President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. is the second American president in the history of the United States to openly profess the Catholic faith. His administration begins almost 60 years after the country's first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy. Although at first glance this fact seems encouraging news for the promotion of fundamental issues for the Church such as the protection of life and the family within marriage between a man and a woman, the matter will be much more complicated. And the first signs have already been given.
The first signs, in the laws
From the first day of his arrival at the White House, President Biden enacted a series of laws in favor of same-sex unions and abortion. After taking office as President, Biden reversed a federal regulation that restricted government funding for abortion. The regulation, known as the "Mexico City policy," had been in place for decades and basically prohibited the U.S. government from funding abortion clinics.
Boosting the economy
On March 10, the United States (U.S.) House of Representatives approved a stimulus package for the U.S. economy worth $1.9 trillion. This "American Rescue Plan 2021" takes up and adds measures included in the two previous packages approved during the administration of former President Donald Trump. The Plan's primary objectives are to boost the U.S. economy and bring it out of the crisis period caused by the pandemic.
Its measures include, among others, a $1,400 deposit to individual taxpayers; an additional $300 weekly supplement for the unemployed; economic and food support for families with minor children; fiscal stimuli and loans to companies in support of wage earners.
Under section 1001
The U.S. Bishops acknowledged many positive elements in the aid plan, but expressed dismay that the package includes funds to promote abortion at the national and international level.
And although the Plan does not expressly mention the word abortion, it does contemplate it by indicating that $50 million is earmarked for "grants and contracts under section 1001 of the Public Health Service," a measure under which hundreds of organizations dedicated to reproductive health, family planning and abortion "services" such as Planned Parenthood are governed.
Opinion of the bishops
In a press release, the U.S. bishops expressed their outrage: "It is unconscionable that Congress passed the bill without the critical protections necessary to ensure that billions of taxpayer dollars are used for pro-life health care and not abortion."
Unlike previous stimulus packages, say the prelates, the provisions contained in this package "have been undermined because they facilitate and fund the destruction of lives, which is contrary to their goal of protecting the most vulnerable Americans in times of crisis."
Dialogue and consistency
The tense relationship between Catholic President Biden and the country's hierarchy will not be easy, but it was already visible before he took office. After his inauguration in January 2021, José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops warned that "our new president is committed to pursuing certain policies that promote moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, especially in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage and gender".
In response, Gomez appealed to Biden for dialogue and consistency with his faith and invited him to a respectful dialogue to address these sensitive issues: "If the president, with full respect for the religious freedom of the Church, would participate in this conversation, it would be of great help in restoring civil equilibrium and healing the needs of our country".
At this point, no such dialogue has taken place publicly and the route that the Biden administration is taking does not indicate that there will be a shift to protect life and the family, in keeping with the values of the Catholic faith that J. Biden claims to profess.