Where Biden Could Lose Faithful Catholic Voters
With just days to go, Joe Biden is making a last-ditch effort to convince voters that he is a faithful Catholic.
At least Catholic voters, that is. Self-identified Catholics, dubbed a “big prize” by the Pew Research Center, are the largest group of religious voters and have been deemed a major swing vote by political pundits. In the last presidential election, President Donald Trump took home the prize of the Catholic vote.
It could be in reach for Biden. Recent polling by EWTN and RealClear Opinion Research find that Biden is leading with “likely Catholic voters,” and prominent Catholics ranging from comedian Jeannie Gaffigan to Georgetown’s John Carr have resignedly endorsed him. But his play for Catholics is deeply fraught by his own record on important Catholic issues, with his critics going so far as to call him a “Catholic in name only.”
He startled Catholics, for example, when he took a swipe at the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns that cares for the dying elderly poor, just hours after the Supreme Court had ruled once and for all that they would not be forced to provide abortion drugs through their healthcare plans as a part of the Affordable Care Act. Biden said that he was “disappointed” in the ruling and vowed to rescind the executive order protecting them that the court had just upheld.
His attack on some of the most admirable women of his own Church was surprisingly brazen and gratuitous. And yet it’s worth remembering that the original mandate targeting them, which resulted in the largest class action religious liberty lawsuit against the federal government in American history, originated under his own administration.
It makes it hard to convince Catholics that he’s their guy when he won’t even defend the most selfless women of his own Church. His vice-presidential choice doesn’t help him there either; she herself has earned a reputation as an anti-Catholic bully after pressing a judicial nominee over his membership in the lay charity group the Knights of Columbus. She didn’t just bully the nominee and smear the Knights of Columbus; she actually prodded him about deeply held Catholic moral beliefs and implied these disqualified him from public office. If Biden was trying to shore up support among Catholics, picking an anti-Catholic as a running mate wasn’t his most strategic move.
But Biden has an arguably more glaring credibility issue with Catholic voters given how cozy he is with the abortion industry. The Catholic Church doesn’t pretend to have the policy solutions to most of the issues that divide Americans along partisan lines. It offers only guiding moral principles about how to handle issues like immigration or climate change which the Church calls matters of “prudential judgement.” But on the question of the sanctity of unborn life, the Church is crystal clear. The United States Council of Catholic Bishops in their 1998 document "Living the Gospel of Life" didn’t mince words when they wrote, "No public official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can responsibly advocate for or actively support direct attacks on innocent human life."
Biden has been endorsed with vim and vigor by the abortion industry and has taken up the Democratic party’s most extreme positions on abortion. Of recent note was his flip-flop last year to support ending the ban on federal funding for abortion, a longstanding policy that boasts the support of the vast majority of Americans, including many Democrats and a full third of who consider themselves pro-choice. On the issue of abortion, Biden is a very square peg trying to fit into a very round hole.
Plenty of people will rush to point out that many who self-identify as Catholic still consider themselves pro-choice, at least to a degree. But even those Catholics will acknowledge that they struggle with the contradiction with their faith. And savvier political pundits know that when looking at the “Catholic vote,” it is the regular Mass-attending cohort of Catholics that tend to be the presidential kingmakers. They may be up for grabs this election cycle, but they don’t suffer fools lightly. They are also the Catholic cohort that tends to care most about the social issues where Joe Biden is incredibly weak. His campaign can tout his rosary beads until dawn, but when the candidate himself is out threatening nuns and gladhanding with abortion bigwigs, they are going to have to do better.