Biden says he ‘admired’ Pope Benedict, recalls conversation about Aquinas


U.S. President Joe Biden / Credit: White House – Public Domain

Denver, Colo., Jan 4, 2023 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

President Joe Biden on Wednesday professed his admiration for the late Pope Benedict XVI, who died on Dec. 31, recalling their meeting in which they discussed Catholic theology.

“What did Pope Benedict mean to you as a Catholic?” EWTN White House correspondent Owen Jensen asked Biden on Jan. 4.

“I had an opportunity to spend some time with Pope Benedict, a couple of hours and he was a great. … And reminded me of going back to theology class,” the president responded. “We spoke about Aquinas and about [the] Summa Theologica,” he said, referring to the medieval theologian St. Thomas Aquinas and his influential capstone work.

The president reflected on Pope Benedict: “I found him to be relaxing, very rational, and he had a more conservative view within the Catholic realm than I have. I’m closer to the present pope in terms of his philosophy, his view.”

“But I admired him, I thought he was a fine man,” Biden said.

As U.S. vice president, Biden met with Pope Benedict XVI in an unannounced visit to the Vatican on June 3, 2011. At the time of the visit, neither Biden nor the Vatican press office spoke about what was discussed at the meeting.

Biden did not specify in what matter he is closer to the views of Pope Francis than to those of Pope Benedict XVI.

The Catholic president has become a staunch backer of legal abortion, a position that Pope Francis has described as an “incoherence.” Last year in an interview with Univisión and Televisa broadcast July 12, Pope Francis said the president should talk to his pastor about this.

“Is it just to eliminate a human life?” the pope asked.

Catholic opposition to abortion dates back to the earliest days of Christianity.

Catholic critics of the president, including some bishops, have pressed the question of whether he should be admitted to holy Communion, given his support for legal abortion.

While Biden has claimed Pope Francis told him to continue to receive Communion, the Vatican has declined to clarify this point.

Biden’s differences with the “conservative” Pope Benedict also included the Iraq War, which the U.S. launched in 2003 after a long debate. In 2002 Biden was among 77 U.S. Senators to vote to authorize the use of military force against Iraq, a position the future president backed away from as early as 2005.

Pope John Paul II vocally opposed the American war on Iraq, and then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, speaking in a personal capacity, echoed many of these criticisms. He rejected the idea that just war theory justified “preventive war” and spoke of the need to rely on the final decision of the United Nations.

Though the Iraq War removed the harsh government of Saddam Hussein, the conflict and its aftermath killed hundreds of thousands of combatants and civilians and destabilized the region.

In a Dec. 31 statement, Biden praised Benedict XVI as “a renowned theologian” and “an inspiration to us all.”

In his Wednesday exchange with President Biden, EWTN’s Jensen asked the president why he wasn’t attending Benedict XVI’s funeral.

“The reason I’m not attending the funeral tomorrow is because it takes an entourage of 1,000 people to show up,” the president responded. “Not literally, but we would move everything in the wrong direction. And I inquired about that.”

“People are sending most of their apostolic delegates, their folks in Rome,” Biden said in an apparent reference to countries’ embassies to the Vatican.

“We would just get in the way, but I’ve made my views known,” Biden said. “At any rate, I think he was a fine man.”

In response to a question from EWTN News on Jan. 3, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said that “the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Joe Donnelly, will represent the United States at the funeral of the pope in line with the wishes of the late pope and the Vatican. This is what their requests were.”

The Vatican’s press office has confirmed that only two official state delegations, those of Italy and Germany, were invited to the funeral of the late pope emeritus, which will be held on Jan. 5.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told reporters that “following the wishes of the pope emeritus, the funeral will be held under the sign of simplicity,” stressing that it will be a “solemn but sober funeral.”

While only two state delegations were officially invited to attend the funeral Mass for the deceased former pontiff, some heads of state and public figures have decided to attend the funeral in an unofficial capacity.

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, and Slovenian President Nataša Pirc Musar are among those who have already confirmed their attendance at Benedict XVI’s funeral in an unofficial capacity.

European royals Queen Sofia of Spain and King Philip and Queen Mathilde of Belgium also plan to attend.

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      • Perhaps because Biden’s nearly 50 years of constant lying is well documented (remember his claims about law school? the plagiarism plague in the 1980s? his horrible lies about Bork?). Yes, Trump is a braggart and certainly played loose with the truth, but Biden is in a lamentable class all his own. See, for example, this CNN (!) analysis of Biden’s falsehoods in just his first year (2021) in office. My personal favorite from the past few months was Biden’s claim that he ‘spoke to’ doctor who ‘invented’ insulin–who had actually died before Biden was born. Of course, Aquinas might well have come up in their conversation. But having doubts about the veracity of such claims (however small they are in the big picture) is quite reasonable.

        • Although Biden’s true, unwavering commitment to falsehood should be recognized. Few today are nearly as consistent in what they say.

      • “One might ask why such bitterness erupts over little side stories like that.”

        Well perhaps because of the enormous scandal & bad example Mr. Biden presents, devout Catholics are less willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in stories like this. But I can imagine Pope Benedict bringing up Aquinas in conversation. That sounds like him. God rest his soul.

        • Even to a committed pro-life person like me, it comes off as petty and juvenile, unrelated to the more important story of the death of an honored pope. If fence-sitters on abortion and choice are reading, they are surely not reacting, “Gosh! We were so wrong, and Biden is so much worse than Trump.”

          Wake up, people. Are you trying to make yourselves feel good about supporting Pope Benedict, Donald Trump, and the unborn? Or are you actually trying to make a difference? After all, relatively few people in the US are forced to have abortions, unlike in places like China. If women didn’t feel the need to abort, the only people you’d need worry about are parents and domineering partners.

      • It is not even remotely credible, though I will grant that in the avalanche of lies uttered by Biden in the past 30 days, this one is a peccadillo.

  1. We read: “[Ratzinger] rejected the idea that just war theory justified ‘preventive war’ and spoke of the need to rely on the final decision of the United Nations. Though the Iraq War removed the harsh government of Saddam Hussein, the conflict and its aftermath killed hundreds of thousands of combatants and civilians and destabilized the region.”

    Not to defend past actions (“nation-building” was a clueless add-on), not at all, but rather to highlight the high-wire and tripwire world we now live in, foreign and at home…my recollections are:

    FIRST, that the United Nations Security Council did in fact warn Hussein of “serious consequences” (vote 15-0,) but that this was ignored because so many earlier UN warnings were mere words.
    SECOND, that U.S. intelligence, on the other hand, relied partly on an Iraqi informant who turned out to be luring the West into an internal, Muslim sectarian power contest;
    THIRD, that Iraqi scientists had fearfully dismantled the WMD, but equally fearfully did not inform the dictator who still acted otherwise;
    FOURTH, that an expeditious invasion depended upon a pincer movement from north and south, in order to prevent a protracted war and the outbreak of sectarian conflict (and, yes, the founding of the caliphate)…but permission for the north pincer to fly over Turkish airspace was reversed in the final week by Turkish President Erdogan. A reminder of much else so problematic in international and in sectarian-Islamic relations.
    FIFTH, is there a crucial difference between a “preventive war” and a “first strike?” Is modern politics both a broad Moral Crisis and this kind of Differential Calculus? (A great historian once said that Stalin was Genghis Khan plus a telephone. Maybe this applies to all of us.)

    So much for armchair stuff…However, yours truly is pleased that President Biden, keen observer of “the Catholic realm!”, had a conversation with emeritus Pope Benedict about the fine points of Thomas Aquinas. An allusion, surely, to Aquinas’ pre-scientific, non-doctrinal notions of elementary embryology (?), as now exploited by our illuminati and our elected figurehead for today’s abortion culture…

    We said above, “foreign, and at home:” as in 60 million since 1973, and counting…Mumble, mumble, is Benedict Latin for Benadryl?

    • I am glad you pointed out all of this. I was a military officer during this conflict, and I would point out other factors that led to the invasion (ill-advised, as you state, but hind sight is…). To begin with, Hussein was much more fearful of an invasion from Iran than he was of an invasion from any U.N. coalition. He wanted to project the image of power, to give pause to any Iranian leaders who might wish to exploit his greatly weakened position following the Gulf War. Thus, while he was publicly denying the possession of WMD, he was – through back channels – simultaneously threatening to use WMD. Secondly, both Swiss and German intelligence agencies estimated the WMD capabilities of Iraq to be far greater than what the U.S. had estimated. And their views held great weight, because those two nations had helped to build the chemical industry in Iraq and knew what it was capable of producing.

  2. It’s just as well that Biden didn’t attend Pope Benedict’s funeral, IMO. For strictly personal reasons, I’m more interested in the presence of King Philip and Queen Mathilde of Belgium.

  3. Why shouldn’t Biden have discussed Aquinas with the pope?

    After all, Joe says he roomed with Thomas back when both were attending Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.

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