WelCom August 2021
A divided conference of US Catholic bishops have voted to draft a statement on Holy Communion that may admonish Catholic politicians, including President Joe Biden, who support abortion rights.
The 168–55 decision to draft a teaching document on the Eucharist came after two hours of debate at the virtual assembly of the United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference. The bishops in favour of drafting the document insisted that it would not call out any individual politician by name, but the topic of Biden’s social views came up repeatedly in the discussion. Biden, the second Catholic to serve as US president, has alarmed many bishops by supporting same-sex marriage and abortion rights, views they say are antithetical to Church doctrine.
Some bishops want to block politicians with views like Biden’s from receiving Communion. But any statement would serve as guidance, and individual bishops would be able to make an independent choice.
Biden attends Mass each weekend. The president has said he personally opposes abortion but supports a woman’s right to choose. He did not keep a Hyde Amendment ban on federal funds for abortions in his first budget presented earlier this year.
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.
Opponents said they feared writing the document could sow further partisan division within the Church, and that the bishops should take more time to discuss the issue before moving forward.
A Vatican official, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, wrote to the conference in May urging caution on the debate over politicians’ abortion views and Communion, saying it could become a ‘source of discord’, Catholic News Service reported.
Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego argued against the drafting of the document, saying the move would run counter to the bishops’ goal of uniting Catholics through the sacrament. ‘The Eucharist…will inevitably become a tool in the vicious partisan turmoil that roils our nation,’ he said.
‘Not your table’
Many Catholic leaders have expressed strong disagreement with any move to bar President Biden from receiving Communion. In a statement to the US Bishops, former Oregon Jesuit provincial Fr John Whitney says, ‘It is not your table (nor mine). Bishops, priests, etc are neither the hosts nor the bouncers nor the ones who wrote the guest list.’
‘It is Jesus Christ,’ Whitney writes, ‘who invites the guests (‘all you who labour’); he is the host of those who come; he is the setter of the table; and he is the feast which is shared (‘Take this, all of you…this is my body, this is my blood’). We are guests at the meal, and sometimes (by his calling) servers.’
Sources: Reuters, America