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Kevin F. O’Malley: Catholics — and everyone else — can feel proud of voting for Joe Biden

Kevin F. O’Malley: Catholics — and everyone else — can feel proud of voting for Joe Biden

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During this election, we have a clear binary choice between which way our great country should go. I have already voted for Joe Biden because I know that he will move America toward the “more perfect union“ envisioned in our Constitution by our Founding Fathers.

People smarter than I are able to speak to the intricate policy positions that former Vice President Biden espouses and the reasons for each. I am writing, however, as someone who knows him personally. I am writing as someone who spent a solid week with him — all day, every day for a week — when he visited my wife and me in Dublin in 2016 when I was U.S. ambassador to Ireland. I am writing as someone who has hosted him since, here on visits to St. Louis in 2018 and 2020. I am writing, in other words, as someone who has had a chance to actually get to know the man and measure his character.

Biden is a decent, hard-working, law-abiding Catholic who has never forgotten where he came from. There is no “public Joe Biden” and a secret “private Joe Biden.” The Biden you can see during a televised speech or interview is the same Biden I have seen at the breakfast table, riding to a public engagement, or enjoying a few minutes chat at the end of a busy day. He wears his heart on his sleeve. And truly, “What you see is what you get.”

What you get is a man who knows how to work with others in order to accomplish big things in Washington — the Violence Against Women Act, the Assault Weapons Ban, and, yes, the Affordable Care Act. These pieces of legislation, and many others, required the art of listening, learning and compromise.

What you get is compassion for those struggling to make the American dream their own reality, in just the same way as our ancestors — the immigrants, the working poor, those fighting to join the great American middle class but being held back by inferior schools, spotty access to decent health care, and fair enforcement of our laws.

What you get is a man who respects facts and science and will be guided by both in making the decisions that will affect us.

What you get is a man who world leaders already know will treat our friends and allies like friends again and our enemies like adversaries again.

And what you see is a lifelong public servant who didn’t enter public life to get rich or settle scores.

Many of we American Catholics, unfortunately, have been told that our church forbids us to vote for any candidate who abides by American law as it now exists relating to abortion. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

Pope Francis and even more conservative American bishops steadfastly proclaim that we Catholics are not a “single-issue church.” We are encouraged — perhaps even commanded — to examine all candidates on all issues and, with prudence and a well-formed conscience, decide which candidate on whole truly embodies what Christ has taught us.

Life from the moment of conception, some say, is a preeminent but not the sole issue upon which the voting decision should be made. The pope has written that “equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged.” Any priest or bishop who preaches that the Catholic Church commands a vote for Donald Trump or against Biden is a renegade who himself has strayed from the teachings of the pope as well as the guidance from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Put more directly and perhaps more politically, Bishop John Stowe of the archdiocese of Lexington, Kentucky, said, “For this president to call himself pro-life, and for anybody to back him because of claims of being pro-life, is almost willful ignorance.”

Franciscan priest Daniel Horan has written, “Perhaps the greatest lie that the political right has perpetrated over the last four decades, which the left has sadly played into unwittingly, is that the GOP is the party of religion. This is a farce and a fraud.”

When Biden stayed with us at the ambassador’s residence in Dublin a few years ago, we went to Mass on Sunday, quietly slipping into the church and, after Mass and communion, departing without any hoopla. Contrast that to the serial adulterer teargassing American citizens peacefully demonstrating against racial injustice in order to have his picture taken in front of a church he doesn’t attend while holding someone else’s Bible. Then choose which moral North Star you wish to follow in the name of religion on Nov. 3.

Democrats, and the vast majority of independents and many establishment Republicans have decided to coalesce behind a decent, middle-class, Irish-American Catholic whom they already know well. Tested, practical, trusted, proven — appealing to the best that is still in us — not the worst. A man who still remembers where he came from.

And a man who knows how and where to lead our beloved nation.

Kevin F. O’Malley of Clayton served as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland during the Obama administration. He is a lawyer, author and law professor, who was a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice.

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