Hot Topic: Church and State – A Stronger Divide

A big point of contention on religion and the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate is whether the Catholic Church should deny Communion to President Joseph R. Biden for being a proponent of pro-choice. Denying Communion to Catholic politicians based on their political beliefs would be harmful to the political-religious equilibrium. Since the First Amendment of the Constitution was ratified, the United States was established with a supreme foundation in the separation of powers, and the idea that no law would be passed that enforced or restricted religion. However, the outcry to manipulate politicians into bending their legislative beliefs to fit religious ones has been tremendous. 

I argue that religion should be above the laws of “men” and focus on spiritual development instead, as a means of winning the hearts of “men” to further its goals. The Pope, himself, won’t endorse nor condemn Biden’s actions on abortion. Still, just a few days ago, after Biden spoke with Pope Francis, Biden said, “We just talked about the fact he was happy that I was a good Catholic and I should keep receiving Communion,” according to ABC News. If the Pope indeed said those things, Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should have no trouble obtaining the Eucharist, so this particular incident should no longer be a point of contention since the Pope has spoken. However, there still are many opponents of this decision in the Church and in politics. 

The Church should not pressure public figures with religious chastisement, especially in these circumstances; Biden is pro-choice, not pro-abortion. Biden has never suggested people should get abortions; on the contrary, he has said that he is personally against abortion. The question is whether Catholic beliefs should be imposed on others. In his 2007 memoir, Biden stated, “I personally am opposed to abortion, but I don’t think I have the right to impose my view — on something I accept as a matter of faith — on the rest of society,” according to USA Today. Biden explained that he does not want to force people to preside under others’ religious values. 

Another problem with the Catholic Church becoming so involved with individual people is practicality and fairness; they would also have to punish other influential Catholics for what they say or post on the internet. If they did not or only punished politicians, it would not be fair and therefore infringe on other Catholic values, and if they were to try and make it “fair,” it probably would not be feasible. The bottom line is that the church is not supposed to intervene with how our government is run and should focus on swaying people’s hearts and minds instead of forcing them to abide by the church and its influences. Still, there have been cases of forceful Vatican condoned interference in politics in the past. One example of this can be seen in the 1962 case of the Catholic archbishop of New Orleans, Joseph Francis Rummel. Rummel excommunicated three influential politicians for supporting segregation and was praised for his stance against discriminatory practices by the Vatican. The distinction between this incident and the present case ahead of the church is simply that Biden will not endorse anyone’s decision to have an abortion; he is neither implementing nor maintaining a law regarding abortion.

In summation, there has always been a partisan split in the Church along the political spectrum. However, must the authorities in the Church use their platform to tamper with politics using religious penalties for ambiguous cases? It is not even clear whether pro-choice actually goes against the holy scripture because. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “Temptation is not in itself sin. No matter how vivid the unholy image may be, no matter how strong the inclination to transgress the law, no matter how vehement the sensation of unlawful satisfaction, as long as there is no consent of the will, there is no sin.” This supports that having the option for an abortion in itself is likely not a sin, so it is clear to me that Pope Francis has made the right choice in condoning Biden’s Catholic faith.