Faith and Public Service

The public service of elected officials and their Catholic faith have once again come in the public eye. With both vice-presidential candidates being baptized Catholics (Republican Candidate Mike Pence of Indiana identifies as an “Evangelical Catholic,” and Democratic Candidate Tim Kaine of Virginia is an active parishioner of his Roman Catholic parish), it was only a matter of time before our attention turned again to the faith of our sitting Vice President Joseph Biden, also a Catholic.

Vice President Biden is quoted as saying: “For me, my religion is just an enormous sense of solace. Some of it relates to ritual, some of it relates to just comfort in what you’ve done your whole life. I go to Mass and I’m able to just be alone, even in the crowd. I say the rosary, I find it to be incredibly comforting.”

Biden, who is a supporter of abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex marriage, demonstrated his support of same-sex marriage by officiating in the same-sex marriage of Brian Mosteller and Joe Mashie, two White House staff members.

Biden has long demonstrated that his political ideals are often in conflict with the teachings of the Church. For his public support of abortion in 2008, Bishop Joseph F. Martino of the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., stated that Biden would not be allowed to receive Communion in the diocese where he was born. Bishop Michael Saltarelli of the Diocese of Wilmington, Del., also criticized Biden’s stance, but Biden still received Holy Communion in his parish in Delaware. The vice president also attended the Installation Mass of Pope Francis and received Communion.

In response to Biden’s officiating at the same-sex marriage, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Bishop Richard J. Malone and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, on behalf of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, released a statement entitled “Faithful Witness to Marriage.” Without referring to Biden by name, the bishops state:

“When a prominent Catholic politician publicly and voluntarily officiates at a ceremony to solemnize the relationship of two people of the same-sex, confusion arises regarding Catholic teaching on marriage and the corresponding moral obligations of Catholics. What we see is a counter witness, instead of a faithful one founded in the truth.”

The bishops further state: “In doing so, we also stand with Pope Francis in preserving the dignity and meaning of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The two strands of the dignity of the person and the dignity of marriage and the family are interwoven. To pull apart one is to unravel the whole fabric,” and further state that the Holy Father has been “very clear in affirming … that same-sex relationships cannot be considered ‘in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.’”

We certainly wish to show respect for those with same-sex attraction. All human beings are created in the image and likeness of God and are worthy of the dignity afforded every human being. However, it is clear that we cannot support same-sex marriage, which is clearly against not only ecclesiastical law, but indeed against natural law.

The bishops go on to state: “Faithful witness can be challenging – and it will only grow more challenging in the years to come – but it is also the joy and responsibility of all Catholics, especially those who have embraced positions of leadership and public service.”

We hope that clergy, religious, and those charged with teaching the faith will be clear in their teaching and preaching concerning the natural law of our Church and our basic Catholic theological anthropology.