Episcopal Priest Slams Catholic Bishops for Criticizing Joe Biden

Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden bows his head and prays as he visits Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Del., Monday, June 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

An Episcopal priest has written a scathing op-ed in the Los Angeles Times Monday, chiding the U.S. Catholic bishops for exposing Joe Biden’s schizophrenic relationship with the Church.

Extolling Joe Biden as “a devout Roman Catholic,” Rev. Randall Balmer accuses the U.S. bishops of a double standard for having “rushed to congratulate Donald Trump after his presidential victory” in 2016 while expressing reservations over the apparent victory of Mr. Biden in 2020.

“In what moral universe does Joe Biden, devout Roman Catholic, public servant and family man, present the bishops with difficulties and complexities while Trump gets a pass?” Balmer asks incredulously.

On the one hand, Rev. Balmer, who teaches at Dartmouth College, seems unable to grasp the difference between the bishops’ pastoral responsibility vis-à-vis a Catholic politician — a member of their own flock — versus a non-Catholic.

Secondly, Balmer’s own theological and political leanings have apparently left him unable to comprehend how Biden’s embrace of a series of positions antithetical to Catholic moral teaching could strain his relationship with the Catholic hierarchy.

Predictably, Rev. Balmer downplays the importance of the abortion issue, which for Catholics is of supreme importance. While the extermination of a million innocent human lives a year in the United States seems not to trouble Rev. Balmer, the procurement of an abortion remains one of the very few sins grave enough to trigger automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church.

Official Church teaching declares moreover that Catholic politicians “have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life,” explicitly referencing “laws concerning abortion and euthanasia.”

Rev. Balmer does not bother to mention the host of other issues where Joe Biden openly flouts the teaching of his Church, such as his opposition to school choice, his advocacy of gender theory and gay marriage, his hostility toward religious freedom and conscientious objection, and his support for the HHS mandate.

Whereas these positions clearly do not seem reprehensible to Rev. Balmer, they are to the Catholic Church, whose leaders are charged with upholding and defending Catholic teaching.

Rev. Balmer’s objections stem from a statement last Tuesday by the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, who warned that a Biden presidency would present “unique challenges” for the Catholic Church in the U.S.

The president-elect has “given us reason to believe that he will support policies that are against some fundamental values that we hold dear as Catholics,” Gomez said. “These policies include: the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and the preservation of Roe vs. Wade.”

“Both of these policies undermine our ‘preeminent priority’ of the elimination of abortion,” the archbishop said.

Along with these positions, Biden has also signaled his support for “the restoration of the HHS mandate, the passage of the Equality Act, and the unequal treatment of Catholic schools,” all of which run counter to Church teaching, Gomez said.

“These policies pose a serious threat to the common good whenever any politician supports them,” Gomez said. “We have long opposed these policies strongly, and we will continue to do so.

“But when politicians who profess the Catholic faith support them, there are additional problems,” he continued. “Among other things, it creates confusion with the faithful about what the Church actually teaches on these questions.”

All in all, Rev. Balmer’s ardent objections to the bishops’ statement seem to emanate from his failure to grasp the essentials of Catholic moral teaching, which as an Episcopalian priest he is free to reject.

To chasten the Catholic hierarchy, however, for merely carrying out its duty to the faithful in accord with the consistent teaching of the Church seems a bridge too far.

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