President-Elect Joe Biden will be the second Catholic President of the United States. Biden has sometimes exchanged jabs with President Donald Trump about topics like faith and religion. Biden was raised in an Irish-Catholic family and he has said that his beliefs are still very important to him.
Here’s what you need to know about his religious beliefs and his faith.
1. Biden Said His Faith Helped Get Him Through Tragedies, But He Nearly Lost His Faith When His First Wife & Daughter Were Killed
Biden is a practicing Catholic and will be the second Catholic President of the United States, the National Catholic Reporter shared. The first was President John F. Kennedy, America Magazine reported.
Biden told The Christian Post before the election:
My faith implores me to embrace a preferential option for the poor and, as president, I will do everything in my power to fight poverty and build a future that moves us closer to our highest ideals—not only that all women and men are created equal in the eyes of God, but that they are treated equally by their fellow man.
In a 2015 interview with America Magazine, Biden said about his faith:
Jesus Christ is the human embodiment of what God wanted us to do. Everything Jesus did was sort of consistent with what generically we were supposed to do: treat people with dignity.
During an interview with Stephen Colbert, Biden said that his faith and his Catholic rituals helped him deal with tragedies in his life, such as losing his son, Beau Biden, to brain cancer in 2015, the Christian Post reported. The rituals gave him an enormous sense of solace, he said.
But in 2012 he has also admitted that he struggled with anger at God after his first wife and his daughter were killed in a car wreck in 1972, Christian Today reported. He said he would get angry at God and think there was just no way that God could possibly be good. He said that he understood why some people turned to suicide, not because they were crazy, but because “they had been to the top of the mountain, and they just knew in their heart they would never get there again.”
Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, also struggled with faith — for her it was following her stepson Beau Biden’s death, People reported. She said that up until he died, she always had believed he would somehow make it. Beau Biden was only 46 when he died.
Jill Biden wrote in her memoir: “Where I once felt that peace that surpasses understanding, I now feel hollow silence. One day, I hope I can salvage my faith.”
She later said that she did find her faith again. She said a woman came up to her in South Carolina at church when she and Biden were campaigning and asked to be her prayer partner. She said that woman helped give her back her faith.
2. After Trump Accused Him of Being ‘Against God,’ Biden Shared that His Faith Is the Foundation of His Life
In August, Trump accused Biden of being “against God,” The Hill reported. Trump said during a speech about Biden: “Take away your guns, take away your Second Amendment. No religion, no anything. Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy.”
Biden said Trump’s comments were beneath his office. He told The Hill: “it’s beneath the dignity the American people so rightly expect and deserve from their leaders… However, like the words of so many other insecure bullies, President Trump’s comments reveal more about him than they do about anyone else. They show us a man willing to stoop to any low for political gain, and someone whose actions are completely at odds with the values and teachings that he professes to believe in.”
Biden went on to share that his faith kept him grounded “and humbled in times of triumph and joy.” He said his faith provided him comfort and taught him to love his neighbors.
“My faith teaches me to care for the least among us,” he told The Hill.
3. In 2012 He Said that He Doesn’t Believe in Using the Law to Impose His Religious Beliefs on Others
During the vice-presidential debates in 2012, he said that his religion “defines who I am,” National Review reported. He said:
And I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who — who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.”
He also said that he does not believe in using the law to force people of different faiths to conform to his beliefs. He also said during the debates:
With regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a — what we call de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception. That’s the Church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and — I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman.
4. Biden Once Considered Becoming a Priest
When Biden was young, he briefly considered becoming a priest, Pew Forum reported. He was a student at Holy Rosary parochial school and Archmere Academy. He started developing an interest in politics in 10th grade when he studied John F. Kennedy, who was also a Catholic.
Biden usually attends Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church or St. Patrick’s Church in the Diocese of Wilmington, Pew Forum reported. If elected, he would be only the second Catholic president, following John F. Kennedy.
Politico reported that Biden is known to carry rosary beads in his pocket on the campaign trail.
5. His Wife Is a Big Encourager of His Faith
Two of Biden’s children married into Jewish families. His daughter, Ashley Biden, married Howard Krein, a Jewish doctor, in 2012. They were married in an interfaith Jewish-Catholic ceremony, Haaretz reported.
His son who passed away, Beau Biden, was married to Hallie Biden, who also comes from a Jewish family. She was raised in both the Christian and Catholic faiths, and her mother is Jewish, Times of Israel reported.
Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, began dating Hallie Biden after Beau’s death. Joe Biden said that he and his wife Jill were standing by them. Hunter and Hallie are no longer together and Hunter married Melissa Cohen after divorcing Kathleen Biden in 2017.
Biden has said that meeting and marrying Jill Biden helped pull him back from the brink after his first wife and his daughter died. She still encourages his faith, he told Stephen Colbert during an interview in 2015. For example, he said that Jill will often leave him inspirational notes. One of them was a quote that simply read: “Faith sees best in the dark.”
You can see Biden’s full interview with Colbert in the two videos below.