Catholic leaders in America will get together this week to discuss Communion and whether Catholic politicians should be able to receive it if they are pro-abortion rights. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops virtual meeting will start on 16 June and end on18 June.
The outcome of this dialogue and the subsequent vote is believed to have important consequences. Communion is a deeply personal expression of Catholic faith, and Biden is a devout Catholic. He has gone on record stating he opposes abortion personally but finds it impossible to legislate on women’s bodily autonomy.
“I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that – women they can’t control their body,” he said during the 2012 presidential campaign when he was still vice president.
This stance has had him barred from taking communion in certain parts of the country, such as in a Catholic church in South Carolina.
“Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that,”said Reverend Robert E. Morey, a priest in Florence said to the local news outlet SC Now about his decision to deny Biden taking Communion in 2019.
Biden was also refused the important Catholic ritual in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the town he was born in.
Taking part in worship led by local priests is important to the president and doing so in public, not tucked away in a private worship, is vital to him.
“They felt, and they were right, that he wants to go to church and should have the right to. He wants to worship with his community. His understanding of the Eucharist was it shouldn’t be done hidden in private. I very much felt the Eucharist was being weaponised,” John Kelly, who was responsible for finding Catholic churches Biden was welcome in while campaigning in 2008 said to The Washington Post.
However, Biden is not the first Catholic politician to be affected by this, as John Kerry had various Catholic bishops refuse to give him Communion while he was running for president in 2004.
In 2019, the Postreported that Andrew Cuomo was threatened with excommunication for his state’s laws over late-term abortions. Prior to this, the archdiocese of New York already refused him taking Communion. Additionally, speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s bishop Salvatore Cordileone said that politicians who support abortion laws should be refused it.
It is believed there are 280 voting bishops sitting on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Because President Biden is Catholic, it presents a unique problem for us,” Kansas’ Archbishop Naumann told the AP. “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?”
However, according to the Pew Research Centre in March, 67 per cent of Catholics do not think that Biden should be refused Communion. It also stated the 55 per cent of Republican Catholics believe he should not be permitted to take Communion.
Additionally, 70 bishops have written to the President of the USCCB, Archbishop Jose Gomez, arguing to postpone the vote until they can meet in person to iron the issue out better. However, this was rejected and they are pushing on with their “meaning of the Eucharist” conversation and a vote on the matter.
It needs two-thirds of the USCCB to approve the motion to pass.