CV NEWS FEED // President Joe Biden will meet with Pope Francis in Rome on Oct. 29, the White House has confirmed.
“The President and [First Lady] Dr. Biden will also visit Vatican City and have an audience with His Holiness Pope Francis on October 29,” the White House stated. “They will discuss working together on efforts grounded in respect for fundamental human dignity, including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis, and caring for the poor.”
The upcoming visit will take place against the backdrop of growing tensions between Biden — America’s second Catholic president — and Catholic leaders in America.
U.S. bishops have found themselves engaged in numerous confrontations with the White House since Biden took office in January. Much of the conflict revolves around the issue of abortion, with Biden supporting abortion more strenuously than he ever did before assuming power, while also routinely emphasizing his own Catholic faith.
Last week, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, who heads up the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, sharply rebuked the president. “He likes to call himself a ‘devout’ Catholic,” Naumann said. “I would urge him to begin to act like one, especially on the life issues.”
As CatholicVote reported, Naumann’s comments last week were only “the latest of many instances in which the Biden administration has confronted Catholic leaders over the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life.”
While Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki regularly defends the president as a “devout,” churchgoing Catholic, she has just as regularly rebuffed appeals from bishops on behalf of the unborn.
In April, a reporter raised bishops’ concerns over a new Biden policy to allow scientific experimentation on unborn children. …Psaki replied that the administration simply “disagrees” with the bishops.
In addition, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted earlier this year to begin drafting a document clarifying Church teachings about how to appropriately receive Communion.
It is widely speculated that the document could include a reiteration of the Church’s position on political leaders who identify as Catholic but publicly support the evil of abortion. Such leaders, as some bishops have stated, should not receive Communion until they have repented.
However, as CatholicVote reported in June,
a number of liberal-leaning prelates have opposed the Bishops’ effort to issue a clarification of Church teaching since it was first suggested earlier this year. Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark reportedly lobbied the Vatican to intervene, resulting in a letter warning the USCCB to tread lightly on the topic of whether public officials who advocate for morally repugnant policies such as abortion and euthanasia should receive Communion.
In a mid-September conversation with reporters, Pope Francis admonished bishops and pastors to be “shepherds” to politicians who support abortion.
“What should the pastor do? Be a shepherd, do not go around condemning,” the pope said, “…he must be a shepherd with God’s style. And God’s style is closeness, compassion, and tenderness.”
“For me, I don’t want to particularize … the United States because I don’t know the details well,” he added. “I give the principle … Be a pastor and the pastor knows what he has to do at all times, but as a shepherd. But if he comes out of this shepherding of the Church, immediately he becomes a politician.”
During the same conversation, Francis said that abortion is “murder.”