From his first Mass as pope to the last days of his life, John Paul II often repeated what became a primary theme of his pontificate: “Be not afraid!” At the heart of this call was that all people — Christians and non-Christians — should not fear to open their hearts completely to Jesus Christ, allowing him to transform them from within. It was a call to conversion and repentance. So, when Joe Biden quoted the former pope last week, exhorting Americans to “be not afraid,” it raised the hackles of a good number of faithful Catholics.
“The campaign for the presidency has come down to fear,” Biden said during a campaign stop in Pittsburgh. “But I believe Americans are stronger than that. I believe we’ll be guided by the words of Pope John Paul II, words drawn from the scriptures: ‘Be not afraid. Be not afraid.’” The same quote now appears in a Biden-Harris television spot.
Catholics have every right to be outraged. The Democrat presidential candidate, who professes to be Catholic, is not only content to allow the wholesale slaughter of the unborn, but he’s also willing to put government funding behind the violence of abortion.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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For decades, members of both major parties—including Biden himself — have supported the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funds from being used to pay for abortion. Then came the flip-flop. “I have supported the Hyde Amendment like many, many others have,” Biden said last year, “because there were sufficient monies and circumstances where women were able to exercise that right—women of color, poor women, women who were not able to have access—and it was not under attack as it is now. But circumstances have changed.”
Biden has also vowed to renew legal action against the Little Sisters of the Poor should he win election. He promised to remove freedom of conscience protections which exempt the nuns from the “contraceptive mandate,” opening them back up to renewed suits by the federal government for failure to provide contraceptives to their employees.
Catholics are not taking it lying down.
Last October, a priest in South Carolina denied the former vice president Communion over his support for abortion. “Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church,” Father Robert Morey told the South Carolina Morning News. “Our actions should reflect that. Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.”
Now, a viral video from a Wisconsin priest rips Biden and Democrats for their wholesale embrace of abortion on demand. “Here is a memo to clueless baptized Catholics out there: You cannot be Catholic and be a Democrat. Period,” Father James Altman says in the 10-minute video. “The party platform absolutely is against everything the Catholic Church teaches, so just quit pretending that you’re Catholic and vote Democrat. Repent of your support of that party and its platform or face the fires of hell.” Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, endorsed the video via Twitter.
Equally troubling, Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, has a religious/abortion test for judges. Senator Harris’ questioning of Brian Buescher during his confirmation hearing for a federal judgeship in 2018 raises serious questions among faithful Catholics. “Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed a woman’s right to choose when you joined the organization?” Harris asked Buescher, denigrating the group as “an all-male society comprised primarily of Catholic men.”
Where does this leave Catholic voters when some priests and bishops say that voting Democrat dooms you to hell and others are calling for a more measured approach?
Frankly, for faithful Catholics, it all comes down to abortion because if we grant license to slaughter the innocent for our own convenience, no human life is safe. If Joe Biden feels free to quote John Paul II, he should understand that the Polish pontiff was a vigorous defender of the unborn.
In 1994, the pope called abortion a “heinous evil.” His preeminent defense of human life came in the form of his 1995 encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae. In it, he drew a connection (which should be obvious) between the commandment “thou shalt not kill” and the unborn child. “When a parliamentary or social majority decrees that it is legal, at least under certain conditions, to kill unborn human life,” he wrote, “is it not really making a ‘tyrannical’ decision with regard to the weakest and most defenseless of human beings?”
The former vice president should also be aware that the Catholic Church’s canon law carries automatic excommunication for abortion. John Paul made it clear that this applies not only to the woman who has the abortion, but to “all those who commit this crime with knowledge of the penalty attached, and [this] includes those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed.”
Logic dictates that it also applies to complicit politicians who, for God only knows what reason, continue to call themselves “faithful Catholics.”
[Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images]