A controversial nominee for some, Biden’s HHS pick offers a promising path forward for all Americans | COMMENTARY

President-elect Joe Biden has picked California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be the next health and human services secretary.

Because bible-pounding has become a favored tactic of politicians, it was only a matter of time before one of the cabinet choices of the incoming Biden administration would set off screeds of fire and brimstone.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has become the target.


Mr. Becerra has been nominated to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services, a crucial role not only because of the pandemic, but because President-elect Joe Biden will be focused on preserving and hopefully improving Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Becerra, a Catholic, faces the gauntlet of the finger-pointers, those who question another’s sanctity, the fitness of their soul.


It’s due to abortion, Mr. Becerra’s role in defending Obamacare and his support for the original exemptions it offered to religious nonprofits regarding mandates to provide coverage for contraception, versus the far broader ones demanded in lawsuits.

The Federalist headline on the pick: “Declaring War on Nuns, Biden to Nominate Becerra for HHS Secretary.”

That’s a nod to the lawsuit Mr. Becerra participated in involving the Little Sisters of the Poor, which was among the nonprofits that challenged the Obama administration and won in court.

The Washington Examiner lead with “Xavier Becerra for HHS Means Biden is Dead Serious About Sticking It to Religious Freedom.”

Others called him “aggressively pro-abortion.”

Upon the announcement, Mr. Becerra tweeted:

“In Congress, I helped pass the Affordable Care Act. As California’s Attorney General, I defended it. As Secretary of Health and Human Services, I will build on our progress and ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care — through this pandemic and beyond.”

The point at the end of the statement drew some better angels to stand up on Mr. Becerra’s behalf. Catholic Health Association issued their support, in statements and in follow-up comments. CHA noted that Mr. Becerra “has been a strong partner with CHA in defending the Affordable Care Act and for advocating for greater access to quality, affordable health care coverage for everyone, particularly the most vulnerable.”


Given the massive imprint of Catholicism on health care in America, the statement is noteworthy. One in every seven U.S. patients is cared for in a Catholic hospital, according to the association.

Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, President and CEO of the association defined the support for Mr. Becerra to the National Catholic Reporter saying, “There have been so many political battles over the course of the past four years that we really have not advanced much in the area of health care. We know that no individual will have all of the same policy positions that we might have, but we have to find common ground.”

She’s right.

COVID-19 has morbidly showcased the flaws of our current health care systems, in particular lower income people’s lack of access. African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately dying.

We need to fight for health care, for the nation as a whole, even if that means setting aside personal beliefs.

Raised Roman Catholic, I was influenced by my mother who struggled with multiple miscarriages and came to Catholicism through her marriage to my father. As she aged, she began to intelligently analyze the faith’s practical and impractical impact on families.


She knew that some were highly stressed financially and emotionally by having large families. There were also the medical risks of repeated pregnancies, particularly if the births came later in the life of the mother. She failed to see how preventing a pregnancy through contraception was anywhere near the same as ending a life by abortion.

I believe this as well.

The majority of Catholics in the nation, as evidenced in repeated polling by many different entities, share similar beliefs. Is this the often-mentioned cafeteria Catholic in action?

Absolutely, it is choosing which of the faith’s many rules coincide with personal feelings.

But my mother also revered the work of Little Sisters of the Poor and wanted any donations to charity upon her death to be received by them, a request that was granted.

To some, that might seem a contradiction. I think it’s honoring sacred work.


It’s in that spirit and the hope for a healthier and more coexisting United States that the support for Mr. Becerra’s nomination is well-placed.

Readers can reach Mary Sanchez at and follow her on Twitter @msanchezcolumn.