One of the most controversial issues among Catholic bishops in the United States is what to do with Catholic politicians who support abortion and want to receive the Eucharist.
There are bishops who have been against administering the Eucharist to politicians who publicly support the decriminalization of abortion and support companies or organizations that sponsor this practice, while others do not want to take such a controversial measure. With the arrival of Biden to power, the debate intensified even more.
Bishops against Biden
The president, who defines himself as a Catholic, is an outspoken supporter of abortion. This situation has earned him criticism from some bishops and Catholic figures.
In 2019, Father Robert Morey of Saint Anthony Catholic Church in Florence City, SC, refused to give Biden communion and told the Florence Morning News that it was because “any public figure who defends abortion puts himself outside the teaching of the Church.”
Archbishop Charles Chaput, Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia, also explained several reasons why President Biden should not receive the Eucharist. In addition, last January 28, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement condemning “the executive order promoting abortion abroad.”
The Bishop of Tyler, Texas, Joseph Strickland, also wrote on Twitter an express request to the president: “President Biden please stop spending our tax dollars to fund abortions around the world. You claim to be Catholic but you obviously are ignoring the basic teachings of the Catholic faith. Please make a decision to either follow Catholic teaching or stop claiming to be Catholic.”
Similarly, not all bishops are against Biden receiving communion. Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, who is the first black American cardinal, was critical of his colleagues against administering the Eucharist to the president and said he would give communion to Joe Biden.
This delicate situation within the Catholic hierarchy is causing divisions. For example, on the day of Joe Biden’s inauguration, Archbishop Jose Gomez, head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement criticizing the policy agenda of the incoming Democratic administration, especially regarding abortion.
In the aftermath, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, who is a member of the administrative committee of the USCCB, issued a statement via Twitter criticizing Gomez’s statement. Cupich commented that Gomez’s statement was “ill-considered,” and noted that the statement was “crafted without the participation of the Administrative Committee, a collegial consultation that is the normal course for statements that represent and enjoy the considered endorsement of the U.S. bishops.”
These situations highlight the need within the USCCB to reach common ground regarding whether or not to administer the Eucharist to politicians who support abortion.
Vote in June
The Pillar, which specializes in reporting on Catholic Church news in the United States, reported that “The U.S. bishops’ conference could be given a vote this June on whether to draft and publish a document addressing the question of administering the Eucharist to pro-choice Catholic politicians. The document could be finalized and approved as early as November.”
According to the outlet, several sources said the USCCB’s administrative committee discussed Tuesday “a path forward for a proposed document on “Eucharistic coherence.”
The article said this document would address canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which prevents the reception of Holy Communion for those who “obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin.”
“Such a document was first proposed by a short-term working group on the Biden administration, launched in November by conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez. The idea has since been passed on to the conference committee on doctrine,” The Pillar reported.
Last March 1, Archbishop Gomez sent a memo to the country’s bishops, “which said the doctrine committee had been asked to develop a proposal for a statement on “Eucharistic coherence.”'” according to The Pillar.
This proposal would be considered by the USCCB’s administrative committee, as happened this week, and then by the full body of bishops, the archbishop commented.
At the meeting, according to media sources, there was much discussion among members of the administrative committee, with most bishops agreeing that there is a need to “take the bull by the horns on critical and controversial issues.”
The administrative committee is made up of elected officers of the conference, the heads of its committees and regional representatives.
“The proposal is now expected to be voted on by the membership of the bishops’ conference. If the bishops approve the development of a statement, it would be primarily drafted by the members of the doctrine committee.” The Pillar reported. In addition, the sources noted that the “document would be evaluated by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but, if it garnered Vatican approval, it could come up for a vote on publication as early as November.”
The Pillar said it is unclear “It is not clear whether the bishops would discuss the statement proposal during the public session of their virtual June meeting, or whether it would be scheduled for executive session, which is not open to the public.” What is certain is that this proposal will provoke a great deal of debate among the country’s bishops.