If Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wins the election in November, the U.S. will have its second Roman Catholic president. Politics and faith are once again closely mixed in the election campaign.
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden is not having an easy time courting Christian votes. Donald Trump’s Republicans rely on the ‘Christian right’. The president is seen among many white Protestants as a defender of Christian values on the ie of abortion and religious freedom.
Some abortion opponents dispute Biden’s Catholic identity because of his advocacy of abortion rights. Incumbent U.S. President Trump claimed at an election speech in Ohio in early August that Biden was pursuing "radical left-wing policies". He is "against God" and the Bible and against firearms, he said.
In the Democratic Party, faith ies are complex. Its core voters are secular-minded young people and, at the same time, church-going African Americans. The 77-year-old Biden is an old-school Catholic politician. More than other Democrats, he speaks frequently about his faith and his childhood in a Catholic home.
Biden learned from religious sisters
Religious sisters taught him to read and write and to care for others, Biden says in his autobiography, "Promises to Keep". His self-image, his concept of family and community, and his worldview were based on his religion. Biden, a politician, stands for immigration reform and robust social policies.
Catholics make up only about one-fifth of the U.S. population. More than a third of them are now Latino. In Biden’s childhood and youth, most Catholics were white. In 2016, according to post-election polls, white Catholic voters voted in majority for Trump, but two-thirds of Latino Catholics voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Biden stressed at the start of his campaign that it was about "America’s soul". At the heart of Catholic teaching is that we "care about our neighbor," campaign deputy political director John McCarthy told the Jesuit magazine "America". If voters were guided by that, they would vote for Biden.
Biden and his church: at odds on abortion ie
Churches are not allowed to engage in partisan politics in the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops pleased with Trump’s stance against abortion but criticize his immigration restrictions and social policies. During the pre-election campaign, a priest in South Carolina had denied Biden communion. Politicians who support abortion are "outside the teachings of the Church," the clergyman reasoned in a local newspaper.
Biden said in a television interview he would not discuss that. He have received communion from Pope Francis before. A campaign video shows Biden with the pope and religious sisters at the Vatican.
Biden campaign coordinator on faith ies is evangelical consultant and former Republican Josh Dickson. On the abortion ie, he struggled to give a passable explanation in the evangelical magazine "Christian Post". He said it was clear to him that not everyone agrees with Biden on everything.
Kennedy: "I don’t speak for my church, and my church doesn’t speak for me"
John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic elected U.S. president in 1960. At the time, there was prejudice against him in Protestant America. Leading clergy said Protestants should think twice about putting a Catholic in the White House. Protestant favorite at the time was Republican Richard Nixon, a friend of Baptist preacher Billy Graham.
Kennedy asserted that on political ies, "I don’t speak for my church, and my church doesn’t speak for me". At the 1960 party convention, Kennedy conceded that many felt the Democrats had taken a risk with a Catholic candidate. He won narrowly. Biden no longer needs to discuss his distance from the Vatican. At the most, he is criticized by the conservative side for not following the teachings of his church.