(VATICAN CITY) Last night, after unexpectedly working a 14-hour day at the Vatican media center, I trudged back to my hotel exhausted, ate a quick dinner, and went to bed.  For most of my trip back, I wondered what more there might be to report on the election of Jorge Mario Borgoglia as Pope Francis I.  There will be events and interviews — in fact, I have a couple of them already shot and waiting for editing — but the suspense had evaporated.

Or so I thought:

Vice President Biden, an observant Catholic, will lead the U.S. delegation to Rome for Pope Francis’s installation, a White House official confirmed. No dates have been announced, but the ceremony could take place as early as Tuesday on behalf of Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, who was selected Wednesday. …

Biden has served as one of President Obama’s informal religious advisers on matters concerning the Catholic Church, including the debate over contraception last year under the administration’s new health-care law. During the vice presidential debate against Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last year, Biden said he did not believe in imposing his personal view on issues such as abortion on the rest of the country.

Joe Biden in Rome, handling American diplomacy in an installation Mass. Hey, what more suspense do you want?  This might be even more tense than watching for the white smoke.  For instance, he might try this line out on the Pope:

“My religion defines who I am,” Biden said. “Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s position. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians, and Muslims, and Jews.”

My original post on this exchange can be found here, but suffice it to say that this argument won’t pass muster here at the Catholic Church’s home office (although, to be fair, the new Pope probably has issues with Ryan’s approach on budgeting, too).  LifeNews also points out the error of Biden’s claims:

Biden’s own bishop has had to correct the pro-abortion politician on his misstating the pro-life teachings of the Catholic Church.

In the interview with the Delaware News Journal, Biden continued to misrepresent the position of the Catholic Church on abortion in a way that has gotten him in trouble.

“But throughout the church’s history, we’ve argued between whether or not it is wrong in every circumstance and the degree of wrong. Catholics have this notion, it’s almost a gradation,” Biden claimed.

Not so, says Rev. W. Francis Malooly, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington.

He wrote in a letter to the editor that Biden “presents a seriously erroneous picture of Catholic teaching on abortion.”

“This is simply incorrect,” he says of Biden’s interpretation. “The teaching of the Church is clear and not open to debate. Abortion is a grave sin because it is the wrongful taking of an innocent human life.”

On the other hand, Biden isn’t coming to Rome as America’s Greatest Catholic, either.  He’s coming to Rome as the second-highest-ranking public official, on hand to represent the US government; Barack Obama already had planned a trip to Israel for next week.  As such, Biden doesn’t need to pass Catholic muster to attend the Mass (although his participation in the Mass does depend on that). His delegation will no doubt include other high-ranking American officials who may or may not be Catholic, or even people of faith.  Their participation in this event is ex officio, not as a personal pilgrimage.

From what I know thus far, the event will take place on Tuesday, which means the Americans will arrive at the beginning of the week.  Hopefully I will have a chance to speak with one or more of them during their stay in Rome.