Amid a number of executive orders and proclamations during his first days in office, President Joe Biden made changes to immigration policy, re-joined the United States to the Paris Agreement, and praised the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade in marking the 48th anniversary of the landmark decision to legalize abortion.
Below is a series of statements and reactions by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops to several of President Biden’s decisions. The statements are taken from USCCB media releases.
Anniversary of Roe v. Wade
In a statement Jan. 22, President Biden and Vice President Harris marked the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which overturned all limiting restrictions on abortion across the nation. In their statement, they called the decision an advancement of women’s rights and health.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities responded:
“It is deeply disturbing and tragic that any President would praise and commit to codifying a Supreme Court ruling that denies unborn children their most basic human and civil right, the right to life, under the euphemistic disguise of a health service. I take this opportunity to remind all Catholics that the Catechism states, ‘Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.’
“Public officials are responsible for not only their personal beliefs, but also the effects of their public actions. Roe’s elevation of abortion to the status of a protected right and its elimination of state restrictions paved the way for the violent deaths of more than 62 million innocent unborn children and for countless women who experience the heartache of loss, abandonment, and violence.
“We strongly urge the President to reject abortion and promote life-affirming aid to women and communities in need.”
Court Decision on Sex Discrimination
In a joint statement, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and four bishops responded to President Biden’s executive order of Jan. 20 that addressed last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga.
The joint statement follows:
“Every person has a right to gainful employment, education, and basic human services free of unjust discrimination. That right should be protected. The Supreme Court’s Bostock decision, however, needlessly ignored the integrity of God’s creation of the two complementary sexes, male and female, with reasoning that treated them as devoid of meaning.
“Wednesday’s executive order on ‘sex’ discrimination exceeds the Court’s decision. It threatens to infringe the rights of people who recognize the truth of sexual difference or who uphold the institution of lifelong marriage between one man and one woman. This may manifest in mandates that, for example, erode health care conscience rights or needed and time-honored sex-specific spaces and activities. In addition, the Court had taken care to note that Bostock did not address its clear implications for religious freedom. Yesterday’s executive order exercises no such caution.
“We are very grateful for the new administration’s actions on immigration and the climate, as well as for another executive order, ‘On Advancing Racial Equity,’ which is nobly aimed at identifying and remedying racism and its impact on society and in government. It is unfortunate that the goal of racial equality is partially conflated with the imposition of new attitudes and false theories on human sexuality which can produce social harms.
“We share the goal of ending unjust discrimination and supporting the dignity of every human, and we therefore regret the misguided approach of Wednesday’s order addressing Bostock.”
Joining Cardinal Dolan in the statement were Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J., of Oakland, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education; Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism; and Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
DACA and Immigration Reform
President Biden issued a Memorandum on Jan. 20 preserving and fortifying the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The DACA program was implemented in 2012 and has enabled approximately 800,000 young people, who paid a fee and submitted to a background check, the opportunity to work legally, access educational opportunities and not fear deportation. It has been estimated that DACA recipients on average contribute over $42 billion annually to the U.S. economy.
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration issued the following statement:
“We welcome the announcement preserving and fortifying DACA. For years, DACA youth have been enriching our country. They are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes and communities. They and their families deserve certainty, compassion, generosity, and justice.
“We applaud President Biden’s restoration of the DACA program, and we also strongly encourage him and the U.S. Congress to immediately enact legislation that provides a path to citizenship for Dreamers. Permanent legislative protection that overcomes partisanship and puts the human dignity and future of Dreamers first is long overdue.
“Protection for Dreamers should only be the first step in the systematic reform of our outdated immigration laws. Now is the time to move forward in a bipartisan manner to fix our broken immigration system.
“We also welcome the President’s efforts to immediately produce an immigration reform bill and look forward to reviewing it. We continue to call for immigration reform which provides a path to citizenship for Dreamers and the undocumented, upholds family-based immigration, honors due process and the rule of law, recognizes the contributions of workers, protects the vulnerable fleeing persecution, and addresses the root causes of migration.
“We stand ready to work with President Biden and his Administration, as well as the U.S. Congress on this urgent matter of human life and dignity.”
Immigrants and Refugees from Muslim-Majority and African Countries
On Jan. 20, President Biden issued a Proclamation reversing the Trump Administration’s policy prohibiting immigrants and refugees from several Muslim-majority and African countries.
In response, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, issued the following statement:
“We welcome yesterday’s Proclamation, which will help ensure that those fleeing persecution and seeking refuge or seeking to reunify with family in the United States will not be turned away because of what country they are from or what religion they practice. This policy reversal signifies the United States’ renewed commitment to our vulnerable brothers and sisters around the world who are in need. It is important to remember that the United States has welcomed the newcomer and those suffering violence and religious persecution for more than 240 years. We look forward to working with this new Administration in accompanying immigrants and refugees and continuing the welcoming tradition, which has helped make the United States the diverse and prosperous nation it is today.”
Immigration Enforcement Policies
President Joe Biden revoked on Jan. 20 Executive Order 13768 of January 25, 2017, on “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” and implemented a 100-day moratorium on certain deportations, allowing for a comprehensive review of current immigration enforcement policies.
Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, issued the following statement:
“Wednesday’s actions by the new Administration are important first steps toward ensuring that immigration enforcement in our country is balanced and humane. Too many people have experienced harsh and heavy-handed enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border and within the U.S. interior, causing families to be needlessly torn apart. Our Catholic faith recognizes the right of nations to control their borders, but we can still uphold the rule of law without denying refuge to the vulnerable, all while recognizing the importance and necessity of family unity.
“We pledge to work with the new Administration as it reviews enforcement policies that preserve our national sovereignty and, at the same time, recognize the inherent human dignity of every person, regardless of immigration status.”
Paris Agreement on Climate Change
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, respective chairmen of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace, and Sean L. Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, have released the following joint statement:
“President Joseph R. Biden announced [Jan. 20] that the United States will rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change. It is our hope that the United States will not only seize this challenge to meet the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, called for by the U.S. bishops in 2017, but also become the global climate leader by implementing successful policies that both preserve the environment and promote economic development through innovation, investment and enterprise.
“On the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, Pope Francis called for ‘a culture of care, which places human dignity and the common good at the center.’ The environment and human beings everywhere, especially the poor and vulnerable, stand to benefit from the care of our common home. For this reason, we urge the United States to do more to help poorer nations adapt to the changes in climate that cannot be prevented.
“The Second Vatican Council asserted that ‘nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in’ the hearts of Christians. Climate change is a genuine human concern that affects all peoples, and the decision to rejoin the Paris Agreement is an important step in the path of care for the environment and respect for the human family.”
(For more information on these and other efforts, including the USCCB’s work in pro-life, immigration, social justice, religious freedom and discrimination, visit www.usccb.org.)
Compiled from USCCB Media Releases