With Biden versus Trump, Catholic voters face a spiritual crossroads

A chronicle of Donald Trump's Crimes or Allegations

With Biden versus Trump, Catholic voters face a spiritual crossroads

In 2020, I wrote an op-ed for the National Catholic Reporter titled “A Catholic Case for Joe Biden.” In it, I quoted Jesus’s command to “love one another.” 

During Donald Trump’s first term in office, he had deliberately violated that commandment by inflaming the political discourse and exacerbating hatred. For example, after white nationalists marched in Charlottesville and killed counterprotestor Heather Heyer, Trump told reporters there were “very fine people on both sides.” 

It was shocking to hear a modern president compliment white nationalists. It was that declaration that caused Joe Biden to seek the presidency with a promise to restore “the soul of the nation.” 

At the Last Supper, Jesus instructed his disciples, “Whoever wants to be a leader among you, must be your servant.” It is a scripture verse that President Biden has taken seriously. 

At a St. Patrick’s Day brunch for Catholic leaders I attended at the White House, Biden said: “We’re all created equal in the image of God [and] every single human being deserves to be treated with dignity.” 

Honoring that command, Biden quickly distributed vitally needed vaccines to end the COVID pandemic. Additionally, the nation’s infrastructure is being rebuilt with the jobless rate below 4 percent, the longest stretch since the Vietnam War. The Inflation Reduction Act drastically reduced the cost of insulin for seniors from hundreds of dollars per month to just $35. That legislation also contained a $783 billion investment to halt global warming. And a temporary child care tax credit enacted in 2021 cut child poverty by nearly half

It is Biden’s call to public service and personal empathy that, as president, helps translate faith into action. 

But the Catholic case for Joe Biden is getting drowned out by those with the loudest megaphones. 

Bishop Robert Gruss of Saginaw, Mich., recently called Biden “a stupid Catholic who doesn’t understand the Catholic faith.” Cardinal Wilton Gregory piled on, criticizing Biden as a “cafeteria Catholic” who prefers some Catholic teachings and ignores others. 

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a senior adviser to the pro-Trump group Catholics for Catholics, writes that we live in a “time of good versus evil, and people need to understand which side of that line they stand on.” At a Mar-a-Lago fundraiser, the group called Donald Trump “the only Catholic option.” 

For these pro-Trump Catholics, the animating issue is abortion. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has described abortion as a “preeminent priority” in 2024. But the world is complicated and so is the issue of abortion. 

When several states, mostly in the South, banned abortion, health care challenges and personal crises arose. In Texas, Amanda Zurawski nearly died twice when her water broke at 18 weeks. A 10-year-old Ohio girl who was raped by a relative had to travel to Indiana to end her pregnancy. 

In Florida, a six-week abortion ban has taken effect, making it more likely that more women there will be denied urgent life-saving medical care. And with the overturning of Roethe number of abortions has increased, reversing a 30-year decline.  

The Bible says at the Second Coming Jesus will turn away from those who refused to feed the hungry, visit the sick, or comfort those who were imprisoned: “Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, you did it to Me.”  

There are many issues conscientious Catholics should consider in 2024. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has named several “grave threats to life”: climate change, gun violence, racism and health care inequities. The Catholic organization Network, founded in 1971 by a group of politically engaged nuns advocating for social justice, describes these issues as “equally sacred.” 

Much has changed since 2020. But two things have not: the characters of the major party presidential candidates. 

Joe Biden adheres to a Catholic faith that was instilled in him as a child. Biden often reminds his audiences that his grandfather used to yell at him as he was leaving their home, “Joey, keep the faith,” only to be countered by his grandmother who replied, “No, Joey, spread it.” As an adult, Biden didn’t turn away from the Catholic Church after having endured unspeakable tragedies but instead found comfort from the priests, the faithful and even the Pope.  

Donald Trump, too, is unchanged. The lies, deceptions, bullying and name-calling are deeply embedded into his character. His encouragement of violence, especially on Jan. 6, 2021, resulted in the deaths of five police officers

Today, Trump is threatening a “bloodbath” should he lose again in 2024. And if he is returned to the presidency, he promises to pardon most of the Capitol rioters whom he calls “hostages.”  

George Washington once said, “The foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality.” But Donald Trump is hardly the personification of such visible virtue. 

He has been found guilty of raping E. Jean Carroll, is under indictment for paying hush money to a porn star and Playboy model to influence the outcome of the 2016 election and faces criminal proceedings for his role on Jan. 6 and his unauthorized retention of classified documents. 

For Joe Biden, 2024 is much more than an ordinary political contest. Commemorating the third anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Biden said: “We all know who Donald Trump is. The question we have to answer is: Who are we?” 

Choosing Donald Trump or Joe Biden tells us much about who we are. And, for Catholics, the questions are: What kind of Catholics are we and what do we believe? 

John Kenneth White is a professor of Politics at The Catholic University of America. His latest book is “Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism.” He can be reached at johnkennethwhite.com