Biden and Unity

EDITORIAL: Healing our country begins with recognizing her deepest wound, abortion.

Voters hold signs during a rally outside of an aluminum foundry in Manitowoc, Wisconsin on September 21th, 2020.
Voters hold signs during a rally outside of an aluminum foundry in Manitowoc, Wisconsin on September 21th, 2020. (photo: Aaron of L.A. Photography)

Speaking to the nation four days after the Nov. 3 presidential election, shortly after major media outlets called the outcome in his favor, Joe Biden pledged to govern as a unifier and a healer.

He deliberately couched his pledge “to restore the soul of the nation” in spiritual phrasing that drew on his oft-stated commitment to his Catholic faith. In light of that, it’s fair — and in fact necessary — for this Catholic newspaper to draw attention to deep wounds to the collective body of U.S. society that Biden failed to mention in his initial remarks as the presumptive president-elect.

The deepest national wound in need of healing is the tragedy of legal abortion. Since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, courtesy of its morally and constitutionally flawed Roe v. Wadedecision, more than 60 million Americans have been killed in the womb. Biden knows this, and, equally, he knows that his own Church categorically teaches that abortion is “gravely contrary to the moral law” and that the “inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of civil society and its legislation.”

As an intelligent man, he also must realize that the humanity of the unborn is an indisputable scientific fact. The presumptive president-elect campaigned on the slogan of choosing “science over fiction.” Yet it’s the flimsiest of pro-abortion fictions to claim that innocent and defenseless unborn children are anything less than fully human as they embark on their journey of life within their mothers’ wombs.

Despite this, on the presidential campaign trail, Biden has tilted into complete alignment with the pro-abortion radicalism that, sadly, has become the Democratic Party’s political orthodoxy. It’s unrealistic to posit that, at this point in his long political career, he would now suddenly pivot back to the Catholic position in opposition to legal abortion that he held when first elected in 1972 as a U.S. senator representing Delaware. Still, if Biden really means what he says about being a unifier and healer, as the nation’s president he would, at a bare minimum, be required to walk back his campaign commitments to codify Roe v. Wade legislatively and to overturn the Hyde Amendment’s restrictions on federal taxpayer funding of abortion. 

And, as a Catholic politician, he needs to search his heart much more deeply on the abortion issue, reflecting on what faith and reason together communicate about the falsity of the arguments made in support of abortion extremism.

Similarly, the presumptive president-elect needs to reconsider his party’s positions on religious liberty and on advancing the “LGBT” agenda. Other prominent Democratic leaders have been guilty of expressing ugly anti-religious sentiments whenever they perceive a potential collision between religious freedom and the Democratic Party’s support for abortion rights and gender ideology. One particularly notable example: the egregious remarks of his own running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, in attacking the Catholic beliefs of Brian Buescher during the federal judge’s 2019 confirmation hearing.

That sort of anti-religious rhetoric is anathema to the concept of being a national unifier. So Biden needs to step away from any legislative or executive actions that would diminish religious liberty, such as his promiseto sue the Little Sisters of the Poor over the contraception mandate exemption they were granted during the Trump administration. All such moves, by their nature, are dangerously divisive. 

Biden’s commitment to institutionalize nondiscrimination policies for “transgender” persons, meanwhile, would not only compromise the freedom of Catholics and other Americans of faith. Even more, it would violate the truth and meaning of human sexuality, exposing as a result those who struggle with confusion over their sexual identities — including young children — to grievous and potentially irreversible harm to their bodies and souls. 

In his Nov. 7 remarks, Biden said, “Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end — here and now.” While he framed this as a bipartisan call for Democrats and Republicans to cooperate, there is little doubt that he was referencing primarily the words and actions of President Donald Trump, particularly in the context of crucial and divisive matters such as combating systemic racism and curbing the continuing spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

But what about the harsh demonization of pro-life and pro-family advocates, of religious believers and, indeed, of anyone who has supported Trump and his policies to any degree whatsoever, that many progressives have been guilty of? National unity and healing is impossible if Biden isn’t prepared to condemn this unjustified demonization with equal force.

Assuming that Biden’s election is indeed certified next month, following the resolution of Republican legal challenges in a number of battleground states, he will have secured a democratic mandate from U.S. voters. As a result, he would have earned the privilege of charting a national course that will be very different from the leadership President Trump has provided over the past four years. 

However, observers on all points of the political compass have observed that the narrowness of the Democratic victories in this election cycle demonstrates that voters have collectively rejected the radical and divisive ideas advocated by many leaders of Biden’s party, including himself in some fundamental areas. 

The outcome obviously can’t be read as a broad-based endorsement of the GOP platform either. Instead, voters were communicating they wanted to purge elements in the agendas of both parties that, if implemented, can only further tear apart the nation’s political and social fabric, not mend it.

“Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses,” Biden said in his speech declaring victory in the presidential election. “It is time for our better angels to prevail.” 

Moving forward, U.S. Catholics can pray that the presumptive president-elect will come to understand that his current conception of what constitutes America’s “better angels” and its “darkest impulses” is seriously deficient and needs substantial improvement if he hopes to contribute to unity and healing.