USCCB Official ‘Elated’ Over Harris, Biden's Pro-Abortion VP Pick
Biden and Harris have clashed with U.S. bishops on several issues including conscience protections in healthcare policy, same-sex marriage, and, most frequently, abortion.
DENVER, Colo. — An official at the U.S. bishops’ conference said Thursday that the selection of Senator Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s presidential running mate is good news that will offer policies favorable to marginalized people.
“I was so elated. We, the community, need good news, and this was just wonderful,” Donna Toliver Grimes, associate director of African American affairs in the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, told Catholic News Service, the official news service of the U.S. bishops’ conference, on Wednesday.
Grimes told CNS that Harris “wasn’t my top candidate in the primaries, and she wasn’t my top pick for vice president,” adding “she’s really deserving and brings a lot to the table.”
Mentioning her belief that Biden and Harris will offer “policy that is favorable to people on the margins,” Grimes said she expects Biden “would put good people in his Cabinet, who would not damage the agencies, or ignore the mission.”
Grimes, who was identified in the report by her USCCB position, also mentioned to CNS her hope that, if elected, Biden would address health care reform and voting-rights issues.
A spokesperson for the U.S. bishops’ conference told CNA Aug. 13 that “The Conference is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization that does not endorse or oppose specific candidates for office. Comments by individual Conference employees are not necessarily a reflection of the Conference’s official position.”
Grimes did not mention the issues on which Biden and Harris have clashed with U.S. bishops, among them conscience protections in healthcare policy, same-sex marriage, and, most frequently, abortion. Biden and Harris have pledged to restore currently restricted federal funding for abortion. Harris has previously pledged to use federal law to restrict state laws regulating or limiting abortion.
Pope Francis has called abortion “inhuman eugenics,” urged its eradication, and said that the unborn are among those marginalized on the “existential peripheries,” for whom the Church must have special care.
Nor did Grimes mention Harris’ 2018 questioning of a judicial nominee over his membership of the Knights of Columbus. In questions about the impartiality of nominee Brian Buescher, Harris asked if Buescher was aware that the Knights of Columbus “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and were against “marriage equality” when he joined.
The senator’s remarks were subsequently criticized as anti-Catholic and one U.S. bishop, Archbishop Charles Chaput, characterized them as “bigoted.”
Both Biden and President Donald Trump have been criticized by the U.S. bishops’ conference, with Trump frequently facing criticism for his immigration policies, use of the federal death penalty, and cuts to social safety nets.
Last year, USCCB spokeswoman Judy Keane left the bishops’ conference after media reports said that she had tweeted in support of President Trump or in opposition to Democrats.
Among Keane’s tweets was one that criticized Harris. Responding to a news story saying that Harris, then running for president, promised to raise teacher salaries, Keane wrote “She’ll be promising all kinds of things to get elected. Then she’ll raise taxes so hard-working Americans have to pay for it all. No thanks.”
After Keane’s tweets first emerged into the spotlight, the spokeswoman was placed on leave, and shortly thereafter left the bishops’ conference. The conference has not said whether she was fired or left voluntarily.
USCCB communications director James Rogers told the Washington Post at the time that “The bishops, not staff, set the conference’s federal policy positions.”
“We should be mindful not to create confusion as to where the bishops might be on any particular federal policy issue. The conference is nonpartisan and does not endorse political candidates. We take this very seriously.”
CNA asked the conference to provide its employee guidelines on political speech, but the conference has not yet done so.
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