The Washington Post recently described President Joe Biden as “very Catholic,” but many U.S. Catholic bishops disagree and are set to consider a document which would advise against allowing pro-abortion politicians to participate in the sacrament of Holy Communion — including President Biden.
In late April, the Post tweeted, “A rising group of right-wing U.S. Catholic bishops is colliding with a very Catholic president who supports abortion rights.”
Some Twitter users chastised the strange comment by the Post. One wrote, “It’s not ‘ring wing’ for a Catholic to follow the Church’s definitive and unambiguous stance on abortion, nor is it ‘right wing’ to acknowledge that publicly promoting a grave moral evil puts you in a state of mortal sin that makes you ineligible to receive Communion.”
When the USCCB meets in June, its members will consider whether to take an official stance in opposition of granting Communion to politicians who publicly advocate for abortion.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, who chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called Biden’s stance a “grave moral evil.” He further stated,
“Because President Biden is Catholic, it presents a unique problem for us. 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? … He doesn’t have the authority to teach what it means to be Catholic — that’s our responsibility as bishops. Whether intentional or not, he’s trying to usurp our authority.”
American Cardinal Raymond Burke has said that politicians who “publicly and obstinately” support abortion are “apostates” and deserve excommunication.
Since taking office, the Biden administration has enacted several radical pro-abortion measures, including rescinding the ban on overseas funding for abortion. And in April alone, the administration:
Recently, the USCCB claimed that lifting the ban on using fetal tissue was “deeply offensive to millions of Americans for our taxpayer dollars to be used for research that collaborates with an industry built on the taking of innocent lives.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s responded by saying, “I think the White House … respectfully disagrees and we believe that it’s important to invest in science and … look for opportunities to cure diseases.”
Other Catholics oppose the concept of denying pro-abortion politicians permission to participate in Communion. Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, claimed that emphasis on abortion rather than left-wing social issues misses a chance to find common ground with Biden. He explained, “If a politician is targeted as a negative example by his own church, that sets a sad context in which the church can deal with this Catholic president. It contributes to the polarization of the church and of society.”
Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego agreed, saying, “I do not see how depriving the president or other political leaders of the Eucharist based on their public policy stance can be interpreted in our society as anything other than a weaponization of the Eucharist … to pummel them into submission.”
Margaret McGuinness, a religion professor at La Salle University in Philadelphia, said, “Are you really going to deny Communion for the president of the United States? I don’t think this is going to shake his faith … I don’t see anything constructive coming out of it.”
Meanwhile, Steven Millies, a professor of public theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, claimed, “What we’re seeing now is an effort to please donors who want a church which will wage a culture war.”
Even the Vatican’s doctrine office urged the USCCB to use caution in making any policy. Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a letter on the decision. He wrote that any new policy “requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.”
He urged the bishops to find unanimity nationally and also consult bishops globally to prevent the issue from becoming “a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States.”
He also cautioned against making abortion the “preeminent” moral issue, adding it could be misleading if a policy “were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest accountability on the part of Catholics.”
He suggested discussion “would best be framed within the broad context of worthiness for the reception of Holy Communion on the part of all the faithful, rather than only one category of Catholics, reflecting their obligation to conform their lives to the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ as they prepare to receive the sacrament.”
The Vatican had no problem diving into political controversies during the Trump administration. Pope Francis decried “trickle down” economics, “violent nationalism,” border walls, and more.
In addition to criticizing capitalism and promoting socialism on a routine basis, Pope Francis was also not afraid to declare that Trump was not a Christian. Discussing Trump’s plan for a border wall, he stated, “A person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”
When asked who Americans should vote for, he replied, “I am not going to get involved in that. I would only say that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that.”
With all due respect, these bishops and academics who are in opposition to denying pro-abortion politicians the sacred rite of Holy Communion clearly need to brush up on their biblical understanding of the Eucharist and what Protestants would call “church discipline.” One of the most alarming comments was made by McGuinness: “Are you really going to deny Communion for the president of the United States?”
If bishops are faithful to God and not government, that is exactly what they will do because God is no respecter of persons. Yes, Biden is president and Christians owe him respect due to the office he holds, but that does not mean he is entitled to special privileges within the church. Biden’s position does not absolve him of the duty to obey God nor make him immune to church discipline. When Donald Trump was president, liberals instructed Christians to look at nothing but his flaws, but now that the “very Catholic” and very liberal Biden is president, we are to ignore his flaws.
Leaders get in real trouble when they flout God’s commands. Take, for example, the Old Testament example of King Uzziah, who for most of his life was a godly king. But Uzziah became presumptuous regarding his kingly privilege and decided he could offer incense before the Lord, a duty reserved for priests. When confronted by the priests, he became angry, and even while railing in defense of his actions, he was stricken with leprosy.
In the New Testament, Christians are taught to deny fellowship to members of the church who are publicly living in sin — unless and until they repent and begin taking steps to give up their sin. That doesn’t mean Christians have to be perfect, because of course none are, but Christians cannot consistently, publicly, unrepentantly live in sin after being confronted that they are in error and still receive the hand of fellowship.
If anything, Catholic bishops who deny Biden the right to take Communion are granting him grace as scripture teaches us that taking part in Holy Communion in an unworthy manner is a dangerous thing to do, which is why we are called to examine our hearts before participating.
The left is trying to portray orthodox bishops as right-wing political operatives who are politicizing the sacrament of Holy Communion when it is the left who is making it political. By claiming that a consistent doctrine of the Catholic Church is a right-wing political platform and advocating that the church should either alter its doctrine or make an exception for a U.S. president (or any leader), whether to appeal to him or to the world, these bishops are politicizing and corrupting the teachings of the church.
Biden has consistently opposed the Catholic Church’s teachings, not just with his radical abortion stance but also by attempting to force nuns to pay for birth control. If President Biden truly is committed to biblical teaching and Catholic doctrine, he should repent and then embrace and promote the Catholic and biblical belief that God is the Creator of all life and that taking a vulnerable life in the womb is murder.
Bishop Stowe was concerned about the polarization of the Catholic Church and society. It is about time that the Church — meaning Catholic and all Christian denominations — displayed a greater distinction between itself and society and take the firm stand that no civil servant is above God. Christians are to be in the world but not of it — and that means holding to biblical doctrine rather than kowtowing to public pressure.