Washington archbishop: Biden's not being faithful to Catholic teaching on life, you know

We know, we know. Joe Biden abandoned his political formula two years ago on abortion while running for president, dispensing with the “personally opposed but obligated not to obstruct” position for full-throated support for abortion. Earlier this year, “pro-life evangelicals for Biden” announced their profound regret for having trusted Biden on the Hyde Amendment.


This throat-clearing from Biden’s archbishop might be a bit more problematic for the White House. Archbishop Wilton Gregory had gone out of his way to remain deferential to Biden, even during the debates at the USCCB over access to the Eucharist for pro-abortion politicians. However, Biden’s recent statement on life at conception appears to have been a last straw for the archbishop.

EWTN picked up on Biden’s statement:

Ahem. It is a core article of faith for Catholics that life begins at conception (Catechism of the Catholic Church, pp 2270). The language could not be clearer:

2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.

The next two paragraphs flow from that point, especially the consequences of rejecting this belief:

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76

2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,”77 “by the very commission of the offense,”78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.


Hence the fight over pro-abortion Catholics in public office. The debate centers on just how culpable they are for abortions, and both the USCCB and the Vatican have reminded politicians that support for legal abortions flirts with moral culpability. The so-called Eucharist Wars are a reflection of this point; it’s one thing to be a sinner and recognize your sin, but if you refuse to recognize sin, then you’re no longer in communion with the Church — and there are consequences for that.

Gregory has been loathe to assert that in the past, but Crux reports that he’s beginning to get over that:

Cardinal Wilton Gregory says President Joe Biden “is not demonstrating Catholic teaching” with his abortion stance. …

The reporter was referring to Sept. 3 comments made by Biden regarding new restrictive abortion legislation in Texas, where the commander-in-chief stated that he has “been and continues to be a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade,” adding that he respects “those who believe life begins at the moment of conception,” but doesn’t agree.

The comments are a reversal from comments Biden made as the nation’s vice president, stating multiple times he believes life begins at conception.

The comments from Gregory are the first time he’s publicly spoken against Biden since he was elected in November. Biden’s pro-abortion stance has polarized the Church, with a number of prelates advocating he be barred from communion.

Gregory stated that he will not deny him communion and plans to always approach the president on areas of agreement and disagreement in a respectful way.


Gregory has been opposed to denial of the Eucharist, but it’s getting tougher to justify that position the more Biden talks. As Biden continues down the path away from Church teachings and risks misleading other Catholics about it, the more that Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s argument will resonate with the other members of the USCCB:

The example of New Orleans Archbishop Joseph Rummel, who courageously confronted the evils of racism, is one that I especially admire. Rummel did not “stay in his lane.” Unlike several other bishops throughout this country’s history, he did not prioritize keeping parishioners and the public happy above advancing racial justice. Instead, he began a long, patient campaign of moral suasion to change the opinions of pro-segregation White Catholics.

In 1948, he admitted two Black students to New Orleans’s Notre Dame Seminary. In 1951, he ordered the removal of “white” and “colored” signs from Catholic churches in the archdiocese. In a 1953 pastoral letter, he ordered an end to segregation throughout the archdiocese of New Orleans, telling White Catholics that, because their “Colored Catholic brethren share … the same spiritual life and destiny,” there could be “no further discrimination or segregation in the pews, at the Communion rail, at the confessional and in parish meetings.”

In 1955, Rummel closed a church for refusing to accept a Black priest. In a 1956 pastoral letter, he declared: “Racial segregation as such is morally wrong and sinful because it is a denial of the unity and solidarity of the human race as conceived by God in the creation of Adam and Eve.” On March 27, 1962, Rummel formally announced the end of segregation in the New Orleans Catholic schools.

Many White Catholics were furious at this disruption of the long-entrenched segregationist status quo. They staged protests and boycotts. Rummel patiently sent letters urging a conversion of heart, but he was also willing to threaten opponents of desegregation with excommunication.

On April 16, 1962, he followed through, excommunicating a former judge, a well-known writer and a segregationist community organizer. Two of the three later repented and died Catholics in good standing.


Excommunication offers an opportunity for repentance from sin that appeasement denies. It is hardly without precedent, as Cordileone demonstrates, even if it puts the Catholic Church in the middle of a partisan political fight it would rather avoid. At some point, either this will have to come to a head, or the Catholic Church will have to concede on its own teachings in exchange for indulging a politician and his attempts to eat his cake and have it too.

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Jazz Shaw 12:01 PM | April 15, 2024