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Joe Biden becomes first Catholic President since JFK, local bishop reacts

(KWWL) – President Joe Biden is the second Catholic to serve as President of the United States; the first being President John F. Kennedy. Biden has outwardly expressed his faith, including it in his political ads and citing scripture in public appearances and speeches.

According to NPR, the President carries a rosary in his pocket and frequently attends Mass on Sundays. In the report, Biden is said to have ran the most overtly devout Democratic presidential campaign since President Jimmy Carter, a Baptist.

Biden's policies during the campaign revolved around social justice reforms, immigration and environmental reforms. These are important teachings of the modern Catholic church as a whole.

KWWL spoke with Bishop Thomas Zinkula of the Davenport Diocese following the inauguration about how the teachings of Catholicism might play a part in the new administration.

“Social justice is important for us, so there are certain things we will connect with him on, the Catholic church will, and the Democratic Party in general. Other things we connect better on with the Republican Party,” said Bishop Zinkula. “We'll connect with him immigration, the environment, abolishing the death penalty, poverty, racism. We'll connect with him very well on those issues.”

In the Vatican, Pope Francis issued a statement reading:

"On the occasion of your inauguration as the forty-sixth President of the United States of America, I extend cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high office. Under your leadership, may the American people continue to draw strength from the lofty political, ethical and religious values that have inspired the nation since its founding. At a time when the grave crises facing our human family call for farsighted and united responses, I pray that your decisions will be guided by a concern for building a society marked by authentic justice and freedom, together with unfailing respect for the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice. I likewise ask God, the source of all wisdom and truth, to guide your efforts to foster understanding, reconciliation and peace within the United States and among the nations of the world in order to advance the universal common good. With these sentiments, I willingly invoke upon you and your family and the beloved American people an abundance of blessings."

Pope Francis

In a recent article from the Washington Post, Biden had considered the priesthood had he not gone into politics and even considered it again after the death of his first wife and daughter died in the 1970s shortly before being sworn into the U.S. Senate.

However, Biden's faith is a contested one among Catholics. Some conservative Catholics refuse to recognize the President as a true Catholic due to his public stance on abortion. In 2017, a South Carolina parish refused Holy Communion to Biden under orders of the bishop. This was also due to his abortion stance.

Biden talked about this stance with America – The Jesuit Review during a 2015 interview. There he said, “I’m prepared to accept doctrine on a whole range of issues as a Catholic. I’m prepared to accept as a matter of faith — my wife and I, my family — the issue of abortion. But what I’m not prepared to do is impose a rigid view, a precise view, that is born out of my faith, on other people who are equally God-fearing, equally as committed to life.”

A Catholic rising to the nation's highest position is something that was unheard of a century ago. In 1928, New York Governor Alfred Smith, a Democrat, had been the only Catholic nominee of either party. His campaign was dogged by claims that he would “build a tunnel connecting the White House and the Vatican and would amend the Constitution to make Catholicism the nation's established religion” according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Smith would even lose the then Democratic Solid South due to this fact.

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Collin Dorsey

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