The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are reportedly gearing up to release a statement in the coming weeks condemning Joe Biden’s extreme pro-abortion stance, and recommending that he and other pro-abortion Catholic politicians not present themselves for Communion.
The Catholic bishops are expected to clarify the church’s position on the hot-button issue in a new document during their next national meeting in June.
A public figure’s open support for abortion is “a grave moral evil,” Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas told the Associated Press. Naumann chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and believes it’s necessary to publicly rebuke Biden on the issue, according to the AP.
The clarification is necessary because there are a number of left-wing prelates who don’t agree that a Catholic politician fully embracing abortion is problematic.
“Because President Biden is Catholic, it presents a unique problem for us,” Naumann said. “It can create confusion. … How can he say he’s a devout Catholic and he’s doing these things that are contrary to the church’s teaching?”
The document, if approved, would make clear the USCCB’s view that Biden and other Catholic public figures with similar viewpoints should not present themselves for Communion, Naumann said.
In accordance with existing USCCB policy, it would still leave decisions on withholding Communion up to individual bishops. In Biden’s case, the top prelates of the jurisdictions where he frequently worships — Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware, and Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. — have made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches they oversee.
The document-in-the-works results from a decision in November by the USCCB’s president, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, to form a working group to address the “complex and difficult situation” posed by Biden’s stances on abortion and other issues that differ from official church teaching. Before disbanding, the group proposed the drafting of a new document addressing the issue of Communion — a project assigned to the doctrine committee.
The committee has not released details about its work. Naumann said the matter will be discussed at the USCCB’s meeting in June and the bishops will vote on whether the committee should continue working on the document so it could be publicly released later.
A two-thirds majority would be needed for work to proceed, Naumann said. But even critics of the initiative, such as Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, predict the endeavor will win overwhelming approval.
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan in January warned Biden in an essay published in Catholic New York that abortion is a “non-negotiable” issue for Catholics.
Now the bishops are determined to send another stern message to Biden.
“There’s a growing sense of urgency,” said San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. “Abortion is not just one among many important issues. … It’s a direct attack on human life.”
Cordileone envisions a statement from the USCCB to Biden and others “that would move them in their conscience.”
“They need to understand the scandal that is caused when they say they are faithfully Catholic and yet oppose the church on such a basic concept,” he said.
The Washington Post blamed the clash on “a rising group of right-wing U.S. Catholic Bishops” who are colliding with “a very Catholic president.”
A rising group of right-wing U.S. Catholic bishops is colliding with a very Catholic president who supports abortion rights. https://t.co/A351JzqRjB
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) April 28, 2021
The Bishops have been appalled by the number of anti-life measures Biden has taken since he took office.
Since January 20, the “very Catholic” Biden has publicly celebrated the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade; rescinded the pro-life Mexico City Policy, which ensured that foreign aid would not go to organizations that perform or refer for abortions; lifted restrictions on federal funding for research involving human fetal tissue; funded abortions in the massive coronavirus relief bill; pushed for the Equality Act’s “pregnancy discrimination” clause, which requires doctors to perform abortions, sex-change operations, or sterilizations.
Catholic Vote has put out a timeline of all of the Biden administration’s shocking and extreme anti-Catholic actions.
Likewise, the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List on April 27 put out a four-page brief cataloguing the administration’s “unprecedented abortion extremism” in its first 100 days.
Naumann has issued strongly worded denunciations after each action, and told AP he was offended that Biden would authorize those while still pretending to be a devout Catholic.
Biden in March made a huge show of his alleged faith during a Zoom phone call with Mexico’s Catholic President López Obrador, waving his Rosary beads around, and claiming to have a big devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, (the Patroness of the Unborn).
Naumann said at the time: “The president should stop defining himself as a devout Catholic and acknowledge that his view on abortion is contrary to Catholic moral teaching.”
“He doesn’t have the authority to teach what it means to be Catholic — that’s our responsibility as bishops,” Naumann told the AP. “Whether intentional or not, he’s trying to usurp our authority.”
The Vatican has not ruled on the specific matter of Communion and politicians supporting abortion in a major teaching document, though the church’s in-house canon law says people in a situation of persistent sin shouldn’t be allowed to receive Communion. It has also issued guidelines for the behavior of Catholics in political life exhorting them to uphold principles consistent with church doctrine.
The then-head of the Vatican’s doctrine office, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, told U.S. bishops in 2004 that priests “must” deny the sacrament if a politician goes to receive Communion despite an “obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin,” including the sin of consistently campaigning for permissive abortion laws.
Ratzinger wrote a confidential letter outlining the principles to U.S. bishops in response to their question about whether to deny Communion to John Kerry, who was the Democratic nominee for president. In the end the bishops ignored Ratzinger’s advice and voted instead for the policy currently in place allowing bishops to decide themselves whether to withhold it.
The document being drafted by the doctrine committee may contain some guidelines for bishops, Cordileone said, but it will not seek to strip their decision-making authority.
“This will put the burden of responsibility on Catholics who are prominent in public life,” he said.
Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver told the AP he favors having a national policy on Communion, as opposed to the current “patchwork approach.”
He said “bishops should first have a private conversation with an individual deemed to be in a state of sin, and deny Communion if they persist.”
Edward Peters, who teaches canon law at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, said the USCCB does have the option of seeking Vatican approval for a unified Communion policy that applies to all bishops, but doubted they would go that far.
“The bishops’ conference does have broad responsibility to speak out on matters that impact the effectiveness and clarity of Church’s mission,” Peters said via email. “The bad example being given by some high-profile Catholics who consistently fail to protect innocent human life is surely one of those matters.”
American Cardinal Raymond Burke has said that Catholic politicians who “publicly and obstinately” support abortion are “apostates” who not only should be blocked from receiving Communion but deserve excommunication.