Joe Biden to meet Pope Francis amid some rifts with US bishops

Joe Biden to meet Pope Francis amid some rifts with US bishops

Washington: There's an intriguing subplot to President Joe Biden's upcoming meeting with Pope Francis. The world's two most prominent Roman Catholics will be celebrating a shared outlook on church teaching and vital social issues even as Biden faces unwavering opposition from many U.S. Catholic bishops over his stances on abortion and LGBTQ rights.

Less than three weeks after Biden's visit to the Vatican on Friday, the American bishops will convene in Baltimore, with one of the agenda items inspired in part by conservatives who contend that Biden's support for abortion rights should disqualify him from receiving Communion. Though any document that emerges is not expected to mention Biden by name, it's possible there could be a clear message of rebuke.

This is way beyond embarrassing, said Massimo Faggioli, a professor of historical theology at Villanova University who recently authored a book about Biden and Catholicism.

For some of the bishops, it's an act of intimidation" toward Biden, Faggioli said. And they have a pope who is protecting a Catholic president's access to the sacraments he's had to send a signal from the Vatican saying, We don't think this is wise.'

The pope upholds Catholic doctrine opposing abortion and same-sex marriage, but he has irked some conservative Catholics in the U.S. and elsewhere by emphasizing other issues that mesh with Biden's priorities protecting the environment, combating racial injustice and poverty, for example.

The pope and Biden see eye to eye on many issues, Faggioli said. But they both are really embattled, facing very strong headwinds ... fighting against different kinds of ideologues.

Biden is only the second Catholic president of the United States., after John F. Kennedy, and displays his faith openly, often wearing a rosary and attending Mass routinely. The devotion dates to childhood; he has expressed gratitude to the nuns who helped bolster his confidence while he struggled with stuttering as a schoolboy.

Wherever there were nuns, there was home, he wrote in his 2007 memoir Promises to Keep. My idea of self, of family, of community, of the wider world comes straight from my religion.

His faith was tested, but not weakened, after his wife and baby daughter were killed in a traffic accident in 1972.

I never doubted that there was a God, but I was angry with God, he told The Christian Science Monitor in 2007.

In that same interview, Biden conveyed why he

considers himself a faithful Catholic despite his views on abortion.

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