U.S. Catholic Bishops voted 168-55 last week to draft a document that will likely discuss whether pro-abortion Catholic politicians should be allowed to receive Communion. The much-anticipated decision by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) resulted from an overwhelming vote in favor of creating a document that more clearly outlines teaching on the Eucharist.
The document will likely reaffirm Church teaching that those in manifest grave sin are not to partake in the Eucharist. Many hope (and some fear) that reemphasizing this teaching on “Eucharistic coherence” will target U.S. President Joe Biden and other pro-abortion politicians for their discontinuity with Church teaching on the sanctity of life, and will disallow them from receiving Communion.
The document will be drafted by the Committee on Doctrine and, after completion, will be voted upon when the USCCB reconvenes in the fall.
The committee is led by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. This is a good sign for those who wish to see Biden disciplined by the document. Rhoades has shown in the past that he is willing to discipline pro-abortion politicians for their inconsistency with Church teaching. In response to Biden being given an award from Notre Dame University in 2016, the bishop publicly disagreed saying “I believe it is wrong for Notre Dame to honor any ‘pro-choice’ public official with the Laetare Medal … since direct abortion is gravely contrary to the natural law and violates a very fundamental principle of Catholic moral and social teaching.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns abortion saying, “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.” The Church takes this teaching so seriously that it “attaches the formal penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life.”
The Catechism also notes the special responsibility of politicians to uphold the Church’s view of abortion saying, “the inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority.”
Many Catholic politicians, including the President, do not meet these criteria. Joe Biden is identified in many mainstream media reports as a “devout Catholic,” yet he remains in open opposition to the Church’s teaching on abortion. His press reporter said that “the President has been a long supporter of Roe v. Wade … he will fight to continue to protect that as being law.” He has also been under fire for revoking a Trump-era policy restricting U.S. foreign aid funds from financing organizations that provide abortions.
His and other Catholic politicians’ continued contradiction with essential Catholic teaching has led some members of the USCCB to advocate that they be denied Communion and that a policy of this kind be adopted by the whole USCCB.
The practice of denying Communion from those that are in an unworthy state dates to the early Church. As St. Paul says, “Whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.” While “Pro-Choice” politicians have only been denied Communion on rare occasions, this new document could make that practice widespread in the future.
For Catholics, denial of Communion is of immense theological and salvific importance. To be denied the Eucharist is to be denied the “source and summit of the Christian life.”
It is not unheard of for priests to deny Communion to Pro-Choice politicians for this reason. For example, on the campaign trail, Biden was denied Communion for his abortion views. Similarly, earlier in May, prominent San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone said that a public figure’s continued support of abortion “is a matter of persistent, obdurate, and public rejection of Catholic teaching” and that if they persist in their opposition “the only recourse a pastor has left is the public medicine of temporary exclusion from the Lord’s Table.” Cordileone’s Archdiocese of San Francisco is where U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, another pro-abortion politician, resides.
Despite an attempt by some bishops to avoid drafting this document because they fear it would be too divisive, the bishops overwhelmingly agreed to move forward. Although the conference of bishops has not yet officially declared Biden – and public figures like him – unworthy to receive Communion, they have moved one step closer.
The full conference can be accessed on the USCCB YouTube Channel here.