DETROIT — The head of the Catholic Church in Detroit has been chosen to lead a new national group that seeks to guide how Catholics should respond to President-elect Joe Biden and the contentious issue of abortion.
Archbishop Allen Vigneron, who leads the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, was named this week the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), on the last day of their annual fall meeting.
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who named Vigneron, struck a conservative tone in his remarks in emphasizing abortion and by saying Biden supports policies that "attack some fundamental values we hold dear." Biden spoke last week with Pope Francis in a call seen as a show of unity that was praised by liberal and moderate Catholics.
Now, the Detroit archbishop, who is also vice president of the USCCB, could play a leading role in how the Catholic Church interacts with the Biden administration on abortion and other policy issues.
Experts say the creation of the group signifies that Catholic leaders in the U.S. may be adopting a more hard-line stance toward Biden, a pro-abortion rights Democrat who would be the second Catholic president of the U.S. and has talked often about his faith. Liberal Catholics worry it would put the Church at odds with Biden, the first Catholic elected president since John F. Kennedy.
Biden has "given us reason to believe that he will support policies that attack some fundamental values we hold dear as Catholics," Gomez said on Tuesday during a general assembly meeting, according to a copy of his remarks provided to the Detroit Free Press by USCCB. "These policies include the repeal of the Hyde amendment and the preservation of Roe v. Wade. Both of these policies undermine our 'preeminent priority' of the elimination of abortion. These policies also include restoration of the HHS (Health and Human Services) mandate, the passage of the Equality Act, and the unequal treatment of Catholic schools."
Archbishop Gomez praised Biden on some issues, saying the "President-elect has given us reason to believe that his faith commitments will move him to support some good policies. This includes policies in favor of immigration reform, refugees, and the poor; and against racism, the death penalty, and climate change."
But he added that Biden's support for abortion rights may create "confusion" for Catholics.
"These policies pose a serious threat to the common good whenever any politician supports them," Gomez said. "We have long opposed these policies strongly, and we will continue to do so. But when politicians who profess the Catholic faith support them, there are additional problems. Among other things, it creates confusion with the faithful about what the Church actually teaches on these questions."
"This is a difficult and complex situation," Gomez said. "In order to help us navigate it, I have decided to appoint a Working Group, Chaired by Archbishop Vigneron, and consisting of the Chairmen of the Committees responsible for the policy areas at stake, as well as Doctrine and Communications."