Administration

Bishops’s debated document on communion does not single out Biden

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) adopted its document on communion on Wednesday without mentioning whether President Biden or other politicians should be denied the rite based on their stance on abortion, signaling an end to the debate on the issue.

The final document on the meaning of the Holy Eucharist passed 222-8 at the USCCB General Assembly meeting in Baltimore, Md., with three bishops abstaining from the vote. Prior to the vote, the document was up for debate and subject to amendments at the meeting.

U.S. bishops elected to proceed with drafting a formal statement on the meaning of communion on a vote of 168-55 in June, with six bishops abstaining.

Biden is the second Catholic president in U.S. history. His support for abortion rights has led to calls for the Catholic Church not to offer him communion.

Church law doesn’t allow for national policies, so even if the USCCB had voted to deny communion to politicians who support abortion rights, it would have needed approval from the Vatican to implement the policy. The Vatican would have been highly unlikely to offer such approval.

Pope Francis’ top envoy to the U.S., Archbishop Christophe Pierre, advised the bishops this week to listen as they deliberated communion.

“It is sometimes said that there is a lot of confusion about doctrine in the church today,” Pierre, told the USCCB, according to the Associated Press. “However, the argument continues that what is needed is clear teaching. That is true, but the Holy Father says a church that teaches must be firstly a church that listens.”

The pope has previously warned against bishops politicizing the Holy Eucharist.

Ahead of the vote on Wednesday, however, Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann, a leader behind the effort to produce the document, said bishops are responsible to “care for the souls of these politicians,” CBS reported. He added that the church should “not be afraid” to let politicians know how serious the issue of abortion is. 

The USCCB has been criticized for possibly rushing Wednesday’s vote and the crafting of the teaching document on communion in order to have it finished ahead of the 2022 election.

Biden met with Francis at the Vatican last month. During the meeting, the pope described the president as a “good Catholic,” according to Biden, and said that he should keep receiving communion.

Biden told reporters after the meeting that the issue of abortion rights did not come up in the discussion. When asked if the pope said he should keep receiving communion, the president responded, “Yes.”

Tags abortion rights Catholic Church communion Joe Biden Pope Francis

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