spent decades decrying the influence of religion on politics, all the while politicizing and secularizing religion. It has taken religion out of politics and religion out of religion. Through its modernist allies in the Church, the Left has rendered the Church increasingly toothless. Leftists openly tout the value of the Vatican as a propaganda tool for its causes. “You can take what you need and leave the rest,” as Jennifer Vanderslice put it to the Guardian, summing up the Left’s view of the pope perfectly.
Saul Alinsky, who pioneered the exploitation of the Church by progressives, would have grinned at the prospect of a pope and a president leading the world to the left, all under the guise of “Catholic social justice.” The grumbles about Gomez and other Catholic critics of Biden come from cardinals and bishops who have long dreamed of this day. They are de facto Democratic Party activists, whose Catholic convictions have faded as their faith in leftism has grown. They represent a post–Vatican II iteration of Catholicism that has not changed the world but been changed by it. In Biden, they see the completion of their project. He personifies the worldly and diluted Catholicism that they have been pushing for decades. It won’t be long before their thoroughly secularized “Catholic” colleges and universities garland Biden with honors.
Under Pope Benedict XVI, almost a hundred bishops objected to Notre Dame conferring an honorary degree upon Barack Obama. But few spoke up in 2016 after Notre Dame gave Biden the Laetare award, a reflection of the changed atmosphere under Pope Francis. Today, the criticism of Biden grows even fainter, and if the bishops closest to Pope Francis get their way, it won’t exist at all.