White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., October 27, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
White House press secretary Jen Psaki bristled on Wednesday when a reporter asked if President Biden, who is Catholic and pro-abortion, will discuss “the human dignity of the unborn” when he meets with Pope Francis later this week.
Owen Jensen of EWTN, a Catholic news network, asked Psaki during a press briefing if President Biden plans to discuss abortion with the pope when the pair meets on Friday in Vatican City.
“The White House has said they will discuss working together on efforts grounded in respect for fundamental human dignity,” Jensen said. “Will that include the human dignity of the unborn?”
Psaki responded: “Well, Owen, as you know, although you ask me most often if not every time about abortion, but I will say there was a great deal of agreement—”
“Is there a problem with my question?” Jensen asked.
“Let me finish my answer,” Psaki said. “There’s not. You can ask anything you want. But what I wanted to note, since you follow this closely, is that there’s a great deal of agreement and overlap with the president and Pope Francis on a range of issues — poverty, combating the climate crisis, ending the COVID-19 pandemic — these are all hugely important, impactful issues that will be the centerpiece of what their discussion is when they meet.”
“This will be their fourth meeting,” Psaki said. “We expect a warm and constructive dialogue. You are familiar with where the president’s stands. He’s somebody who stands up for and believes that a woman’s right to choose is important. The pope has spoken differently.”
Psaki then tried to take a question from another reporter but Jensen pressed Psaki again: “The pope has said abortion is murder and it’s like hiring a hitman. Does the president agree or disagree with that?”
“You know that the president believes in a woman’s right to choose,” Psaki said. “You’re very familiar with this issue. We’ve spoken about it many times.”
The tense exchange comes months after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to draft a formal document on the meaning of the Eucharist in June after several bishops objected to allowing Biden and other politicians who support abortion to receive Communion.
Shortly after the vote, the church that Biden attends in Washington, D.C., Holy Trinity Catholic Church, said it “will not deny the Eucharist to persons presenting themselves to receive it,” according to Fox News.
Around that time, a CatholicVote poll revealed that nearly three-quarters of church-going Catholics believe public officials who oppose Church teaching should not receive Communion. The results showed 74 percent of Catholics who regularly attend Mass believe that officials such as Biden and House speaker Nancy Pelosi who go against the church’s teaching on abortion and other important issues should not receive Communion.
A large majority of practicing Catholics agreed that politicians who do so are “hypocritical,” while 83 percent believe the officials create confusion and disunity.
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