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Bishops: Biden created confusion over church teaching, a ‘counter-witness’ for presiding at wedding


WASHINGTON — By officiating at a same-sex wedding, Vice President Joe Biden as a prominent Catholic politician has created confusion over church teaching on marriage and “the corresponding moral obligations of Catholics,” three U.S. bishops said Aug. 5.

“Questions revolving around marriage and human sexuality are deeply felt in our homes and communities,” said the bishops. “We join with our Holy Father Pope Francis in affirming the inviolable dignity of all people and the church’s important role in accompanying all those in need.

“In doing so, we also stand with Pope Francis in preserving the dignity and meaning of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was joined by two USCCB chairmen in writing a blog post about Biden presiding at a same-sex wedding of two longtime White House aides Aug. 1. The posting is on the USCCB blog, http://usccbmedia.blogspot.com.

Signing on to the blog were Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“The two strands of the dignity of the person and the dignity of marriage and the family are interwoven. To pull apart one is to unravel the whole fabric,” they wrote.

“When a prominent Catholic politician publicly and voluntarily officiates at a ceremony to solemnize the relationship of two people of the same sex, confusion arises regarding Catholic teaching on marriage and the corresponding moral obligations of Catholics,” the prelates said. “What we see is a counter-witness, instead of a faithful one founded in the truth.

“Pope Francis has been very clear in affirming the truth and constant teaching of the church that same-sex relationships cannot be considered ‘in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family,’” they continued, quoting from “Amoris Laetitia,” the pope’s apostolic exhortation summing up two synods on the family.

Referencing “Faithful Citizenship,” the bishops’ quadrennial document on political responsibility, the three prelates also noted that “laws that redefine marriage to deny its essential meaning are among those that Catholics must oppose, including in their application after they are passed.”

“Such witness is always for the sake of the common good,” they added.

Archbishops Kurtz and Wenski and Bishop Malone also quoted from Pope Francis’ address to Congress last September: “He reminded us that all politicians ‘are called to defend and preserve the dignity of (their) fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.’”

“Catholic politicians in particular are called to ‘a heroic commitment’ on behalf of the common good and to ‘recognize their grave responsibility in society to support laws shaped by these fundamental human values and oppose laws and policies that violate (them),’” the three added, again quoting from the pope’s words to U.S. lawmakers.

According to AP, the wedding of Joe Mahshie and Brian Mosteller took place at the vice president’s official residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory. The two asked Biden to officiate, AP said, adding that the vice president had to get a temporary license to do so from the District of Columbia to make the marriage legal.

In 2012, Biden said as a Catholic he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex couples marrying, adding they should get “the same exact rights” heterosexual married couples receive. Shortly after that President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage. In a June 2015 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in the nation.

Biden also has long-supported keeping abortion legal.

In their blog post, Archbishops Kurtz and Wenski and Bishop Malone said that “faithful witness can be challenging — and it will only grow more challenging in the years to come — but it is also the joy and responsibility of all Catholics, especially those who have embraced positions of leadership and public service.”

“Let us pray for our Catholic leaders in public life, that they may fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to them with grace and courage and offer a faithful witness that will bring much needed light to the world.” The three bishops said. “And may all of us as Catholics help each other be faithful and joyful witnesses wherever we are called.”

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Morality and ethics must guide medical research, pope says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Moral and ethical concerns must guide medical research so it will always be at the service of protecting human life and dignity, Pope Francis said.

In that way, education and research can strive “to serve higher values, such as solidarity, generosity, magnanimity, sharing of knowledge, respect for human life, and fraternal and selfless love,” he said April 29, during an audience with people taking part in a conference on adult stem cell research.

Pope Francis greets U.S. Vice President Joe Biden after both spoke at a conference on adult stem cell research at the Vatican April 29. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis greets U.S. Vice President Joe Biden after both spoke at a conference on adult stem cell research at the Vatican April 29. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

“Research, whether in academia or industry,” he said, “requires unwavering attention to moral issues if it is to be an instrument which safeguards human life and the dignity of the person.”

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in attendance and had addressed the conference with a 29-minute speech on the need to invest in prevention, access and affordability in the fight against cancer.

The conference looked at current and experimental techniques in using adult stem cells to fight disease, specifically rare illnesses afflicting children. The April 28-30 conference was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture; its foundation, STOQ, which is an acronym for Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest; and the Stem for Life Foundation, a nonprofit offshoot of the for-profit Caladrius cell-therapy company.

Speaking to participants gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall, the pope highlighted the conference’s emphasis on top-notch medical know-how without overlooking the “ethical, anthropological, social and cultural questions, as well as the complex problem of access to care for those afflicted by rare conditions.”

People struck by rare diseases “are often not given sufficient attention because investing in them is not expected to produce substantial economic returns,” the pope said.

The pope repeated his call against “an economy of exclusion and inequality that victimizes people when the mechanism of profit prevails over the value of human life.”

“This is why the globalization of indifference must be countered by the globalization of empathy” so that resources will be dedicated to finding cures and people will be allowed access to treatment, he said.

“We know that we cannot always find fast cures to complex illnesses, but we can be prompt in caring for these people, who often feel abandoned and ignored,” he said. People must be sensitive to everyone regardless of their religious beliefs, social standing or cultural background, he said.

In his speech, delivered before the pope arrived, Biden spoke about the attention and comfort he felt when the pope met him and his family privately during the papal visit to the United States in September.

Biden lost his 46-year-old son, Beau, to brain cancer in May 2015. The vice president said that during the private meeting in an airplane hangar in Philadelphia, the pope’s words, prayers and presence “provided us with more comfort than even he, I think, will ever understand.”

Biden, a parishioner at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church in Greeneville, Del., said his family, like many others around the world, have seen “how faith can turn loss into hope, and hope into action.”

“The Holy Father has given hope to so many people, of all faiths, in every part of the world, with his strong words and humble ways,” he said.

Biden spoke about the U.S. administration’s “Moonshot,” an initiative he leads and which is aimed at eliminating cancer through prevention, including from environmental causes, and greater access to healthcare and affordable treatment. “The best medicine and treatment can’t belong only to the privileged and the powerful. It has to belong to everyone,” he said.

“Cancer is a constant emergency,” Biden said, as it causes the deaths of 3,000 people a day in the United States.

He urged researchers and scientists to share and publish data and discoveries “immediately,” and not hide it for years behind “paywalls.”



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Cardinal Wuerl, Biden among speakers at Georgetown interfaith peace forum


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Even though he wasn’t on the program, Vice President Joe Biden stole the show at a Georgetown University program promoting peace in wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

Laila Brothers, a Georgetown freshman, had just given a moving reflection about being Muslim and her hijab-wearing mother feeling as if she had “a target on her back” in the month following the terror attacks.

Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Dec. 16 forum, billed as "Interfaith Gathering for Solidarity, Understanding and Peace," at Georgetown University in Washington. (CNS photo/Georgetown University)

Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Dec. 16 forum, billed as “Interfaith Gathering for Solidarity, Understanding and Peace,” at Georgetown University in Washington. (CNS photo/Georgetown University)

Brothers talked about how Republican presidential aspirant Donald Trump had suggested that Muslims wear a badge to identify them to others. She added how she wanted to spare her mother the stress that comes with wearing the hijab. Her mother’s response: “If they’re talking about Muslims wearing a badge, I already have a badge. My hijab is my badge.”

While Brothers was receiving applause after her remarks, Biden walked up onto the stage and greeted some of the other participants at the Dec. 16 forum, billed as “Interfaith Gathering for Solidarity, Understanding and Peace,” but gave Brothers a warm embrace.

Stepping to the microphone, he said, “My name’s Joe Biden, and I align myself with the words of this courageous young woman.”

Then, using only index cards as reference points, he spoke for nearly as long as the other speakers combined. Among those speakers was Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, who was quoted by Biden at one point during his remarks.

The immigrants who came “in waves” to the United States, Biden said, told themselves, “We don’t know the language. We’re not sure if they want us, but let’s go.”

Those immigrants, Biden added, had “the greatest fortitude, the greatest courage, the greatest sense of optimism.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, also attended the event but did not speak.

Cardinal Wuerl, in his remarks, reflected on the parable of the good Samaritan, which was read as part of the gathering.

While “e pluribus unum,” out of many, one, embodies the American idea in a legal framework, he said, when looking at the nation “through the eyes of faith,” Cardinal Wuerl said, it is incumbent for each person who answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

“We are part of one great human family,” Cardinal Wuerl added.

Imam Talib M. Shareef, president of the Nation’s Mosque, Masjid Muhammad, in Washington said that when God created Adam, the first man, “Adam’s own identity was not a racial identity. His identity was not a national identity. His identity was not an ethnic identity. The identity was human.” From that, the imam added, “that has to be the most important identity” when governing relationships with all other people.

“The idea of Genesis,” the first book of the Bible, “is that we are created in the image of God,” said Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, senior rabbi of the Washington Hebrew Congregation.

He acknowledged how some have used their faith’s sacred scriptures to justify violence. But, he said, “if it can be used to teach hate, it can also be used to teach love.”

The gathering was the idea of Georgetown’s president. John DeGioia, who declared his intent to sponsor a forum exactly one week after the San Bernardino shootings. The event was held exactly one week after his announcement, as Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh clergy quickly committed to participating.

DeGioia had declared beforehand, “We shouldn’t let this moment go without an expression of solidarity by the university,” said John Carr, director of Georgetown’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought & Public Life, before the event began. “Look at the turnout. You can see it’s the A-team,” he added, referring to the assembled clergy.

Despite the quick turnaround time, a 500-seat auditorium on the Georgetown campus was nearly filled, even though students, a reliable source of bodies for many a school’s events, had been dismissed the week prior after final exams.

At the gathering, DeGioia remarked on how the event was imbued with “a spirit of unity and solidarity with all members of the global family.” He said such a gathering was needed to enhance “the common good,” adding that it was necessary for it to be a sign “of where we are” and “what we would expect of ourselves.”


Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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‘Nuns on the Bus’ tour gets a boost from Biden


DES MOINES, Iowa — “We the people, we the voters” is the theme of the third “Nuns on the Bus” tour, which kicked off Sept. 17 in Des Moines with Vice President Joe Biden thanking the sisters for their effort.

The sisters began a 10-state tour promoting voter registration and participation in the political process.

“With the vice president, we share faith and a commitment to democracy,” said Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service, who is the executive director of Network, a nonprofit Catholic social justice lobby.

To Sister Simone, Biden said, “I want to thank you and all your colleagues for your commitment and fight for basic economic rights.”

“It gives me renewed faith,” he said on the steps of the Iowa Capitol. “It’s been a great honor to work with Sister Simone over the years on so many critical issues.”

Two years ago, the “Nuns on the Bus” tour began in an effort to discuss the ramifications of a budget proposal of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, which they said would have hurt social service programs that help the poor. Last year, the tour focused on immigration reform.

This year, the focus is on voter registration.

In the last eight years, there were 81 pieces of legislation in state capitols across the country that would have curtailed people’s right to vote, he said.

“The nation is strongest when everyone’s voice is heard and everyone has a seat at the table,” Biden said.

Referring to Sister Simone’s book, “A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community,” he concurred with her that the U.S. Constitution does not refer to “We the rich,” “We the politicians” or “We who got here first.”

“The Constitution is about ‘We the people.’ It sounds corny but that’s exactly what it is,” said Biden. “That’s why the work to increase voter registration is so important.”

Biden began his remarks noting he had 12 years of Catholic schooling.

In her introduction of the vice president, Sister Simone said, “With the vice president, we share faith and a commitment to democracy.”

The monthlong tour is to cover 5,252 miles and go from Iowa to Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia and Colorado. Network plans 75 events in 36 cities.

Sisters taking part in the Iowa leg of the “Nuns on the Bus” tour, organized by Network, included: Mercy Sister Kathy Thornton, of Cedar Rapids; Sister Mary McCauley, a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of Dubuque; Sister Marge Clark, also Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is from Dubuque and works with Network; three members of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary — Sisters Elaine Hagedorn and Marilyn Jean Hagedorn, both of Des Moines, and Bea Snyder, of Dubuque; Sister Marge Stout, a Dubuque Franciscan living and ministering in Sioux City; Franciscan Sister Jan Cebula, of Clinton; and Sister Rochelle Friedman, a Sister of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of Dubuque.

— By Anne Marie Cox and Kelly Mescher Collins


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Biden visits Guadalupe shrine, speaks of mother’s devotion


Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY — Vice President Joe Biden prayed at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe while visiting Mexico City and later told reporters he would have stopped at the shrine even if he had no official business in the Mexican capital.

Biden visited after meeting with Mexican politicians and political candidates March 5. He knelt before an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and later spoke of his mother’s devotion to Mary.

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