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Pope Francis questioned President Biden’s conscience on Tuesday in an interview during which he described the commander-in-chief’s religious identity and views on abortion as incoherent.
“A month after conception, the DNA of the fetus is already there and the organs are aligned. There is human life,” the pontiff said in the interview with Spanish-language outlet Univision.
Asked about Biden — a self-professed “devout Catholic” who supports blanket legalization of abortion on the federal level — the pope dismissed the president as incomprehensible.
“A month after conception, the DNA of the fetus is already there and the organs are aligned. There is human life,” the pope said in the Univision interview. “Is it just to eliminate a human life?”
He added that Biden should instead question his own conscience and consult with his bishop.
“I leave it to [President Biden’s] conscience and that he speaks to his bishop, his pastor, his parish priest about that incoherence,” the pope remarked.
The pope has been hesitant to directly meddle in politics since the beginning of his papacy — afraid to devolve the Holy See into a normal, secular world power.
Instead, Pope Francis has taken a more pastoral role via his encyclicals and apostolic journeys — many historic in content.
The Holy Father is currently finishing preparations for a trip to Canada, after which he has committed to visiting the war-torn Ukraine. The first-ever apostolic journey to Moscow is also currently being discussed, should Russian authorities allow the visit.
Pope Francis’s resistance to handing down orders to leaders of other nations is not a new concept.
According to Catholic Canon Law, bishops are the final governing authority in their diocese unless the pope personally intervenes.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “A diocesan bishop in the diocese entrusted to him has all ordinary, proper, and immediate power which is required for the exercise of his pastoral function except for cases which the law or a decree of the Supreme Pontiff reserves to the supreme authority or to another ecclesiastical authority.”
While the Bishop of Rome is the final authority on contested religious doctrine, Pope Francis has made efforts to stay out of local or national deliberations on church governance whenever possible.
The office of bishop comes with extensive responsibilities and powers. Perhaps most prominent is the bishop’s responsibility for the pastoral care of Catholics and ex-Catholics in his jurisdiction.
According to canon law, “A diocesan bishop, frequently preaching in person, is bound to propose and explain to the faithful the truths of the faith which are to be believed and applied to morals.”
Canon law continues, “He is also to take care that the prescripts of the canons on the ministry of the word, especially those on the homily and catechetical instruction, are carefully observed so that the whole Christian doctrine is handed on to all.”
However, the pope may not see the canonical corrections he desires for Biden without intervening — Biden and his family attend Holy Spirit Church in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.
The archdiocese is overseen by Cardinal Wilton Gregory, who has gone on record saying that he would not excommunicate a politician for defending abortion rights.
The cardinal has been so averse to addressing the issue further that his office accidentally let slip that they are “ignoring” questions from the media.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., mistakenly emailed a reporter seeking comment on its position regarding the San Francisco archbishop’s decision to bar House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., from receiving Holy Communion due to her stance on abortion after Pelosi reportedly took Communion in D.C. on Sunday.
“Just sharing for you to know what comes in,” the email stated. “Email since Saturday, when I last checked the comms inbox has just been a couple of random people wanting to tell the Cardinal to bring down the hammer on Pelosi. Aside from Jack Jenkins at RNS, this is the only new media inquiry. It will be ignored, too.”
Speaking about the responsibility of running one of the world’s oldest living institutions and the politics that come with it, the pontiff was open about his exhaustion.
“The Holy Spirit gives you many fruits, but no one ever talks about the things that make you numb,” the pope lamented. “And sometimes, you feel you are numb in the face of situations that should make you suffer greatly and make you move, without missing the opportunity”.