A Church in power but divided | OP-ED
President Biden’s visit to the Vatican found 68 million American Catholics divided.
On Oct. 29, President Joe Biden met with Pope Francis privately for 78 minutes in the library of the Holy See.
The event was of great interest because, on the one hand, he is only the second Catholic U.S. president in history, and on the other hand, his visit took place amid a strong rift within American Catholicism.
These are the recent facts, but Massimo Faggioli knows the background to the story better than anyone else. A writer, historian and theologian, he is the most qualified voice to speak about Catholicism in America, and his book published this year, Joe Biden and Catholicism in the United States, is perfect for putting what is happening in context.
Faggioli unravels the Catholic Church-American democracy relationship in its history and today. He recounts that the U.S. was born as a rejected Protestant religious project that rejected Roman "papist".
In fact, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant hegemony and power marginalized French and Spanish Catholicism, which occupied the territory before the arrival of the Pilgrims.
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The rejection then turned into violence against the Catholic immigrants, whom they saw as a threat turned into votes that were of little benefit to their interests.
This suspicion of Catholics only diminished in the period between World War II and the Second Vatican Council, well into the 20th century.
But, as Faggioli points out, the distrust was two-way, because the Catholic Church always looked askance at the American democratic project, and it was only thanks to pressure from European Catholics who arrived in the country after 1930 that Catholicism began to recognize the moral importance of democracy and American civil liberties — all within a liberal framework and flagrantly anti-communist.
The book makes it clear that today the challenge is no longer to break through in society. Moreover, America is living a particularly Catholic moment, with key players in high state powers. President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Chief Justice John Roberts....
This great Catholic "moment" contrasts with the abysmal split between neoliberal and neoconservative Catholics on issues such as the environment, race, immigration, sexual morality and abortion.
Will liberal Biden be able to build this bridge within the American Catholic Church? It seems difficult.