'Private matter': Biden doubts Catholic bishops will succeed in denying him Communion

Eloise Marshall
June 19, 2021

Some bishops advocating for drafting the document argued they had an obligation to clarify the church's teachings for all Catholics in light of inconsistencies in the faith and actions of public officials like Biden.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego countered that the USCCB would suffer "destructive consequences" from a document targeting Catholic politicians.

"It's a private matter, and I don't think that's going to happen", Biden said, and thanked reporters as he left the podium.

The eucharist, also known as holy communion, is among the most sacred rituals in the Catholic Church and there have been calls from some conservative church leaders to deny the sacrament to politicians who support abortion rights. While 56% support legalized abortion, about two-thirds of those who regularly attend Mass don't, according to a March poll by Pew. Biden as the nation's second Roman Catholic president.

It is up to each local bishop to decide who receives communion in their diocese.

At a press conference on Thursday, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, said the committee drafting the statement "will be looking at that whole issue of eucharistic consistency". At the rally in Washington, D.C., Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins accused Catholic Church leadership of sending "mixed messages about abortion" by failing to implement an explicit policy barring pro-abortion Catholic politicians from receiving communion.

The conference's Committee on Doctrine is now expected to draft the document over the next six months, and the bishops will review an amendable draft at an upcoming meeting.

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However, several bishops on both sides acknowledge the political importance of the document and say it is inevitable for the president.

Gregory was one of almost 70 bishops who signed a letter to USCCB president and Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez urging him to delay the Communion discussion until the bishops convene in person, but that request was not granted.

"The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed", it reads.

The Vatican, meanwhile, has attempted to slow the US bishops' drafting of the document.

Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, Wisconsin said that Catholics are confused by a fellow Catholic president who supports "the most radical pro-abortion agenda in history".

On the latter issue, Pew found a sharp partisan divide: 55% of Catholics who identify with the Republican Party said Biden's abortion stance should disqualify him from Communion, compared with 11% of Catholics who lean Democratic. The Church has made its positions on abortion, marriage, and gender clear, rooting these doctrines in the Bible and Church tradition. Some bishops want that section to state that politicians who support abortion rights must be denied the sacrament. "Are you concerned about the rift within the Catholic Church and are you concerned about this action?" When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

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