Juxtaposing himself with former President Donald Trump, then-candidate Joe Biden routinely argued that he, unlike the incumbent, as a straight shooter who would not shy away from telling the American people the “truth.”
On her first day on the job on Wednesday, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki pledged to bring “truth and transparency” back to the White House press room.
She then retreated from that promise in the very same briefing.
Owen Jensen, a reporter for Eternal Word Television Network, a Catholic cable television channel, asked a straight-forward question, without the posturing so often seen in the Trump days.
Jensen identified the Hyde Amendment and the “Mexico City policy” as “two big concerns for pro-life Americans.” Both policies, which were strongly supported by the Trump administration, prohibit spending federal taxpayer dollars on abortions, one domestically and the other overseas.
“So, what is President Biden planning on doing in those two items right now?” Jensen asked.
Psaki replied, “Well, I think we’ll have more to say on the Mexico City policy in the coming days. But I will just take the opportunity to remind all of you that he is a devout Catholic and somebody who attends church regularly. He started his day attending church with his family this morning, but I don’t have anything more for you on that.”
As a lawyer might say in court, asked and not answered.
Thus, Biden’s commitment to “transparency” didn’t survive Day One.
An average observer of politics familiar with the Catholic Church’s anti-abortion position might conclude from that exchange that Biden, the “devout Catholic,” would retain the Trump administration’s policy on both of those issues.
That would be wrong.
Leaving aside whatever might soon be said about the Mexico City policy, candidate Biden reversed his support for the Hyde Amendment after 40 years.
Some priests and bishops had denied Biden holy communion for his support for his party’s abortion policies.
Yet it seems that while sincerely practicing Catholics may question Biden’s abortion politics, the Vatican didn’t want to take it on, at least right out of the gate.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, through its president, Archbishop Jose Gomez, penned an open letter to Biden addressing this issue. It was set to coincide with his inauguration.
But one of Pope Francis’s top lieutenants spiked the letter prior to Biden taking the oath of office, apparently after a heated debate in Rome, according to news accounts. The letter, however, was eventually published on the conference’s website.
In it, Gomez wrote, “In a time of growing and aggressive secularism in American culture, when religious believers face many challenges, it will be refreshing to engage with a President who clearly understands, in a deep and personal way, the importance of religious faith and institutions.”
“Mr. Biden’s piety and personal story, his moving witness to how his faith has brought him solace in times of darkness and tragedy, his longstanding commitment to the Gospel’s priority for the poor — all of this I find hopeful and inspiring,” he added.
“At the same time, as pastors, the nation’s bishops are given the duty of proclaiming the Gospel in all its truth and power, in season and out of season, even when that teaching is inconvenient or when the Gospel’s truths run contrary to the directions of the wider society and culture,” Gomez continued.
“So, I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.”
“We have deep concerns about many threats to human life and dignity in our society. But as Pope Francis teaches, we cannot stay silent when nearly a million unborn lives are being cast aside in our country year after year through abortion,” Gomez maintained.
“Abortion is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family. It is not only a private matter, it raises troubling and fundamental questions of fraternity, solidarity, and inclusion in the human community. It is also a matter of social justice. We cannot ignore the reality that abortion rates are much higher among the poor and minorities, and that the procedure is regularly used to eliminate children who would be born with disabilities.”
The archbishop concluded, “Rather than impose further expansions of abortion and contraception, as he has promised, I am hopeful that the new President and his administration will work with the Church and others of goodwill. … I pray that God will give our new President, and all of us, the grace to seek the common good with all sincerity.”
But Psaki, head of the White House’s new “truth” squad, deflected with an opaque non-answer and failed to provide the American people with a clear picture of what our new president plans to do.