The “First Anti-Catholic ‘Catholic’ President” and Notre Dame

Will Joe Biden, the most pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty president in history, be @NotreDame's next Commencement speaker? #GoCatholicND Click To Tweet

The transmogrification of Joe Biden from a defender of Catholic Church teachings to our “first anti-Catholic ‘Catholic’ president,” in the words of Catholic author and commentator Dr. Robert Royal, spells big trouble for the Church, persons of conscience, and the innocent unborn and their defenders.

In this Bulletin, we trace Biden’s metamorphosis, describe how his policies will affect Notre Dame, and conclude with Notre Dame’s reaction to date.

Throughout, remember that in 2016 Father Jenkins awarded Biden the Laetare Medal, an award given to a person whose “genius has illustrated the ideals of the Church.”

As you will see, this bulletin is unusually long. That is because Biden’s destructive program is extraordinarily sweeping. We hope what we say will be worth a few more minutes of your time.

Biden v. Biden – Abortion

Politico’s account of Biden’s radical change of position on abortion opens with this overview:

Biden over 36 years in Congress staked out a reputation as one of the Democratic Party’s most conservative voices on abortion, frequently citing his Catholic faith.

More specifically,

  • “Biden said he believed that ‘abortion is wrong from the moment of conception.’”
  • “He also said he did not believe that ‘a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.'”
  • “Biden voted for the adoption of the Hyde Amendment [prohibiting the use of federal money for abortions] and later opposed efforts to make exemptions…for women who were victims of rape or incest.”

The Hyde Amendment – Biden’s About-Face

When Biden’s reaffirmation of support for the Hyde amendment during his campaign for the Democratic nomination “triggered a tempest involving lawmakers, other 2020 candidates and major progressive groups,” he promptly folded. He no longer supports the country’s most important pro-life public policy.

According to a 2016 report by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, affiliated with the Susan B. Anthony Fund and headed by Charles Donovan (ND ’74), Sycamore Trust’s vice president:

Since 1976, the best research indicates that the Hyde Amendment has saved over two million unborn children.

Biden’s past support of Hyde reflected that of his Party. As Donovan wrote in America Magazine:

The Hyde Amendment…was born in bipartisan consensus in 1976, earning practically equal numbers of votes from Democrats and Republicans. Since then, the Hyde Amendment has been attached to federal spending bills almost every year. The presidencies of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama came and went without major attempts by any of them to “repeal Hyde.”

Now Biden again follows his party in his newly minted opposition to Hyde. For the leftward swing of the Party on Hyde and Biden’s corresponding lurch, see the National Review account by staff writer and Sycamore board member Alexandra DeSanctis (ND ’16) here.

Biden v. Biden – Roe v. Wade

Here’s Biden in 1974 on Roe v. Wade:

I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.

Accordingly, he backed legislation that would have allowed states to overturn Roe and opposed late term and partial birth abortion.

But in a statement two days after his inauguration, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the day designated by President Trump National Sanctity of Life Day, he morphed from opponent to proponent. He declared:

In the past four years, reproductive health, including the right to choose, has been under relentless and extreme attack. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to codifying Roe v. Wade and appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe.

Archbishop Joseph Nauman, the USCCB’s pro-life committee chair, reacted strongly. Noting pointedly, “Public officials are responsible for not only their personal beliefs, but also the effects of their public actions,” he declared:

It is deeply disturbing and tragic that any president would praise and commit to codifying a Supreme Court ruling that denies unborn children their most basic human and civil right, the right to life.

Mexico City Policy — Black Lives Matter!

In a statement a few days later, again exquisitely timed for release on the eve of the March for Life, Biden doubled down on his pro-abortion policy by rescinding the Mexico City Policy.

This policy, established by President Reagan and subsequently revoked and reestablished by Democratic and Republican presidents respectively, barred United States financial support of international organizations providing or promoting abortion.

Mary Fio Rito, a Fellow of Notre Dame’s de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, described the lamentable consequences:

[M]assive amounts of federal funding once again will flow indiscriminately to foreign-aid groups such as Planned Parenthood International and similar organizations whose chief aim is to profit from an increased number of abortions around the globe, including in countries that reject abortion in law.

Little wonder Nigeriam Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama acidly observed,

It is intriguing that one of Biden’s first official acts is to promote the destruction of human lives domestically and in developing nations.

For a searing indictment of Biden’s action by Africans from various nations, see A Message for President Biden: The Unified Voices of Africa. (“This means the elimination of my people.” “This means the death and killing of the most innocent of the African unborn babies.”)

Black lives matter!

The Obamacare Abortifacient / Contraceptive Mandate

Biden has pledged to abolish the exemption that Trump provided for religious schools and organizations from the Obamacare requirement that employers furnish free abortifacients and contraceptives to employees.

This will wipe out Notre Dame’s regulatory defense in the lawsuit by Notre Dame students seeking free abortifacients from the University.

More generally, this action will reignite the tortuous litigation involving scores of religious organizations that had reached Dickensian Jarndyce v. Jarndyce proportions before Trumps’ action. It will again put in jeopardy the Little Sisters of the Poor (Joe Biden v. The Nuns), for goodness sakes!

Title X Funding of Planned Parenthood

Biden has set in motion the procedure to repeal Trump’s order “stripping tens of millions of dollars from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.”

The Geneva Declaration

Finally, Biden has withdrawn from the international anti-abortion “Geneva Consensus Declaration,” which declares that “there is no international right to abortion, nor any international obligation on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion.”

Sex, Marriage, and Religious Liberty – Biden v. Biden

Biden’s repudiation of his past pro-life stance is mirrored by his turnabout on LGBT and religious liberty issues.

As the New York Times has noted, Senator Biden “voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, blocking federal recognition of same-sex marriages” and “voted to cut off federal funds to schools that teach the acceptance of homosexuality.”

That was then. This is now:

Having publicly jettisoned his opposition to same-sex marriage by officiating at such a marriage while Vice President, a mere day into his presidency Biden directed that all federal regulations and policies prohibiting sex discrimination be construed to apply to homosexuals and transsexuals.

For authority, he cited the Supreme Court decision construing the Title VII employment discrimination prohibition to apply to LGBT and transgender employees even though the Supreme Court explicitly cautioned against such an extension of its decision.

The drastic consequences will be bitterly divisive and, absent judicial intervention, will be destructive of religious liberty in schools at all levels, including Notre Dame, and in countless other areas because of the ubiquity of federal anti-discrimination laws and regulations.

Here are two examples:

  • Notre Dame and schools at all levels will be obliged to permit transsexual “women” who are male physically and in sexual appetite to shower with women and girls, share their locker and rest rooms, and room with them in women’s dormitories. 
  • In sports, “men or boys who ‘identify’ as women [will] gain the upper hand.” In track, “women’s running, from the 100m to the marathon, will easily be dominated by men who identify as female [and] contact sports such as women’s rugby will become very dangerous.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan and four other bishops denounced this Biden action for the USCCB. This order, they said,

threatens to infringe the rights of people who recognize the truth of sexual difference or who uphold the institution of lifelong marriage between one man and one woman. This may manifest in mandates that, for example, erode health care conscience rights or needed and time-honored sex-specific spaces and activities.

The “Equality Act”

We have saved what may be the worst for last — Biden’s promise to make enactment of the Equality Act “a top legislative priority.”

This bill, which has strong Democratic support, would add “sex” to all federal anti-discrimination laws and specify that “sex” includes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

We cannot here adequately describe the breathtaking reach of this bill, which would trench upon the religious liberty of countless people in their private lives, employment, businesses, and social and religious activities.

And it would do so in an especially deadly way, because for the first time in any federal legislation it would be exempt from the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act – a move that the USCCB says 

demonstrates the Equality Act’s radical denial of tolerance to people of faith who do not agree to the government’s view of sexuality as established by the Act.

For specific applications of the bill, see the comprehensive analysis by the USCCB here. By way of example, consider abortion. A detailed report by the Charlotte Lozier Institute concluded:

[T]his bill attacks the lives of countless unborn children, endangers Catholic and other pro-life health care providers, provides a basis for challenging all state and federal limits on public funding of abortion, and treats religious believers as second-class citizens who must violate their fundamental moral convictions to serve the goals of the pro-abortion movement.

Consider also the Heritage Foundation’s account of how in other areas the law “would be harmful to religious liberty and to the rights of women, parents, and children.” For example:

  • Faith based adoption agencies would have to place children in transgender and same-sex homes.
  • Homeless shelters and prisons would have to house transgendered males with women.
  • Religious hospitals would have to permit sex-change and hormone surgery.

Notre Dame and Biden – The next Commencement Speaker?

While, as we have noted, USCCB episcopal leaders denounced Biden’s pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty actions, Father Jenkins remained silent. Instead, he issued statements praising Biden’s actions on immigration, DACA, and the Paris Climate Agreement, and he hailed the Mass attended by Biden on Inauguration Day as an “auspicious beginning.”

In contrast, the congratulatory Inauguration Day message by USCCB president Archbishop José H. Gomez included a stern admonition about abortion and religious liberty. The passage, which we reproduce in full in a Postscript below, centered on this warning:

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.

But Father Jenkins has not been entirely silent. He granted an interview in which he pummeled Trump (“almost a caricature”), praised Biden, and hinted that he would likely invite him to be commencement speaker.

While Jenkins acknowledged concern over Biden’s reversal respecting the Hyde Amendment and religious liberty and said “No decision has been made” as to commencement, he underscored Notre Dame’s “long tradition [sic, neither Clinton nor Trump] of welcoming U.S. presidents” and said:

I believe that we can and should welcome elected leaders to our campus, respect what is honorable in their lives and work while we acknowledge where we disagree.

It is hard to believe inviting Biden is under serious consideration. Rather, Jenkins should be thinking about taking back the Laetare Medal.

Honoring Biden would be far more blameworthy than honoring Obama, bad as that was.  Biden’s pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty program is much more sweeping than Obama’s.

And Biden repeatedly professes to be a Catholic. And not only a Catholic, but one who believes that abortion is wrong because it destroys human lives.

If believing that abortion is evil while at the same time promoting and enabling it seems intellectually incoherent and morally bankrupt, that’s because it is.

So, too, would be Notre Dame’s honoring such a Catholic – an act that would be a grave disservice to Notre Dame, to the Church, and, rightly understood, to Biden himself.


Biden’s plan to maximize abortions and to coerce Catholics and others of different faith traditions to violate their religious convictions is unparalleled in its breadth and depth. The Church will be challenged to act as the Church Militant rather than the Church Supine, and a corresponding challenge will be put to Notre Dame.


Excerpt from USCCB President Archbishop Jose’ Gomes/s Statement on the Inauguration of Joseph Biden as President of the United States:

“[A] 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.

“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.

“Our commitments on issues of human sexuality and the family, as with our commitments in every other area — such as abolishing the death penalty or seeking a health care system and economy that truly serves the human person — are guided by Christ’s great commandment to love and to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable.

“For the nation’s bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the “preeminent priority.” Preeminent does not mean “only.” 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.

“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.

“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 good will. My hope is that we can begin a dialogue to address the complicated cultural and economic factors that are driving abortion and discouraging families.

“My hope, too, is that we can work together to finally put in place a coherent family policy in this country, one that acknowledges the crucial importance of strong marriages and parenting to the well-being of children and the stability of communities. If the President, with full respect for the Church’s religious freedom, were to engage in this conversation, it would go a long way toward restoring the civil balance and healing our country’s needs.”

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