In his first speech as President-elect, Joe Biden greeted his victory with sobriety and a spirit of unity, with the same dignity with which in forty years of political life he has accepted his defeats, without becoming embittered. Listening to him, I’m persuaded that he represents a great opportunity for America and the world. He must be helped, he must be given a chance, as he has asked, even by those who have chosen Trump. Or whoever in the world was betting on Trump. He is a sincere Catholic. The second in the White House after J.F. Kennedy. It was moving when in his closing speech he quoted a liturgical song, the wings of the eagle, the wings of hope in God, to which he entrusts his purposes and his action for America and for the world. We need to give him this opportunity with loyalty, by everyone.
Starting with the Catholics, who have indeed voted for him, but they too are divided in half. Traditionalists, the Catholic right that chose Trump, see him as a lukewarm Catholic, because he would support abortion and approve of gay unions. And he doesn’t protect non-negotiable Catholic values. But they are absolutely wrong. Biden, what we could call a liberal Catholic in the European tradition, doesn’t fight for abortion, nor does he approve of it. How could he? But he fights to prevent the death of thousands and thousands of women for clandestine abortions to which the new Pharisean hypocrisy would condemned them. The fight against abortion is waged with a policy that doesn’t leave women alone in the very often difficult challenge of motherhood. With effective sex education, with the support of families towards responsible parenthood. That under certain conditions abortion can be allowed, for a Catholic, is the proven doctrine of the lesser of two evils.
So, Biden is in favor of gay unions. Marriage, as a heterosexual bond for procreative and child-raising purposes, isn’t a matter of faith. Anthropologically it is even more: it is a matter of natural reason, that the Catholic Church assumes as a sacrament so that with the grace of Christ the natural reality of the marriage bond, which for Christians is already her work, becomes “perfect”. It is the sacramental sanctification of the blessing already present in the biblical tradition, but in every human aspiration, to a “happy” marriage. Now, whatever our sexual inclination, we are all children of God, his work, so the point is to offer the possibility of normalized family affectivity even to those who cannot live the marriage bond because of their nature, and not simply because of their whim. Civil unions are for this. And this is not only morally permissible, but also morally advisable. Thus, with respect to a coexistence not regulated by canon law with religious marriage, the Catholic Church recommends at least a civil marriage. This approach isn’t moral laxity, inconsistency of one’s own faith, but an exercise in humanity of which the Church is a teacher. The time is ripe for all Catholics – and Christians – to understand this, perhaps turning their thoughts to Christ who, in preaching to prostitutes and tax collectors, didn’t care about the non-negotiable values of his time, so much so that he chose to end up on the Cross. He only negotiated with his heart, he opened his mercy to everyone. The only thing that we all really in our human weakness.
But there is another important aspect of Biden’s Catholicism that might be an opportunity for America internally and on the world stage. The inner certainty that those who oppose you on a political level, who have other interests and another worldview may well be your opponent, but not your enemy. And that we must always be on the lookout for the moment for salvation and healing from division, because there is a time for everything. He had already stated to all his opponents, that those who didn’t vote for him, “…are not enemies. They are Americans. They are American and I will also be their president”.
But in my opinion, there are two decisive passages in which he made his position clear to the entire world when he stated that, “we will govern not only with the example of our power, but with the power of our example”; so that with him America has made “our best instincts” prevail. A way of saying that there are no chosen nations, but like people, nations don’t always have the best reason on their side, but they must choose. In the current language of populist sovereignty, they don’t come by definition “first”, but always join with others in the shared responsibility of making the Earth a place of peace. Through his Catholic faith, Biden knows that it is the human family as a whole that is elected by God, at least the God that Christians believe in, that Biden believes in. It seems like a valuable message to take away about the cooperative presence of American leadership in the multipolar world of globalization envisaged by Pope Francis in his encyclical, “Laudato si'”.
If this were to mean the start of what today only seems to be utopia – that is, the geopolitical construction of a Christian world, from Russia to the Americas, passing through Europe, of a ‘Christian geopolitical space’ that gives cohesion and weight on the globalization stage to Christian civilization, it would be an epochal event. Not as the concept of a clash of civilizations, the false prophecy of dissolution, but in that of cooperation and competition with other great civilizations– the other great religious and cultural geopolitical spaces, from Islam to Confucianism, to Hinduism that re-emerged with globalization and the Grand Narrative- to govern the human community in peace and development, which is one and only one on a single earth that belongs to everyone, even and above all, to those who will live on it after us.
Discussion about this post