JFK and Biden: The Tale of Two Catholics

Amelia Monroe Carlson

On Wednesday, October 7, vice-presidential candidates Mike Pence and Kamala Harris took the stage in Utah for the one and only 2020 vice-presidential debate. During that debate, Democratic candidate Harris touted Joe Biden’s Catholic faith and mentioned that he would be only the second Catholic to ever hold the Oval Office. Her statement was correct. However, the one and only Catholic at this moment to ever become president of the United States was John F. Kennedy. Joe Biden is not the JFK of today. 


Kennedy and Biden are both Democrats. They are both Catholics. They were both raised by faithful women who encouraged and worked to ensure their sons continued in the faith. Biden, like Kennedy did, attends Mass every Sunday. Biden is said to carry a rosary in his pocket everywhere he goes. Kennedy’s mother, Rose, placed rosaries on the beds of her children each night for them to pray. When it comes to abortion, that’s where the two roads divide. 


Abortion was not a topic of stump speeches or debate questions when Kennedy was campaigning. As a result, we do not have public statements from Kennedy regarding his position on abortion. However, we do have a few things that guide us as to how he viewed the unborn. Kennedy did not speak regarding abortion in the United States because it never became a public issue until the late 1960s. However, he DID speak regarding abortion. 

In the book titled JFK, Conservative by Ira Stroll there is a quote from Kennedy where he is speaking about Japan’s use of abortion. 


“Now, on the question of limiting population: as you know the Japanese have been doing it very vigorously, through abortion, which I think would be repugnant to all Americans.”


It is certainly difficult to know how Kennedy would have responded to the abortion crisis in America today with just one simple quote. It is also, truthfully, difficult to know just exactly how Joe Biden feels about abortion since he has spoken too much about the issue – enough to proclaim conflicting views. In 2006, Joe Biden said despite his support for Roe v. Wade, he thought abortions should be rare and called them a “tragedy”. He also said America should be working to “limit the number of abortions.” On the other hand, during a town hall meeting on October 5, 2020, Biden said he would work to make abortion “the law of the land.” 


The Catholic Church has always opposed abortion and CCC 2270-2273 makes it clear that the Church, and those who are Catholic, should strongly oppose abortion. In fact, it counts it as a violation of the Fifth Commandment and provides for the ex-communication of those who procure abortions. With the one statement from Kennedy regarding Japan’s usage of abortion, combined with his devotion to the Catholic Church and his faith – even when at times it threatened his campaign and his presidency – we can surmise Kennedy would have sided with the Catholic Church and been pro-life rather than pro-choice. Based on the recent statements, stump speeches, and debates by Biden we can also come to the conclusion that Biden rejects the Church when it comes to the teachings on abortion and therefore would pave the path to allow others to commit mortal sins, while at the same time committing sins himself by advocating for abortion. 


Actions always speak louder than words and we have actions of both men to reflect upon as well regarding abortion. Kennedy nominated Byron White to the United States Supreme Court during his presidency. When faced with Roe v. Wade, Justice White opposed it. In his dissension, he wrote: 


The Court apparently values the convenience of the pregnant mother more than the continued existence and development of the life or potential life that she carries. Whether or not I might agree with that marshaling of values, I can in no event join the Court’s judgment because I find no constitutional warrant for imposing such an order of priorities on the people and legislatures of the States. In a sensitive area such as this, involving as it does issues over which reasonable men may easily and heatedly differ, I cannot accept the Court’s exercise of its clear power of choice by interposing a constitutional barrier to state efforts to protect human life and by investing mothers and doctors with the constitutionally protected right to exterminate it. This issue, for the most part, should be left with the people and to the political processes the people have devised to govern their affairs.”


The Supreme Court Justices nominated by Kennedy upheld the right to life and disagreed with allowing abortions as the “law of the land”. Recently, President Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett as the next Supreme Court Justice. Barrett’s stand on her faith and pro-life beliefs have been apparent and Biden said that he would work to continue ensuring abortions in the United States if Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade is overturned. Kennedy nominated Justices to the Supreme Court that stood up for the unborn. Biden has adamantly opposed anyone sitting on the Supreme Court that does not support abortion.


The faith of Kennedy and Biden may be the same. The living of the faith is not. Joe R. Biden is not today’s John F. Kennedy.



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