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Biden is Catholic. He also supports the right to abortion. Here’s what it could mean

“This is a negative example of a deep and important moral issue being debated in this country.”

(Washington) — Joe Biden is only the second Catholic president of the United States. He is also a supporter of the right to abortion – a position that contradicts official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

For some Catholic activists, like Marjorie Dannenfelser, Biden’s high-profile example of a Catholic supporting abortion rights is troubling.

“It’s a negative example of a deep and important moral issue being debated in this country,” she said.

For some, a challenge; for others, an opportunity

Dannenfelser is president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that works to elect national politicians opposed to abortion rights and to advocate for laws restricting abortion.

She is particularly concerned about Biden’s embrace of a broader push among Democrats to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of most abortions. He took the job in 2019, as he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, after decades of support the amendment.

“The church itself has never changed its mind about the dignity of human life and the need for its protection,” Dannenfelser said. “[Biden] cannot bring the Catholic Church with him because of his political needs.

But for those who would like to see the church take a more permissive stance on issues such as abortion, Biden’s election is an opportunity.

Jamie Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, said she hoped for what she describes as ‘better dialogue’ between church leaders and some grassroots Catholics who disagree with some aspects of the teachings. from the church.

“There are many issues that Catholics disagree with the bishops on and see as complex moral issues, whether it is same-sex marriage, contraception or abortion,” she said.

On abortion, a cleavage between clerics and laity

Polls suggest a majority of American Catholics support abortion rights in most or all cases and oppose reversal Roe v. Wade, the 1973 United States Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, most Catholic women say they used contraception at one point, which the church also opposes.

With a conservative majority on the Supreme Court and Biden in the White House, Manson predicts continued battles over issues such as “conscience exemptions” — for example, for pharmacists who oppose the distribution the morning after pill or employers who oppose include contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans.

“I hope one of the impacts on politics will be to say, ‘Look, that’s not what religious freedom is; religious freedom is that no one is oppressed or their civil rights are lost because of individual religious beliefs,” Manson said.

A “fervent Catholic” president

Conservative Catholics, meanwhile, fear Biden will roll back Trump administrative policies that they saw as victories for religious freedom or the goal of restricting abortion. At the first White House press conference of the Biden administration, a reporter for the Catholic network EWTN asked press secretary Jen Psaki about Biden’s abortion policies, including the Hyde Amendment.

“I’m just going to take this opportunity to remind you all that he’s a devout Catholic and someone who goes to church regularly. He started his day going to church with his family this morning,” Psaki said, adding that she had nothing specific to say at the time.

Already, the administration has said Biden is getting ready to overthrow the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits US funding of organizations that perform or refer patients for abortions in other countries. But a study in the journal The Lancet found that the policy in fact increased the abortion rate in some countries, most likely because it has also reduced access to contraception.

“So I think Biden, from a political standpoint, is going to do things that will eventually reduce abortions,” said Natalia Imperatori-Leeprogressive Catholic theologian and professor of religious studies at Manhattan College in New York.

The Communion Debate

Some Catholics who oppose abortion advocate denying Communion to Roman Catholic politicians who publicly support abortion rights – an action some priests have taken against BidenIllinois senator. Dick Durbin and others.

Mary Hasson, a fellow with the conservative-leaning Center for Ethics and Public Policy, said the decision was best left to the clergy.

“But I will say it’s really problematic when you have a Catholic – the most prominent Catholic in the country, which is President Biden – taking this stance that he’s pro-abortion – which the church said to be a serious evil morality; it is the killing of a helpless, unborn, vulnerable human life – and then showing up for communion,” Hasson said.

Regardless of the division of the base, the position of the church remains the same. In A declaration published on inauguration day, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops praised Biden’s “piety” but expressed “deep concern” about several of his positions that the bishops said would “advance the moral evils” – including his support for abortion rights.