Bishops Criticize Vice President Joe Biden for Officiating Same-Gender Marriage

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 4.13.20 PM
Tweet from Vice President Biden of the wedding ceremony

Vice President Joe Biden has been criticized by U.S. bishops for officiating at a same-gender wedding last week.

On Friday afternoon, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops  (USCCB) published a blog post about public officials who officiate at same-gender marriages. Written by three bishops, the post does not mention the Vice President by name but, given the post’s timing, he is most likely one of its targets.

The bishops who authored the post are Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, the USCCB president; Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, chair of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth; and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, chair of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. They wrote:

“When a prominent Catholic politician publicly and voluntarily officiates at a ceremony to solemnize the relationship of two people of the same-sex, confusion arises regarding Catholic teaching on marriage and the corresponding moral obligations of Catholics. What we see is a counter witness, instead of a faithful one founded in the truth.”

The bishops said that faithful witness “will only grow more challenging in the years to come,” alluding to their claims that expanded LGBT rights threaten their religious liberty. They cited both Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia and the pontiff’s address to the U.S. Congress last fall to support their negative position on same-gender marriage. When it comes to marriage equality, it seems some U.S. bishops are willing to reverse their general silence about Francis to use the popular pontiff in their opposition to LGBT rights.

Conservative Catholics have criticized Biden as well, reported Brian Roewe of the National Catholic Reporter. The Lepanto Institute, an ultra-conservative watchdog group, wrote letter to Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. asking whether Biden has  excommunicated himself by his action.  Yet, Edward Peters, a conservative canonist, acknowledged that canon law does not provide for excommunication in such a case.  Peters did suggest, however, that he thought that there are grounds to deny Communion to the Vice President.  So far, Wuerl has not responded, at least publicly, to either charge.

Last Monday, Biden officiated his first wedding, conducted for White House staffers Brian Mosteller and Joe Mahshie. The Vice President, who is Catholic, has a long record of supporting LGBT rights and is credited with pushing President Barack Obama to endorse marriage equality.

Marriage equality is an irreversible given in the United States now. Why do the bishops keep expending their energy and resources fighting this new reality which protects families and expands love? Their opposition to LGBT rights is well-known, as is their public feud with the Obama administration. It is unclear what impact the bishops had hoped for with this blog post–especially since it seems that they took a swipe at the Vice President without directly confronting him. These bishops need to read a little more of Pope Francis’ writings, and reflect a little more on his witness of living out a church that is “home for all.”

I would point them specifically to Amoris Laetitia’s line that church ministers are called to form consciences, not replace them. Like many Catholics who affirm LGBT people and their relationships, Biden seems to have properly formed his conscience and then acted upon it by choosing to officiate this wedding ceremony. And like so many other Catholics, he is witnessing to God’s expansive and ever-present love.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry



19 thoughts on “Bishops Criticize Vice President Joe Biden for Officiating Same-Gender Marriage

  1. Brian Kneeland August 7, 2016 / 1:30 am

    Not surprising they would be critical. Most all of the U.S. Bishops are anti-LGBT people. I’m not sure how not saying they are excommuniccaated and denying them communion are separate things. They are one and the same!

  2. John Hilgeman August 7, 2016 / 1:34 am

    Ah, yes. But nary a peep about the narcissistic, fraudulent charlatan Trump, who lies, spouts bigoted statements, denies climate change, attacks NATO, praises dictators, invites violence, promises tax benefits for rich people like himself, and scares national security leaders with loose talk about nuclear weapons. Not to mention his attacks on immigrants and Muslims. This reveals the moral poverty of these men who pretend to be the moral authorities of the nation. When the celebration of love is condemned but the celebration of selfishness and hate is ignored, there is no moral authority.

    • Loretta August 7, 2016 / 2:05 pm


  3. mrnickvirga August 7, 2016 / 2:50 am

    Well I figured there would be a conservative backlash. They’re obsessed with their rules, the limits they put on God, obsessed with excommunication and an apparent excusivity within Christ’s church. They’re constantly looking around and trying to see who isn’t allowed in anymore! I’m so sick of it!!!

    Also, so many of the US bishops are nothing more than “company men”careerists that seem to have become priests to serve the institution of the church rather than the people of the church. What a shame. They wonder why the mass numbers keep dropping and why barely any Americans go to confession.

  4. lynne1946 August 7, 2016 / 3:51 am

    I’d love to hear what Biden would say to a priest who refused him communion!

    • Wilhelm Wonka August 7, 2016 / 1:35 pm

      He might say: Christ is already in my heart; you have denied me nothing, because you cannot deny Christ’s steadfast love for me.

  5. Thomas August 7, 2016 / 6:10 am

    This tells me that Vice President Biden is more of a Christian , more conciliatory and more empathetic.

  6. poolgirl2 August 7, 2016 / 7:54 am

    For heaven’s sake — I really do not understand the issue as VP Biden is officiating at a civil ceremony. The Catholic Church would not approve of any civil ceremony, even between a man and a woman!

    • Wilhelm Wonka August 7, 2016 / 1:38 pm

      That’s true. It’s also weird, because until the 13th century, ALL marriages by Catholics were civil affairs; there was no sacramental involvement.

  7. Tom Bower August 7, 2016 / 8:19 am

    When will the bishops realize the United States doesn’t have a state religion and the the Catholic church does have something called freedom of conscience. That the Vice president would officiate at the civil marriage of two mature and very much on love individuals is a good thing making the country a stronger place for all citizens to live. That the bishops can’t see this is blindness the size of a log in their eye.

  8. Friends August 7, 2016 / 8:44 am

    Clearly, VP Biden was fulfilling one of his prerogatives, in his legitimate role as a qualified civic official. Are civic officials who just happen to be Catholic not permitted to adjudicate marriage issues which come before them — even if those marriage issues involve matters which fall outside the purview of Roman Catholic theology and religious requirements? The mere notion is totally preposterous. Judicially, Biden had the standing executive authority to do what he did. If the far-right-wing of the RCC doesn’t like it — well, tough. It’s their problem — not his.

  9. Bishop Carlos A Florido, osf August 7, 2016 / 9:33 am

    Bishops living in the Dark Ages! For God’s sake, that was a civil ceremony! Do they want a theocracy?

  10. Barry Blackburn August 7, 2016 / 2:14 pm

    Well said Bob Shine. To be a faithful LGBTQ+ Catholic, one must respectfully decline the self hatred the bishops suggest to impose by their call to obedience. CONGRATULATIONS to Joe Biden. Fidelity to the Gospel, as in this case, means ignoring the letter of the law for the spirit of a wider vision. Conscience speaks louder than the ecclesial law which wants to hand us a scorpion instead of an egg etc.

  11. Father Anthony Borka August 7, 2016 / 3:42 pm

    There was a fear in this country about electing a Catholic to the Presidency because he or she would take orders from the Pope or Bishops. Guess they were right. Good for Biden, shame on the Bishops.

  12. Fred Sarno August 9, 2016 / 12:28 pm

    Will every Catholic judge, justice of the peace, city or town clerk be subject to the same NCCB directives? They are civil and not religious marriages.

  13. Larry August 14, 2016 / 3:34 pm

    When the Bishops chastise VP Biden or any public official who has the CIVIL authority to perform a CIVIL marriage they dog whistle back to Kim Davis. That issue was really one of allowing a civil official to not perform his/her civil duty based on personal religious feelings. That is a theocracy. I assume when the Bishops do this they are thinking that the theocracy will be Catholic which of course increases their power. As was once said, power is the ecclesiastical lust.

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