A practicing Catholic, Joe Biden does not hesitate to evoke his faith to justify his wish to “heal” a deeply divided country, but his religious convictions may not be enough to achieve the sacred union around the American president.
Second Catholic President in United States history, after John F. Kennedy, Joe Biden displays his faith on his wrist with a rosary worn by his son, Beau, on the day of his death from brain cancer in 2015 .
On Thursday, he kicked off his first day at the White House by attending a virtual church service.
He rarely misses Sunday mass, given in a small church, when he is in his stronghold of Wilmington, Delaware. Proud of his Irish roots, he says his faith is rooted in the tradition of the working class, which promotes humility and truth.
During the campaign, he frequently referred to religion, promising to wage a “battle for the soul” of America after the Trump years.
On Wednesday, he took an oath with his hand resting on the imposing leather-bound Bible his family has owned for 128 years.
Then, in his inaugural address, he quoted Saint Augustine and asked that Americans do not see each other “as enemies, but as neighbors.”
“Today, on this January day, all my soul is devoted to bringing America together,” he said. He also observed a moment of silent prayer in memory of the more than 400,000 U.S. victims of COVID-19.
Before this historic enthronement, he had attended a mass that very morning in the company of Republican and Democratic officials in Congress, as a sign of appeasement.
“His faith motivates his attention to the poor, immigrants and those ignored by society,” Martyn Oliver, an American University religious specialist, told AFP. “Many Americans who did not vote for him will also benefit” from his reforms, he adds.
” Good intentions “
But white Protestant evangelists, who voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, “should continue to oppose the Biden government, perhaps in part because it is Catholic,” said Oliver.
“There is a real chance for moderation and compromise, but the current level of partisan bitterness could make this path very difficult,” said Stephen White, an expert at the Center for Ethics and Public Policy, a conservative Christian think tank.
“Good intentions will never be enough”, he adds, in a text published Thursday.
Because with a fragile majority in Congress, the 78-year-old Democratic president will have to rally beyond his party and convince conservative clerics, while some of his reforms make even his Catholic co-religionists cringe.
Joe Biden professes humanistic Catholicism to defend social, economic and racial justice. He also appears liberal on several very divisive social issues.
Opposed to the death penalty, he wants to abolish it at the federal level and has appointed homosexuals and a transgender person to his government.
He also supports the Supreme Court ruling “Roe v. Wade ”who recognized in 1973 the right to abortion in the United States, undermined under Donald Trump. He promised to perpetuate it by pushing Congress to enshrine it in law.
And he has promised to reverse his predecessor’s decision to deprive organizations supporting abortion of public funds, which makes the Catholic hierarchy bristle.
The president of the conference of American Catholic bishops, José Gomez, welcomed the investiture of a president “who understands (…) the importance of faith”. But he also denounced the Democrat’s policies “which would advance evil and threaten human life and dignity, on subjects such as abortion, contraception, marriage and gender”.
A statement that contrasts with the encouragement of Pope Francis and which does not seem to be unanimous among the American clergy, the Archbishop of Chicago seeing in it a “thoughtless” message, which would have “surprised many bishops”.