On January 20, Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States. President Biden is the second Catholic in U.S. history to be elected as president. As is the custom with all presidents, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, sent an official letter of congratulations from the Vatican, assuring President Biden of His Holiness’ prayers and good wishes. This action was expected and very well done. The Holy Father, in his letter, did not mention any of President Biden’s policies as the text was Pro-forma.
Archbishop José Gomez, the archbishop of Los Angeles, the largest diocese in the United States, and the president of the USCCB, also released a letter to President Biden on behalf of the Episcopal Conference. The archbishop stated that he looked forward to working with the new administration and he was praying that God would “heal the wounds caused by the pandemic, to ease our intense political and cultural divisions, and to bring people together with renewed dedication to America’s founding purposes, to be one nation under God committed to liberty and equality for all.”
Archbishop Gomez also acknowledged that there will be some areas of disagreement with President Biden, writing the incoming administration had “pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender.”
Cardinal Blaise Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, publicly disagreed with the timing and process in which the statement was crafted on behalf of the USCCB. Cardinal Cupich tweeted: “Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an ill-considered statement on the day of President
Biden’s inauguration,” adding, “Aside from the fact that there is seemingly no precedent for doing so, the statement, critical of President Biden came as a surprise to many bishops, who received it just hours before it was released.”
To be clear, both Archbishop Gomez and Cardinal Cupich take the sanctity of life seriously — that was not the point. Cardinal Cupich first tweet after criticizing the timing of Archbishop Gomez statement was an invitation to the faithful of Chicago to participate via livestream in the Pro-Life Mass celebrated in Chicago two days later.
His criticism was directed at the way the statement was written and the fact that it took many bishops by surprise. In the age of social media and the 24- hour news cycle, any disagreement among Catholics — real or apparent — is magnified. Because of this, it would benefit our leaders to craft messages that are better coordinated so that the core of the statement is not lost.
The Church and its shepherds need to be united and in constant communication so that they can deliver communication that is clear and focused.
They ought to acknowledge that the Biden administration will pose a challenge for Catholics in the coming years, most especially in areas of life. And they also need to acknowledge the good things that this administration will do, namely provide more assistance to the poor and to immigrants, and put a halt to federal executions — something that Catholic bishops have demanded several- al times in recent months.
We need to remember that each ad- ministration will present different challenges and opportunities. The mission of the Church, on the other hand, is al-ways the same. Going forward, a unified voice would further promote this cause.