The final night of the Democratic National Convention leaned heavily on the religious faith of nominee Joe Biden, while a Catholic priest was the only speaker to advocate for the rights of unborn children.
“For Joe, faith isn’t a prop or a political tool. I’ve known Joe for about 30 years, and I’ve seen his faith in action,” said Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware.
“Joe knows the power of prayer, and I’ve seen him in moments of joy and triumph, of loss and despair turn to God for strength,” he said.
Coons highlighted Biden’s empathetic nature, saying that the former vice president comforted him when his father was in hospice.
Biden, said Coons, “will be a president for Americans of all faiths, as well as people of conscience who practice no particular faith.”
“Joe’s faith is really about our future, about a world with less suffering and more justice, where we’re better stewards of creation, where we have a more just immigration policy, and where we call out and confront the original sins of this nation, the sins of slavery and racism,” he added. Biden “knows these are central issues in this election, and for him, they’re rooted in faith.”
Although Biden’s Catholic identity has featured prominently during the convention and in several campaign ads, a number of key policy planks in the 2020 Democratic platform are in opposition to Catholic teaching -- including on issues of faith and morals, like the sanctity of life and marriage -- or to the Church’s position on issues of religious freedom and conscience protections.
In his acceptance speech, Biden emphasized the need for national unity, and again invoked his religious faith.
“With passion and purpose, let us begin --you and I together, one nation, under God--united in our love for America and united in our love for each other,” said Biden.
Biden’s use of the phrase one nation “under God” followed the omission of the line in the pledge of allegiance at several caucus events during the Democratic convention. The phrase was dropped during recitations of the pledge at meetings of the DNC’s Muslim and LGBTQ caucuses.
On Thursday night, Biden drew heavily on the emotions he felt following the loss of his son, Beau, and how he coped with the grieving process.
“First, your loved ones may have left this Earth but they never leave your heart. They will always be with you,” he said. “Second, I found the best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose.”
America’s purpose, he said, was “to open the doors of opportunity to all Americans,” and to “be a light to the world once again.”
“To finally live up to and make real the words written in the sacred documents that founded this nation that all men and women are created equal. Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Notably absent on the final night of the convention was any discussion about abortion rights or reproductive justice, despite the Democratic Party’s platform placing heavy emphasis on both, and calling for even more entrenchment of abortion access than the 2016 platform.
Fr. James Martin, S.J., who was one of the three faith leaders selected to pray at the closing of the convention, was the only person to mention “the unborn” during the four-day event.
Martin began his prayer requesting that people “open their hearts to those most in need,” which included the unemployed, women being abused, “the LGBT teen who’s bullied, the unborn child in the womb, the inmate on death row.”
“Help us to be a nation where every life is sacred, all people are loved, and all are welcome,” said Martin.
Also featured Thursday was a prayer by Sr. Simone Campbell, of the Sisters of Social Service, a Catholic religious community, and executive director of the Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, who declined to take a stand on the morality of abortion protections.
“Our agenda is the economic justice issues,” she told CNA earlier this week, explaining that defending the rights of the unborn and opposing legal abortion “doesn’t fit in economic justice, which is our mission.”