Anti-LGBT+ Catholic leaders have demanded that president-elect Joe Biden “repent” his support for same-sex marriage and abortion.
The president-elect is set to become only the second Catholic president in US history after John F Kennedy when he takes office in January.
Biden, who is both a devout Catholic and a strong strong supporter of LGBT+ rights who has vowed to try to pass non-discrimination protections, is significantly out of step with the conservative Catholic orthodoxy in the US.
Bishops have voiced scepticism over Biden’s viewpoints, distancing themselves from the incoming president.
Texas bishop Joseph Strickland went further than most on Friday (19 November) as he tweeted: “As a bishop I beg Mr Biden to repent of his dissent from Catholic teaching on abortion and marriage for his own salvation and for the good of our nation.
“He aspires to the highest office in our land and must be guided by the truth God has revealed to us. I pray for him to find truth.”
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops also had icy words for Biden.
Los Angeles archbishop José Gomez, head of the body, said: “For only the second time, we are anticipating a transition to a president who professes the Catholic faith. This presents certain opportunities but also certain challenges.
“The president-elect has given us reason to believe that his faith commitments will move him to support some good policies. This includes policies of immigration reform, refugees and the poor, and against racism, the death penalty, and climate change.
“He has also given us reason to believe that he will support policies that are against some fundamental values that we hold dear as Catholics.”
Gomez cited Biden’s support for the Equality Act, which would amend civil rights laws to outlaw discrimination against LGBT+ people.
The archbishop insisted: “These policies pose a serious threat to the common good whenever any politician supports them. We have long opposed these polices strongly and we will continue to do so.
“When politicians who profess the Catholic faith support them there are additional problems, and one of the things it creates confusion among the faithful about what the Church actually teaches on these questions.”
Gomez said the body would set up a working group, chaired by the anti-LGBT+ archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron, to manage the “difficult and complex situation”.
It is possible that church leaders could take the provocative stance of ordering that Biden should be denied holy communion, as some archbishops have previously for politicians who support equal marriage and abortion.
Thomas Groome, a theology professor at Boston College, said it is likely that conservative bishops would push for the measure, even though polling suggests Biden’s views are shared by the majority of US Catholics.
He told AP that the archbishop’s statement was “dreadfully unfortunate” and said the bishops “should be helping bring us together rather than driving us apart”.