- - Monday, February 1, 2021

Joe Biden spent the first week of his presidency in a whirlwind of executive orders aimed at undoing the Trump legacy. Even The New York Times offered (mild) criticism of his paper storm, calling it “a flawed substitute for legislation.”

Abortion was high on Mr. Biden’s opening-week agenda. The self-proclaimed “devout Catholic,” who is said to keep a photo of Pope Francis on his desk, issued a memorandum rescinding the “Mexico City Policy,” under which American tax money had been prohibited from subsidizing abortions through foreign aid programs. It also lifts restrictions on federally funded abortions within the U.S. under Title X of the Public Health Service Act of 1970.

In addition, Mr. Biden issued an order specifying that the U.S. will rejoin the World Health Organization, one of the biggest providers of abortion internationally.

Using typical left-speak, Mr. Biden justified these actions as “protecting women’s health at home and abroad.”

The president of the United States is in need of repentance. His whole-hearted, full-throated abortion advocacy allows for no other conclusion than that he must “repent and believe in the Gospel” (as the first chapter of Mark puts it) in order to make his much-touted “devout Catholic” claim real.

But so too some of our bishops and cardinals must repent.

When asked whether he would attempt to correct Mr. Biden on abortion by withholding Holy Communion, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory declined. He told Catholic News Service that no D.C. priest had done so while Mr. Biden was vice president, and “I’m not going to veer from that.”

Archbishop Gregory’s rationale ignores Mr. Biden’s enhanced status as well as the fresh vigor he brings to “defense of abortion rights,” exceeding in some ways Barack Obama, whom he served as vice president. The current challenge to the church Mr. Biden claims as his own is more direct and threatening.

In actively countering Catholic moral witness on the abortion issue he seems intent on diminishing church authority. This clearly heightens the element of scandal and, thus, Mr. Biden’s culpability. Yet, our leaders appear hesitant to confront the obvious danger.

It’s true that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has decried the split between Mr. Biden’s proclaimed Catholic identity and his abortion support. Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, USCCB president, has stated that this contradiction tends to “create confusion with the faithful about what the Church actually teaches on these questions,” posing “a serious threat to the common good.”

At the same time, attitudes like that of D.C. Archbishop Gregory have provided moral cover for pro-abortion politicians since the days of Ted Kennedy. That cover continues. In not challenging Mr. Biden’s claim to be a “devout Catholic,” some of our leaders appear to be engaging in active subterfuge.

It’s not as if Mr. Biden hadn’t made his abortion plans clear throughout the campaign. Video of a 2019 primary event shows him proclaiming his policy intentions, which he said proudly would make him a “savior around the world.”

Yet, when Mr. Biden celebrated the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chairman of the Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, offered a perfect illustration of the typical episcopal reaction. He was moved to observe how “deeply disturbing” and “tragic” it was for any president to “praise and commit to codifying a Supreme Court ruling that denies unborn children their most basic human and civil right, the right to life, under the euphemistic disguise of a health service.”

Well, that’s better than nothing — and certainly better late than never. But when L.A. Archbishop Gomez drafted a statement criticizing the President’s stance on unlimited abortion, a group of cardinals insisted it shouldn’t be published. It might inhibit negotiations with the Biden administration on other important concerns and complicate the pope’s dealings with the new “devoutly Catholic” American president.

They appealed to the Vatican, and Archbishop Gomez’s letter was squelched. Thus illustrating once again how our leaders have bobbed and weaved around the abortion issue for decades, weakening their moral authority, sacrificing the respect of their flock, and undermining the church’s evangelistic mission.

Just now, at the start of Mr. Biden’s term in office, is the perfect moment for someone in a position of ecclesiastical power to stand up and say, “No, Mr. President, you are not a devout Catholic. Until you repent of your immoral advocacy of abortion (and perhaps one or two other heretical positions as well), you will not be in good standing to receive the Sacraments.”

Undoubtedly there would be risks in taking such a firm stand. The church would surely pay a price. But then, Jesus did promise the kingdom of heaven to those who “suffer persecution for justice sake.”

A little bit of un-sugar-coated truth might just catch Mr. Biden’s attention as he attempts to “codify” all sorts of abominations.

But who among our church leaders is prepared to do it?

• Michael P. Orsi, a priest of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, currently serves as parochial vicar at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, Florida. He is host of “Action for Life TV,” a weekly cable television series devoted to pro-life issues.

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