Joe Biden Should Follow the Example of

Pope John Paul II

Kevin Scanlon | May 2021

(Clockwise from left) President Joe Biden meets with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on February 4, 2021; Pope John Paul II with Joe Biden at the Vatican in April 1980; Former President Donald Trump waves with other leaders taking part in the Abraham Accords, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

I

n January of this year, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed that President Joe Biden was a “devout Catholic.” She backed this up by citing his attendance of daily mass. Despite this, many of his positions and actions as president contradict those of what one may think of as a “devout” Catholic.

Regarding his positions on issues such as taxpayer-funded abortions as well as his newfound standing on the Mexico City Policy, there certainly are points to be questioned. For instance, Kansas City’s Archbishop Joseph Naumann, along with San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone have been clear that Biden “should be denied the sacred rite of Communion”.

It goes without saying that one does not need to be “devout”, or even necessarily religious, to possess solid leadership ability. This is the same case when directing foreign policy initiatives. Yet President Biden’s strategies and actions taken in office have nonetheless been suspect.

 

Promoting Instability on the Global Stage

As Vice President in the Obama administration, Biden supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly referred to as the Iran Nuclear Deal. In the details of the JCPOA, the administration laid out stringent guidelines to prevent Iran from creating a nuclear weapon. This included “[removing] two-thirds of its centrifuges,” along with various inspections of the country’s facilities.

There was a litany of objections to this compromise, namely as a result of the extreme rhetoric of the Ayatollah and how the Iranian government continued to act as the leading state sponsor of terrorism. Regardless, Iran had the necessary materials to facilitate nuclear weapons and pose a threat to neighboring Middle Eastern countries. The transaction went underway with the blessings of many global organizations that saw this as some form of a détente that would appease leadership in Iran.

Upon entering office, President Trump recognized the severe threats posed by the Iran Nuclear Deal and the catastrophic harm they posed. Towards the final days of his presidency, he facilitated the signing of the Abraham Accords between several countries in the Middle East and Africa who were fearful of the Iranian government’s nuclear advancements.  

Now that Joe Biden is president, it is apparent that he may delegitimize these successes in foreign policy. Certainly, a man with the power that Biden wields should be firm, practical, and keep the best interest of America and her allies in mind while on the global stage. If President Biden wants to act from a place of strength, he should look no further than the “devout Catholic” Pope John Paul II.

 

Pope John Paul II: A Champion Against Tyranny

Now consider Pope John Paul II. Without question, the pope had a massive presence and was a prominent symbol, representing a central element in Western civilization, the Judeo-Christian tradition, to the rest of the world. His tenure as pope during the Cold War era has become synonymous with the fight against communism in Europe.

Pope John Paul II was no stranger to the existence of totalitarianism. Before he became a priest in Poland, his mother, father, and brother were taken from him. The only path forward for him was to dedicate his life to the Catholic Church.  

He certainly took issue with the “fractured nature of the Catholic Church in Europe,”.1 Satellite nations, like his homeland of Poland, were forced to adopt the secular culture propagated by the Soviet Union. Officials in Poland were fearful of the pope’s rhetoric when he visited and tried their best to hinder him from talking to his fellow countrymen. Coming back to the area where he once was a cardinal, he gave a speech directed at the unrelenting grip of communism:

“‘The problems being raised today,’” he said, “‘about human labour do not, in fact, come down to . . . either technology or even to economics but to a fundamental category: the category of the dignity of work ... the dignity of man,’”.2

Pope John Paul II did not believe that the people should submit their property, their work, or their souls, to the state. He did not believe that individuals were mere widgets destined to fulfill various tasks. He did not believe that the presence of God should be ousted unnaturally from their lives to fulfill the requirements of a totalitarian economy.

In fact, through this message in his speech, Pope John Paul II implored the people of Poland to remember that they have dignity and that, by the grace of God, they would one day be able to live out their faith and lives to the fullest. In the words of Pope John Paul II’s biographer David Willey:

“‘…Poland's subsequent transition from Communist dictatorship under Soviet tutelage to the first non-Communist government in Eastern Europe, can be traced directly back to the sense of patriotism, purpose and optimism generated by the Pope's bold visit to Poland a decade before,’”.3

When it comes to the effort to westernize those under the grip of Soviet control, it is foolish to discount the influence of Pope John Paul II. Certainly, his fierce promotion of unending grace and Judeo-Christian values contributed to the betterment of Europe. President Biden should take notes on this unifying and valuable approach, rather than indulging in the shapelessness of a useless moral relativism.

 

The Abraham Accords: A New Chapter in the Middle East

In August of 2020, a new milestone was crossed relating to Middle Eastern foreign affairs. Under the encouragement of President Trump’s administration, the Abraham Accords were signed. This acted as a vehicle to facilitate the development of more cordial relations between Israel and other surrounding nations. In the document’s declaration, The State Department declared that it looks to “pursue a vision of peace, security, and prosperity” that was only imaginative years ago.

The words of the document express a solid blueprint for the future of the region:

“In this spirit, we warmly welcome and are encouraged by the progress already made in establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and its neighbors in the region under the principles of the Abraham Accords. We are encouraged by the ongoing efforts to consolidate and expand such friendly relations based on shared interests and a shared commitment to a better future."

It almost seems unbelievable that Israel was able to sign a peace accord with nations such as Bahrain, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Sudan. What took so long for a document like this to emerge?

Frankly, one can look no further than the shortcomings and mundane approaches that several establishment figures tried to implement. Nothing screams establishment more than the current (appropriately named) “Climate Tsar,” John Kerry. As Secretary of State in the Obama administration, he laid down his own hard reality.” Specifically, Kerry stated to the Brookings Institution shortly after President Trump was elected that:

“‘There will be no advance and separate peace with the Arab world without the Palestinian process and Palestinian peace. Everybody needs to understand that. That is a hard reality.’”

Of course, these comments are nothing more than bunk after the Abraham Accords.  

Recently, John Kerry has been under fire for comments he made to Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. In an uncovered audiotape, Zarif repeated Kerry’s divulgement that Israel “launched 200 airstrikes against Iranian interests in Syria.” Appalling and careless as such a security-related revelation is, who is shocked by our “Climate Tsar’s” ineptitude in Middle Eastern affairs and lack of candor? Blunder after blunder and falsehood after falsehood, how are we to take these technocrats with any seriousness in 2021?

In summary, I am not trying to say that because President Trump guided the Abraham Accords, he holds the same tenets as Pope John Paul II. In addition, I am not espousing that one needs to practice the Catholic faith to be effective at conducting international relations. However, both men have one thing in common:

A willingness to take a bold stance to uphold Western, liberal values on the international stage.

As I wrote before, Pope John Paul II knew how totalitarianism affected Poland, as he lived under the horrors of the Nazi occupation. In 1942, he studied for the priesthood in Krakow, which “was an act of genuine heroism” given the suppression of Catholicism at the time. The suppression of those in the Soviet Union and their satellite states gave him the push to spread a message of hope and love to those suffering. This outside perspective helped cement the determination and unapologetic framework for which Pope John Paul II was celebrated. Similarly, President Trump had an outside perspective with regards to the endless wars in the Middle East and the fruitless international negotiations like the Iran Deal.

 

Both men understood the predations and deception of totalitarian regimes along with the detriment of being lackluster. Both men knew that if they did not act, someone else would, and this someone would likely have interests standing in opposition to those of the West.

 

In Conclusion

President Joe Biden is looking to bring American soldiers home from Afghanistan later this year. Most Americans recognize the necessity for this and how both establishment figures on the Left and neo-conservatives on the Right have been complicit in continuing these affairs. Following the successes of the Trump administration, it would be much welcomed, by military families and ordinary citizens alike, for Joe Biden to move forward with this decision. However, having a weaker position on a nuclear Iran while ignoring the benefit of the new alliances brought forth in the Abraham Accords may prove disastrous for stability in the Middle East. President Biden needs to embrace a position of strength, recognize the significance of America’s allies in the Middle East, and uphold the successes of the former administration, just as Catholicism was upheld in the face of Nazism and the encroachments of the Soviet Union. In order to do such a thing, Joe Biden should look no further than the efforts of a “devout Catholic” named Pope John Paul II.

Kevin Scanlon is a junior at the University of Scranton from northern New Jersey. He is majoring in History and is a member of the History Honors Society, Phi Alpha Theta. His interests include listening to podcasts and watching the Boston Red Sox.

Non-linked citations