Friday, February 19, 2010

Biden enters Lent with no problem...

Pro-abortion/Pro-contraceptive Vice President Biden received his ashes from the Roman Catholic Church this past Wednesday.


Rick Calohan said...

Maybe he (Biden) was truly repenting and showing an act of contrition since he had not washed it off to show he had been cleansed of his sins. Or maybe for Lent he will be Pro-Life except on Sunday.

A good article on Lent can be found here:

M. Jay Bennett said...

Maybe this is God's way of punishing Biden, since we understand Roman Catholicism to be a damnable heresy.

Leon Suprenant said...

Yes, VP Biden's words and public actions contradict the faith he claims to profess. As a public figure, he gives great scandal.

It's a bit of a leap, though, to use this to bash the Catholic Church (and immediately adjacent to a nice meditation on John 1 to boot!).

The fact that Biden is a [choose the adjective: dissident, heterodox, poorly formed, "cultural," etc.] Catholic is what it is.

All the same, I think he does well to go to church more often and more reflectively, rather than stay home till he converts on life-related issues. (Though he shouldn't receive Our Lord in Communion till he repents--that's a 1 Cor. 11:29 thing!)

There are Christians of all stripes who are off on key issues such as abortion. Catholics haven't cornered the market on that phenomenon.

Lent is a phenomenal season of grace and conversion. After the season of Christmas the Church celebrates the Baptism of Our Lord. And just as Our Lord then went into the desert to fast and pray for forty days, so too Christians throughout the centuries have had this 40-day period of spiritual preparation as we anticipate Holy Week and Easter.

So the question isn't about VP Biden's sincerity in coming forward to receive ashes. It's about our own personal response to the liturgy of the Church.

Here's a reflection I wrote this week on "The Glory of These Forty Days," a traditional, biblically rich Lenten hymn attributed to Gregory the Great, a 7th-century Pope:

Reepicheep said...

Defending the Catholic church's decision to let pro-abortion/pro-contraception members of her fellowship recieve ashes is an option for sure.

Leon Suprenant said...

It's a bigger deal for someone to present himself or herself for Communion who isn't right with the Church. The wayward Catholic should refrain from coming forward till he repents, lest he only makes things worse.

For public figures whose ongoing public actions are at odds with the faith of the Church, the Church does provide for the withholding of Communion for the good of the sinner and for the good of the faithful who might be confused/scandalized by all this.

It is something of a pastoral decision as various factors come into play, but at the end of the day I think you and I would agree not only that the Joe Bidens and Nancy Pelosis of the world shouldn't present themselves for Communion until they repent, but even if/when they do come forward, the Church should not administer the sacrament to them.

On the other hand, coming forward to receive ashes is something anyone (including those who aren't Catholic) can do as a sign of repentance and turning back to God. After all the Church is a rehab center for sinners, not a country club for saints!

Of course, if VP Biden does it only as a photo op to curry favor with Catholic constituents, clearly that would be wrong, but I'm in no position to judge that.

Reepicheep said...


Well said. I'm critical, but not bashing as such.

I still think the church, any church, is responsible when it knows one of it's members is in unrepentant sin, to excommunicate.

Yes it is wrong for Biden to present himself for communion or to receive ashes. But it's also wrong for the RC to keep given both to him when he is in unrepentant sin.

I think the RC Church underestimates the kind of cultural impact she would have if she exercised such discipline.

Fr Andrew Strobl said...

We receive ashes on Ash Wednesday as a sign of our sinfulness. When the ashes are placed on the forehead, the recipient is told, "Remember you are dust and to dust you will return." The wages of sin are death and we all are sinners. The ashes are a sign that someone is in need of the grace of God. Shouldn't the Catholic Church be applauded to allow VP Biden to be ranked among the sinful?

(As Leon mentioned, the ashes are not a mark of membership in the Catholic Church. Non-Catholics are free to admit they are sinners too)

Reepicheep said...

Sin isn't the issue for church fellowship and receiving the means of grace. It's unrepentant sin that is the problem.

It seems Mr. Biden is in unrepentant sin regarding his promotion of abortion, and according to RC's, his promotion of contraception as well. Matthew 18 outlines the process for confronting sin. It further seems Mr. Biden should be denied communion (excommunicated) in accord with Mt. 18.

While receiving ashes isn't the same as receiving the sacrament, it is an indicator that he is still in communicant standing with the RC Church, right? It certainly sends that message to the world. Are excommunicated members of the RC church allowed to come and receive ashes?

Is he still a communicant member? If so, why?

Joe Heschmeyer said...

Luke 18:10-14,
"Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, 'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity--greedy, dishonest, adulterous--or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.'
But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.'
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Far be it from me to forbid anyone from ashes, sackcloth, or whatnot because I don't think that they're really repentant.

Ash Wednesday is a time for humility, and, as Fr. Andrew said, of acknowledging that we, like the tax collector, are poor sinners. From everything we know from Luke 18, the man is STILL a tax collector at the time he prays this prayer. Perhaps the prayer is the first step out, to a more honest profession, or more honest practice within the profession.

I was pleased that somebody was reminding Biden that he's ashes, and will return to ashes. My concern, personally, is that I not be like the Pharisee in that parable, thinking my sins are less offensive to God.

I do agree with you - completely - that outward signs of repentance are designed for authentic genuine spiritual "rending of the heart," and are of no use otherwise. So sin isn't the problem, unrepentant sin is. But Biden's at least making *some* show of repentance here. We'll see if he follows through.

As for Communion, he's been ordered not to receive in his home diocese, and his bishop has stood tough:

Like Leon said, Communion is really different than ashes on the forehead. Canon 915 governs here.

Joe Heschmeyer said...

As for your comment, "I think the RC Church underestimates the kind of cultural impact she would have if she exercised such discipline," I think that there's a lot of truth. There are certainly some spineless bishops who hate having to deal with accusations that they're bringing back the Inquisition every time they exercise Church discipline. Nevertheless, there are bishops like Bruskewitz, Burke and Martino, for example, who really do practice what they preach.

It's worth noting that it's intentionally hard to excommunicate someone, b/c we'd rather err on the side of having people in the Church who should be out, than vice versa.

Reepicheep said...


In many cases repentance can be judged.

Repentance will include turning from a particular act.

Biden has not turned from his promotion of the aforementioned things, in fact, he continues to defend his support of them.

This isn't an issue of a fellow humble sinner making general confession of his sinfulness like the tax collector in your reference. This is a guy who has consistently remained steadfast in his support and promotion of sin he should stand against.

Granted, maybe this act of receiving ashes was his statement of repentance? OK, lets hear that...but it's Saturday and no word yet on his changed position and plans to vote differently in the future...

We don't know the "rest of the story" regarding the tax collector in Luke 18. I think he probably did like Zaacheus, another fellow repentant tax collector in Scripture. Zaacheus changed his course and even made restitution.

Fr Andrew Strobl said...


I don't see where our disagreement is anymore.

Giving Biden ashes is only scandalous if the distribution of ashes is misunderstood. Since the act of receiving them is not a statement of full union with the Catholic Church (since reception of ashes is open to non-Catholics) or a badge of pride (the mark means that the person is a sinner and will die and only has hope in Jesus Christ), why would the reception of ashes itself be scandalous? Hopefully, it is a first step of repentance for anyone who receives ashes. There may be a lot of valid gripes with how the Catholic Church conducts herself...who gets ashes on Ash Wednesday is a bit of a reach though.

The matter of receiving Holy Communion is an entirely different issue. As Joe mentioned, Biden's home bishop has asked him not to receive Holy Communion. Does that go far enough? Well, it hasn't gotten Biden to publicly repent and change his ways so that is certainly open for discussion. There should be no question though where the Catholic Church stands in regards to the sanctity of every human life. If the disciplinary process for Biden or any other pro-Abortion politician is scandalous, I truly am sorry. We should all pray that more is going on behind the scenes. We wait with a prayerful eagerness that something like what happened with Governor Sebelius in Kansas might occur:

Be assured though, no one is entering Lent "with no problem." We all sin. We all have to make an account of our sins. We all have to make the difficult road to the Cross and tell our Savior if we are going to leave him too.

When it comes to Holy Communion, we especially don't get a free pass (ref. 1 Cor 11:27-29).

- Fr. Andrew

"There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church....As a matter of fact, if we Catholics believed all of the untruths and lies which were said against the Church, we probably would hate the Church a thousand times more than they do." - Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Leon Suprenant said...

If this is about VP Biden's apparent unrepentance and lack of integrity in his Christian walk, I'm totally with you.

One commentator near the beginning seemed to connect his pro-abortion politics with his being a Catholic, which seemed to me to be a gratuitous slam of the Church.

My own temptation/sin in this regard is that I tend to write people off when they seem hardened in their views. Yet I think here there's a certain wisdom and goodness in not completely locking VP Biden or any other notorious sinner out of the church (despite the need in extreme cases to withhold Communion).

As has been true throughout salvation history, "sackcloth and ashes" indicates a penitential posture before God. VP Biden's interior disposition in doing it may be more out of observance than true repentance, but we don't know that.

While we know God can reach anybody anywhere, maybe this penitential act could open him up to true conversion, which may be gradual and only reflected in his public life later.

The same could be said about his going to a talk at your church. Assuming he's not disruptive, you wouldn't have one of your bouncers kick him out, even if there's no apparent change right away. You'd be planting seeds and the Lord would provide any increase.

Anyway, you're right, the proof is in the pudding. For some, as Coach Haley would say, it's more of a "process." I remember after my conversion in the 1980s I still clung for nearly a year to a "personally opposed but" approach, but friends didn't give up on me, and the prayers and support of the Church were huge in bringing me to the fullness of truth.

One last thing, I'm with you 110% when it comes to men's figure skating!!!

Reepicheep said...

Fr Andrew and Leon,

Thanks for your thoughtful responses. I appreciate your perspective.

Make no mistake, while I wish more bishops would engage various RC politicians like Biden, I am exceedingly appreciative of all the Roman Church does for the cause of life. One of my church members is a KS house rep who is a leader in penning pro-life legislation. Without fail his strongest supporters and co-laborers are RC politicians. Further, I know for a fact the Kansas Catholic group (not sure what the name is) holds RC politicians accountable for their votes, etc. I only wish evangelicals would be so bold with her members.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled on this exchange re: Biden and ashes on Ash Wednesday. I appreciate the perception that he may be exhibiting repentance, especially in regard to his pro-culture of death positions but I offer an alternative view. His ashes are nothing more than a typical Joe Biden public exploitation of his Catholocism and what is somewhat routine practice for Catholics on Ash Wednesday - get ashes on your forehead. I sincerely doubt that there was any internal spiritual process or examination of conscience or a meditation on his eventual return to dust. I for one do not suffer the delusion that Joe Biden is capable of such self-examination or awareness. Have you heard him speak??? Joe Biden is representative of the majority of modern or "progressive" Catholics, he is committed to "social justice", i.e., the destruction of personal responsibility, capitalism, Americanism; promotion of the redistribution of wealth; embrace of the homosexual agenda; and the establishment of a permanent two class America: the elites (like him) and the dependent masses. (Not unlike the RC Church hierarchy and the faithful.)

The pro-life members of Holy Mother Church are a vilified minority - labeled "one issue voters", that pesky life thing, who are shunned and barred from serving on parish governing boards. Rather, many parish priests prefer to equate life issues with welfare issues. Did you note what the RC Church did to Matt Blunt in MO when he cut revenue to unnecessary welfare programs? A Catholic who embraces sin such as is done so publicly by Biden, Pelosi, the Kennedys, Kerry, Leahy, Sebelius, Fr. Pfleger, etc., do in fact excommunicate themselves. But the Church bears the responsibility of making it stick and they have not done so, rather offering such pablum as "we do not know what is in his/her heart." I do not care what is in their heart - I see what they do and I see how silent is the Church. What message does this send to the world?
Roman Catholicism is not damnable heresy - it is the original church of Our Lord descending from Peter, the first Pope. But it has lost its way - again.

Stephanie Williams

Zach said...


I think you go quite a bit too far in claiming that "The pro-life members of Holy Mother Church are a vilified minority - labeled 'one issue voters', that pesky life thing, who are shunned and barred from serving on parish governing boards."

You don't seem to be a practicing Catholic, so I'm not sure whence you are getting your data, but I assure you that it is absurdly skewed.

I'm not familiar with the Matt Blunt episode that you describe (actually, you don't describe it, but merely insinuate that the Church did something really, really awful to the former governor), but I can tell you that the bishops of KCKS, KCMO, and St. Louis have all barred pro-abortion politicians from receiving communion. Bishop Finn of KCMO even went so far as to say to those Catholics supporting Obama: "Give consideration to your eternal salvation."

Are there rogue priests out there who would condemn pro-lifers? Probably, although I've never encountered them. On the contrary, I've encountered dozens and dozens of faithful pro-life priests.

Are there bishops whose actions in defense of life don't always rise to the bravery of their words? Certainly. But there are many more who have been bold in their support of the pro-life cause.

And how can you say that someone like Joe Biden is incapable of repentance and conversion? Quite frankly, you think too little of the sovereign power of God -- the God whose grace won the hearts of hardened sinners such as Paul, Augustine, you, and me. With respect to the pro-life movement in particular, I would invite you to lookup the conversion stories of Bernard Nathanson and Norma McCorvey. With a God like ours, we must never presume that anyone is a lost cause!

Woody Woodward said...

Some mighty good thought provoking stuff from some new Reepicheep responders.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate Zach's comments but I respectfully disagree. Perhaps Zach might want to talk to Fr. Frank Pavone sometime, or the Schindler family (or read their books), or read Fr. Tom Euteneur's columns on Human Life International. These are lifelong Catholics who have done battle with their brethren for years. They are not wrestling with Muslims or Protestants, they are trying to reach and convert the hearts and souls of Catholics, especially priests! With regard to Joe Biden - all I have to do is observe what he does. If living out of communion with the Church's teachings, and doing so publicly for so long and in a manner that denies compassion and justice to innocents, and then saying an act of contrition as the veil of death closes, well I'm sorry that is not a life lived as Christ commanded. If Joe Biden and Pelosi and all the rapacious homicidal philandering Kennedys, and all the others, repent at some undetermined point in time then surely redemption will be sweet for them. But what of their victims?

And Zach, if our local Bishops and clergy are so fervently and unashamedly pro-life then why was Fr. Pavone denied a forum when he was here in 2007 and shunted off to an obscure parish in Grandview to concelebrate Mass and offered a table in the foyer for brochures? I attended a Protestant conference in FL a few years ago and these folks knew Frank Pavone and gave him standing ovations and Amens. They lined up to meet him and buy his books. He's a superstar to them. Catholics don't know him and don't want to know him.

You might want to wash those scales from your eyes and embrace the Truth. I know of what I write and have been there and done that. I challenge you to read "Good Bye Good Men" and "Ugly as Sin." Or continue to live in denial and never become an agent of change. Good luck in your journey of faith.


Zach said...


This is really not a hard one to grasp. Yes, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, the Kennedys, et al are bad folks. We agree on that. They are headed down the road to perdition. You, however, go a step further and express doubt that someone like Biden is "capable" of repentance. That's a foolish, offensive, and manifestly untrue position that betrays a lack of trust in God's manifold mercies. God can bring any person to repentance.

And as for Father Frank Pavone, again I can't comment on your oblique, provincial anecdotes of woe from Anywhere, Missouri. Maybe the parish in Grandview invited Fr. Pavone. All I know is that Fr. Pavone was installed in his current position at Priests for Life by the late Cardinal O'Connor, Archbishop of the largest diocese in the nation, he hosts a worldwide television program on EWTN, he travels the world speaking and offering masses at Catholic parishes (read the praise offered by dozens of bishops at the Priests for Life website), and he's been given permission by the Bishop of Amarillo, TX to start a new community of priests. I'd say (and I think he'd say) that his support among Catholics is very strong.

By the way, are you SSPX?