Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recently said in an interview that while he considers President Joe Biden to be a “practicing Catholic,” he is concerned about his support for the Democratic platform on abortion.
The former pope was interviewed by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Sunday, around the anniversary of his retirement in 2013 as head of the Roman Catholic Church.
When asked his opinion of Biden, the second Catholic to hold the office of the United States president, Benedict offered a mixed opinion of the politician.
“It’s true, he is a practicing Catholic and observant. And he is personally against abortion,” he explained, according to Crux. ”But as a president, he tends to present himself in continuity with the platform of the Democratic Party. … And on gender politics, we have not yet fully understood what his position is.”
Benedict also rejected any “conspiracy theories” regarding why he resigned in 2013. He became the first pope to resign in over 600 years. Benedict, who was born to the name Joseph Ratzinger, said his “conscience is clear” and that external forces did not influence his resignation.
Within Catholic Church circles, there has been some debate over Biden's faith. While the former Delaware senator and former vice president is a regular churchgoer, his political policies on abortion seem to go against the Catholic Church’s teaching in opposition to abortion.
For example, soon after taking office, Biden released a statement promising to codify the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.
“In the past four years, reproductive health, including the right to choose, has been under relentless and extreme attack,” stated Biden in January.
“We are deeply committed to making sure everyone has access to care — including reproductive health care — regardless of income, race, zip code, health insurance status, or immigration status.”
Biden’s support for abortion rights has led some in the Catholic Church, among them Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, to conclude that Biden should not be considered a “devout” Catholic.
“The president should stop defining himself as a devout Catholic and acknowledge that his view on abortion is contrary to Catholic moral teaching,” said Naumann in an interview with The 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.”
Some in the Catholic Church believe Biden should be denied holy communion until he repents of his public policy positions on abortion.
Others, including Cardinal Wilton Gregory, have stated that they will not deny Biden communion and will focus on working together on other issues and dialoguing.
“The kind of relationship that I hope we will have is a conversational relationship where we can discover areas where we can cooperate that reflect the social teachings of the church, knowing full well that there are some areas where we won’t agree,” Gregory told Catholic News Service last November.
“I hope it’s a real dialogue because I think that’s the mantra of Pope Francis — that we should be a church in dialogue, even with those with whom we have some serious disagreements."
In 2019, Biden was denied communion at a South Carolina church because of his stance on abortion.
Biden’s political views on abortion have evolved through the years. He once stated during his first term in the U.S. Senate in 1974 that he thought Roe v. Wade “went too far.” In a 2006 interview, Biden called abortion a “tragedy.”
Biden stated in his 2007 book, Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics, that he "stuck to my middle-of-the-road position on abortion for more than thirty years” and noted that while he personally opposed abortion, he doesn’t think he has the right to impose his view on the rest of society.
In the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, Biden criticized states that passed or introduced legislation meant to limit when abortions can be conducted, calling them “extreme laws that violate a woman’s constitutional right to choose.”
In 2019, Biden officially ended his longtime support for legislation that blocks federal funding for abortion in most cases.