CNA Staff, Mar 15, 2021 / 14:11 pm
It is a serious matter for President Joe Biden to profess Catholicism while publicly backing contradictory action on matters such as abortion, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas has said in an interview with The Atlantic.
"I want to protect my people from being misled. His actions, right now, do mislead," Naumann said in an interview with The Atlantic published March 14. "They do create confusion for people in terms of what the Church believes and teaches."
"Obviously, the president doesn't believe what we believe about the sacredness of human life, or he wouldn't be taking the actions that he is. And yet, he continues to receive the Eucharist," said the archbishop.
"We can't judge his heart. But we consider the action itself a grave moral evil."
He compared the reception of the Eucharist to a profession of faith "in all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God."
This makes Biden's behavior a "point of confusion."
For Naumann, this action from the president presents a challenge to the witness of the Church.
"To have a president who is an engaged Catholic, but who acts in contradiction to some of our most fundamental moral teachings-we haven't really faced that kind of challenge before," he said. He lamented that Biden takes certain actions that contradict Catholic beliefs and thought, and when questioned, Biden or his press secretary describes him as "a devout Catholic."
"Whether he intends it or not, he's basically saying to people, 'You can be a good Catholic and do similar things'," said Naumann.
Biden once backed some limits on abortion and abortion funding but his administration has come out strongly against abortion restrictions and the Hyde Amendment, which limits most federal funding for abortion.
Naumann suggested there is "similar moral gravity" between performing an abortion or assisting someone to get an abortion and some pro-abortion Biden policy, like ending the Hyde Amendment.
"They're obviously not identical things. But he's formally cooperating in abortion by his actions," the archbishop said. "He intends to make abortion available and accessible, to promote it, even help pay for it. He wants to force everybody else to do this as well, even if it violates their consciences."
Naumann reiterated the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' November 2019 statement that called abortion "the preeminent issue of our time."
"It attacks innocent human life when it's most vulnerable," he explained. "It happens within the context of the family and attacks the most precious of human relationships: that between a mother and a child. And the sheer numbers of abortions-there's no other issue in terms of the numbers of lives destroyed."
The Atlantic asked Naumann if he believes that the Catholic bishops should more widely discourage pro-abortion rights elected officials from receiving Communion and should bar priests from giving them Communion.
"I do believe that we have an obligation as pastors to try to work for their spiritual good," Naumann replied. "If it's a member of public life doing things that are moral evils, then I or their pastor need to help them be aware of the seriousness of what they're doing."
In response to reports that some grieve that the pro-life cause has been too aligned with the Republican Party and President Donald Trump, Naumann said that he shares this grief. He cited his own upbringing in a Catholic, Democratic family.
"I firmly believe we'll never really build this culture of life we want until we have members of both parties. It can't be a single-party issue," he said. "But that's not something people in the pro-life movement have chosen. The political parties have chosen their positions on this. It's a great sadness to me that the Democratic Party has become so intolerant of anybody who has pro-life convictions. They've driven a lot of people out of their party."
Naumann serves as the pro-life chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and was a member of the bishops' conference working group on its response to Biden's policies. He told The Atlantic it was not the mission of the working group to make a final conclusion about what priests should do when Biden presents himself for Communion. He noted the responsibility of each bishop to teach the faith in his diocese.
In a Feb. 13 interview with Catholic World Report, Naumann emphasized the bishops' responsibility to correct Biden when necessary.
"Although people have given this president power and authority, he cannot define what it is to be a Catholic and what Catholic moral teaching is," he said, warning that Biden is "usurping the role of the bishops and confusing people."
"The president should stop defining himself as a devout Catholic, and acknowledge that his view on abortion is contrary to Catholic moral teaching," Naumann told Catholic World Report. "It would be a more honest approach from him to say he disagreed with his Church on this important issue and that he was acting contrary to Church teaching."