In the lead-up to the anticipated U.S. visit of Pope Francis next month, Vice President Joe Biden is the latest in a line of Democrats jockeying for position to enlist the Pope for their platform in the hope of siphoning off some of his popularity for their languishing party.
It is rumored that Biden is considering entering the presidential race, and association with Francis can only benefit the vice president, whose approval rating is only 47%, as compared with the Pope’s enviable popularity of 58% among all Americans and 86% among Catholics.
In an effort to coopt the Pope for the Democratic Party, Biden has declared that Francis has revived Catholic social teaching by his emphasis on coming to the assistance of the poor and afflicted. The Vice President has called Francis “a moral rudder for the world on some of the most important issues of our time, from inequality to climate change.”
If Francis is a rudder, however, it must be for a ship other than Biden’s. The vice president flouts Catholic teaching on a host of key issues, including abortion, same-sex marriage, divorce and contraception.
In his bid for alignment with the Pope, Biden seems to have forgotten that the core of Catholic Social Doctrine is care for the most vulnerable, the first of whom is the unborn child. While insisting he is “a practicing Catholic,” Biden is a staunch supporter of abortion, which is anathema to the Catholic Church. Participating in an abortion is one of the very few actions punishable by automatic excommunication from the Church.
Though claiming to believe that life begins at conception, Biden does not believe it is a life worthy of protection. “I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that women can’t control their body,” he said in 2012. “It’s a decision between them and their doctor, in my view. And the Supreme Court—I’m not going to interfere with that.”
Pope Francis, on the other hand, has called abortion a “scourge” and an “attack on life,” insisting that pro-abortion activists “follow the code of the Mafia” by taking out those who get in their way.
Another bone of contention will be the area of same-sex marriage, since the Pope’s U.S. visit will center on family issues. Francis has been a stern critic of what he calls the “gender politics” behind gay activism, calling modern gender ideology “demonic” and comparing gender theory with “the educational policies of Hitler.”
Biden, on the other hand, has been called the man who “deserves the most credit” for the institution of same-sex marriage in the United States. A champion of gay rights, Biden called same-sex marriage “the civil rights issue of our generation.”
How the Vice President hopes to reconcile these stances with the Pope he is claiming at his own is anybody’s guess.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome