Bishops move forward with effort to restrict Holy Communion for President Biden

U.S. Catholic bishops have agreed to prepare a blueprint that could be used to prevent Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, including President Joe Biden, from receiving Communion.

“Almost daily, I speak with people, Catholics…who are confused by the fact that we have a president who professes devout Catholicism and yet advances the most radical pro-abortion agenda in our history,” said Bishop Donald Hying, who supported drafting the document.

The decision to draft a teaching document on the Eucharist, a holy sacrament in the Roman Catholic faith, was voted in favor by 168-55 and came after two hours of debate. Bishops from across the U.S. debated whether reaffirming church teachings was more important than the possibility of sowing partisan division amongst Catholics worldwide and brought to the forefront the cultural and political rifts that exist within the church’s community. Many of the Bishops worry that these rifts have contributed to the decline in church attendance, which has dropped nearly 20% in 20 years, according to a March Gallup poll.

“It’s not the bishops who have brought us to this point. It’s some of our public officials. This is a Catholic president doing the most aggressive things we’ve ever seen on life at its most innocent,” said Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann during the debate.

To reassure opponents of the new document that it would not cause major political upheaval, supporters vowed to not mention any politician by name, but President Joe Biden’s name came up multiple times over his support for gay marriage and abortion rights, which are contrary to church teachings.

“That’s a private matter and I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Biden said Friday in response to a question of whether he is worried he will be blocked from participating in Holy Communion.

Since 2004, the church has allowed a person’s local bishop to have the final say in whether they can receive communion. In Biden’s case that is Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. Gregory says when Biden won the election, knowing he supported abortion rights, he did not plan to deny Biden the Holy Communion.

“The choice before us at this moment is either we pursue a path of strengthening unity among ourselves or settle for creating a document that will not bring unity but may very well further damage it,” Gregory said during debate.

“The Eucharist,…will inevitably become a tool in the vicious partisan turmoil that roils our nation,” said Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, who argues against drafting the document.

Sixty Catholic House Democrats released a statement on Friday urging the church not to deny politicians Communion over the issue of abortion.

“The Sacrament of Holy Communion is central to the life of practicing Catholics, and the weaponization of the Eucharist to Democratic lawmakers for their support of a woman’s safe and legal access to abortion is contradictory,” the statement said.

The conference’s Committee on Doctrine will now be tasked with drafting the document which will be released in November at the next meeting of Bishops. At that time, an amendable draft will be created.