As a Catholic lay leader I am often confronted and challenged because I support Biden for president.
When asked how as a Catholic I could support Biden, I am very clear that it is because of my Catholic faith that I support Biden.
I believe that our politics should be defined by our faith but many folks have allowed their faith to define their politics.
My Catholic faith was formed first by my parents. They were immigrants, and came to America in 1950 from Ireland. My mother grew up a Catholic in Belfast. Like most Irish at that time, they came over on a short-term ‘visitors’ visa and never left.
When they came to America they had nothing. They had no money, no education and no job skills. My mother would often say they got off the boat with one baby in her arms, another in her belly and not two nickels to rub together. What they did have was incredible faith and a strong sense of justice. My mother experienced injustice firsthand growing up as a poor, Irish, Catholic in Belfast, Ireland. She taught me that our Catholic faith required us to speak up and to act in the face of injustice.
We have sat by and allowed our faith our Catholic beliefs to be hijacked.
We sat in our place of comfort and allowed people teaching a gospel of hatred and fear, a gospel of racism, sexism, islamophobia, homophobia, and anti-Semitism to define our faith.
We have been led astray by leaders whose only interest is promoting their own personal power and agenda, not the gospel of Jesus.
Certainly not the gospel that talks about welcoming the stranger, caring for the poor and marginalized, healing the sick or caring for God’s wondrous creation.
When I think about this I get very angry. But just like the anger that Jesus expressed when he turned the tables over in the temple, my anger is a righteous anger.
Anger left unchecked can easily turn into fear and hatred. So we have to take that righteous anger and turn it into prayerful action.
The 13th century Franciscan St. Bonaventure described the created universe as the fountain fullness of God’s expressed being. As God is expressed in creation, creation in turn, expresses the creator. What kind of creator are we expressing today?
In 2020 we in the U.S. get to decide who we really are, both as a nation and as Catholics. It is a choice we should not take lightly.
St. Bonaventure also told us that how we choose and what we choose makes a difference – first in what we become by our choices and second in what the world becomes by our choices.
As people of faith, we hear lots of noise about how we should vote. As I have written in the past, political organizations like Catholic Vote and some of our Catholic leaders have been promoting the false narrative that there is an anti-Catholic bias in the U.S.
By suggesting that someone is not a real Catholic if they do not agree with their message of separation, hatred, and fear, they are in fact the ones promoting an anti-Catholic bias.
These folks, as well as groups like Catholics for Trump, are suggesting that to be pro-life and a “real Catholic” you have to agree to their agenda. The question is; what is their agenda? I often ask what is their endgame?
I previously wrote an article in National Catholic Reporter about the need to change how we talk about abortion. A strategy centered around slogans that fit on placards like “Defund Planned Parenthood” or “Overturn Roe vs. Wade” or attempting to demonize and criminalize those who support the right to choose does little to eliminate abortion.
In fact, defunding Planned Parenthood would have the opposite effect. It would lead to the loss of health care for millions of poor women. It would also lead to an increase of the abortion rate.
Planned Parenthood is one of the leading providers of contraceptives for poor women. Defunding Planned Parenthood and denying access to free birth control will almost certainly lead to an increase in the abortion rate.
A few years ago the state of Colorado provided free birth control to those who could not afford it. The result was an almost 50% decline in abortion rates.
If you look at countries like Canada and the Netherlands, which have the most liberal abortion laws, their abortion rates are far below those in the USA. These countries make sure that women receive prenatal care, postnatal care, care for their children, family leave policies and help meeting other needs.
Meanwhile, in the USA, our abortion rate is high and we don’t offer much in the way of aid to women who are pregnant or to children once they’re out of the womb.
I mention this because the Republicans and some faith leaders have created a false dichotomy on the question of abortion. Unfortunately many people of faith and many in the media have bought into their false narrative.
Some will say they are supporting Biden because you have to weigh all the issues equally, or in spite of his position on abortion, other concerns are as important.
As a person of deep Catholic faith – and to be very clear, one who tries to live his faith daily, both through my prayer life and pre-Covid by attending Mass 2-3 times a week, but also by how I live my everyday life – I reject the false narrative.
I am supporting Biden because of his position on abortion. Biden has supported and promoted healthcare for all, strong family leave policies, strong environmental regulations on issues like Mercury which affects unborn children. These are all issues that have an affect on the abortion rate.
I support Biden because in my heart I strongly believe that after four years of a Biden presidency the abortion rate will be well below what it would be after another term of Trump.
There is a great poem written by Drew Dellinger:
What Did you Do Once You Knew
It’s 3:23 in the morning and I am awake,
because my great great grandchildren won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren ask me in dreams
What did you do while the planet was plundered?
What did you do when the Earth was unraveling?
Surely you did something when the seasons started failing
As the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying
Did you fill the streets, the streets with protest when democracy was stolen
What did you do once you knew?
We know that our democracy is being stolen, some of us have filled the streets. For the rest of us, we have a chance to make a difference when we vote in November.
St. Clare, the 13th century saint who helped St. Francis found the Franciscan order, challenges us to become a mirror of Christ for others to see and follow. She tells us to reflect Christ in our lives, to help build up the Body of Christ through transformation in love.
For me the choice is clear which of the candidates best reflects Christ in their statements and how they have lived their lives. Which candidate is working towards building the kingdom of Heaven through transformation in love. Which candidate is trying to bring us together and which is dividing us.