President Biden and His Faith

By: Andrew Maglio

President Joe Biden has long been vocal about his faith. During his tenure in Washington first as a Senator from Delaware and later as former-president Barack Obama’s vice president, he was never shy about his membership to the Church. In fact, in 2010, he announced that he had considered priesthood after the death of his wife and daughter in 1972. Today, he is only the second Catholic President of the United States. (John F. Kennedy was the first.) Catholics were long the minority in American politics, but today Biden joins Speaker of the House Nancy Peolsi, two-thirds of the Supreme Court, and one-third of Capitol Hill in a growing trend of Catholic politicians on both sides of the aisle. While much is yet to be seen, Biden’s faith is guaranteed to be part of his leadership and presidential ethic. Already, his politically liberal brand of Catholicism is sparking debate.

Biden’s first address to the nation as President was ladened with religious messages. His inaugural address evoked biblical themes and, even at a few specific points, included pointed references. Biden’s central message was the importance of strength and unity while we emerge from our recent trials. He reassured, “I promise you this: as the Bible says weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.” What’s interesting is that despite a few specific references to the bible (including the aforementioned one), Biden’s references were much more subtle. Instead, the tone of speech was constantly reminiscent of a myriad of biblical themes; the unity he advocated for evoked images of “loving thy neighbor” while the strength to persevere he called on spoke to a spiritual faith that God had provided him throughout the years and many other Catholics.

Interestingly, many of Biden’s most fervent critics are Catholics themselves. Biden’s pro-choice beliefs, when juxtaposed with the traditional pro-life position of the Catholic church, has inspired criticism against him. In Washington and beyond, Catholics often have religious idiosyncrasies. When asked about Biden religious differences from some other Catholics, Reverend James Martin, a jesuit (Catholic) priest, remarked the following to NPR:

“It's a big church. Catholics - the Catholic Church is not a monolith. And so we have Catholics who are Democrats and Republicans, who are progressive and traditional, who are conservative and liberal. And I would say that Amy Coney Barrett's Catholicism - they're both Catholic, and they're both sincere in their Catholicism - stresses some things and not other things or - and the same with President Biden. So - you know, on the fundamentals, they agree. But it's a different way of being Catholic, I would say.”

In November, when Biden was elected, Pope Francis called to congratulate the new president-elect. Both leaders are known to be historically more liberal. During their conversation, Biden “expressed his desire to work together on the basis of a shared belief in the dignity and equality of all humankind on issues such as caring for the marginalized and the poor, addressing the crisis of climate change, and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities,” according to the Vatican’s statement While still so much is yet to be seen about how Biden’s faith manifests in his political efforts as President, one thing is sure: Biden is not shedding his faith.