Joe Biden & Catholicism’s “soft schism”

Joe Biden and Catholicism in the United States
By Massimo Faggioli
Bayard Publishing, 2021, 161 pages

2 Stars

The debate over the status of self-described “devout” Catholic and abortion-supporter, President Joe Biden, currently dominates American Roman Catholic media articles.

When cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected pope in 2013, conservative Catholics had no idea what they were in for. In 2016, pope Francis guilefully lifted the ban on communion for remarried divorcees and followed with such “reforms” as a condemnation of capital punishment in all circumstances and approval of civil unions for same-sex couples. In addition were a flurry of encyclicals championing immigration and environmental causes and strongly critiquing capitalism. The majority of the U.S. Catholic bishops were dismayed by their religiously and politically liberal pope, but took solace in the pro-conservative administration of President Donald J. Trump.

When Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, the U.S. bishops were in a strange quandary. Biden was a “practicing” Roman Catholic, but he definitely was not the bishops’ kind of Catholic. The president-elect unapologetically supported abortion on demand and the LGBT agenda. Some bishops called for Biden to be excommunicated and denied communion, leading to a debate with liberal prelates that was quickly dubbed the “wafer wars.” In contrast, progressive pope Francis personally called Biden a week after the election and enthusiastically congratulated the president-elect on his victory. It was obvious that the pope and Biden were closely aligned on many views, both religiously and politically.

In this short book, theology professor and liberal Roman Catholic, Massimo Faggioli, expounds on the current internecine squabbling and the increasing polarization of the Catholic Right and the Progressive Catholic Left, especially in light of Joe Biden’s recent presidential election victory. The book is more of a rambling stream of consciousness than a structured, linear analysis, but evangelicals who have been objectively observing the Vatican and Catholicism since Francis became pope will find Faggioli’s candid thoughts refreshing (in contrast to conservative Catholic apologists who dishonestly won’t acknowledge the intensifying internecine tug-of-war). The RCC is currently experiencing what the author describes as a “soft schism.” Conservatives are in a Catch-22 as they are restrained from opposing Francis’ reforms more vigorously because of their absolute fealty to the papal office as a central tenet of their beliefs. This self-imposed restraint has prevented the emergence of a galvanizing conservative leader except for a few who Francis easily checkmated (i.e., cardinals Müller, Burke, and Sarah). Will soft schism eventually lead to hard schism? Conservative Catholics are anxiously waiting to see if 84-year-old Bergoglio’s successor is a progressive like his predecessor. Will Joe Biden’s dichotomous brand of Catholicism (clinging to a rosary while rallying for abortion and LGBT “rights”) become the overriding expression of American Catholicism? That is what the conservative American bishops strongly fear.*

This book would be of interest only to evangelical Vatican watchers like myself who are following the growing polarization within the RCC big tent. From start to finish of this book, there’s no sign of the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

*A January 2021 survey of U.S. Catholics performed by Pew Research Center found 56% of U.S. Catholics believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Below is an interesting article that’s pertinent to this discussion:

Joe Biden’s Presidency Has Highlighted the Rifts in the American Catholic Church

26 thoughts on “Joe Biden & Catholicism’s “soft schism”

  1. I read your post and skimmed the Time article. I know this has nothing to do with either your article or Time. The fact that Francis is head of both the Vatican City State and the Catholic Church just cracks me up (I find it hysterical whenever the Pope does government business, envoys in the name of spiritual leadership/sharing Christ.)I really think people forget sometimes that the Pope since 1929 has been the head of the world’s smallest “sovereign” nation. For as much as Francis is against politics, he uses politicians and liberal theology/agendas rather than to guide people into a saving relationship with Jesus by grace through faith. Reading about Beau’s rosary beads are the one he holds was sad, I will admit that. I’m sure he thinks of his son far more than he thinks of the Son (I don’t mean that snarky or condescending). My whole rambling here is that it grieves me that people want to excommunicate Biden over politics or hail and persevere Biden as a Catholic saint based on politics. The true Gospel is totally missing from all of this. Thank you for sharing this review!

    Praying things with your sister are making progress and that you can fit in some time to rest and read. Love and blessings to you and Corinne!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the good comments, Mandy!

      RE: The true Gospel is totally missing from all of this.

      So true! This is all a bunch of getting twisted around the axle over a religious rule – i.e., nobody with mortal sin can supposedly receive the Jesus wafer – when the truth is all of these people, both conservative and liberal Catholics, are in their sin because they are not trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. The prelates and priests condemning Biden are, like him, still in their sin.

      RE: sister

      Thanks so much for your prayers and support. A moving agent is coming over late Wednesday afternoon to give an estimate. I’m going over there tomorrow and Wednesday to clear out some of the hoarder clutter and try to air out the place (extremely strong cat ammonia smell throughout). The agent could very easily decline the job as a bio-hazard. No exaggeration.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know if you have a petco but for cats you will need an enzyme cleaner like Nature’s Miracle Urine Destroyer Light Fresh Scent for Cat. I’ve had friends with cats and if you use ammonia cleaners will actually make it worse.

        Also, we have something similar to this in my area, not sure what this would cost I hope agent won’t decline!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for all of the info, Mandy. I appreciate it. My sister is between a 3 and 4 on the hoarding scale. We may have to rethink this entire project depending on the mover’s reaction. Talked to my sister on the phone today and she said she spent a lot of time over the weekend cleaning out her kitchen cabinets, the absolute LAST priority in this situation, but such is a brain with dementia.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m assuming this hoarding has been before her dementia? For some folks the stuff they can see means more than what they can’t see and so in her mind getting rid of the stuff in the cabinets is easier than getting rid of things she has accumulated. Or feels she has an attachment to it or has sentimental value. I don’t know your sister so not trying to be judgmental. This has been my experience. I will be praying!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thanks for the insights. Hard to relate to how a hoarder thinks. Six years ago she had the whole family over for dinner after my father’s funeral. The last time she had guests for dinner. The smell and disarray were just beginning to get bad. Nobody mentioned the elephant in the room until my big-mouth brother in-law couldn’t contain himself any longer and blurted out, “It STINKS in here.”

        I had a suspicion so I googled “dementia cat feces” and sure enough, researchers have determined there’s a parasite in cat feces that can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s in the elderly. Obviously don’t know if that’s the case. Nauseated after I walk into that house.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I need to stop adding the hot chili oil packet when I make my instant ramen. So good but my stomach can’t handle it like it used to.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. As always with the wafer wars both sides needs the Gospel. Good review. This could have been a better organized topic and I think there’s much to be organzed to talk about Catholics like Biden in government that is not even Catholic-like nor actually Christian in terms of views of ethics and morality. Good post. It also is published 2021 I wonder if the author and publishers rushed to get this into print???

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, brother! I actually “enjoyed” this book for its candid admissions regarding Catholicism’s deepening ideological divide. Good insights into the non-Gospel tug-of-war.

      RE; stream of consciousness text

      It’s as if Faggioli turned on a tape recorder and talked this book into existence. No progression. No structure. Yup, I’m sure it was rushed through to capitalize on the election. It was published January 15th. I’ve noticed Faggioli is increasingly becoming the “go to” source for the liberal Catholic view.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. To me there seems to be MANY more talking heads propagating the conservative Catholic view, but that could be because I spend more time perusing militantly conservative Catholic sources. More fodder to respond to.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting book review, we were actually discussing the changes in the CC since the current pope took office. I may suggest this book to the person I was speaking with. Thank you Tom.
    Totally unrelated question, would you know if evangelical , Ralph Woodrow, has any ties to the RCC?, I have been googling for information the last two days but failed to come up with anything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Crissy. Yes, this book was quite honest about the growing division within the RCC.

      Yup, Ralph Woodrow caused a stir with his about-face in regards to his “Babylon Mystery Religion” book. He lost confidence in Alexander Hislop’s extrapolations, upon which his book was based. I believe Hislop had some good points about the RCC’s pagan origins, but in some particulars he presented conjecture as fact.

      Here’s my brief review of Woodrow’s book and commentary on his flip-flop from six years ago:

      I don’t know if Woodrow drifted into ecumenism after his about-face. The article below claims that he did.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “It was obvious that the pope and Biden were closely aligned on many views, both religiously and politically.”

    That pretty much sums it up, Tom. Those of us who are aware of their views on important Biblical issues can only cringe at times.

    I know that Wikipedia isn’t the best source for information but, in my experience, it seems to lean more left than right when it does seem to lean. Here is a short portion of the “Jill Biden” entry. All one has to do is a bit of math to see that Jill was dating Joe before she got a divorce from her first husband. I’m sure that wouldn’t set well with many Catholics.

    “She met Senator Joe Biden in March 1975.[16][19] They met on a blind date set up by Joe’s brother Frank,[19] who had known her in college,[26] though Biden had seen her photograph in a local advertisement.[16][d] Although he was nearly nine years her senior, she was impressed by his more formal appearance and manners compared to the college men she had known, and after their first date, she told her mother, “Mom, I finally met a gentleman.”[6] Meanwhile, she was going through turbulent divorce proceedings with Stevenson; the court case ended with her not getting the half-share in the Stone Balloon she had wanted.[20] A civil divorce was granted in May 1975.[21]”

    There are other sources that say that this “blind date” wasn’t the first time the two met but I won’t speculate as I really haven’t researched the issue much.

    You also wrote this:

    “A January 2021 survey of U.S. Catholics performed by Pew Research Center found 56% of U.S. Catholics believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.”

    So very sad.

    Thanks for keeping us up to speed on all things Catholic, Tom. I pray that God will open their eyes to the truths found in scripture.

    God’s blessings…

    Liked by 1 person

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