Catholic bishops could consider whether Biden should receive Communion

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The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is holding a meeting in June to consider whether its Committee on Doctrine should draft a document clarifying the church’s stance on abortion.

The meeting and consideration come as President Biden continues to support abortion rights while also claiming the title of a “devout Catholic.”

While the USCCB deferred comment on exactly what would be discussed at the meeting or what any potential documents may contain, a spokesperson did confirm that the meeting will be held on June 4.

The spokesperson added that it would be premature to say exactly what any prospective documents discussed at the meeting would say or cover.


If the committee does decide to draft any kind of document at the June meeting, it likely would not be presented to the full body of bishops for discussion and a vote until November, the spokesperson said.

Certain bishops have made comments about clarifying the church’s abortion position and whether or not the president can receive Communion while also abortion rights, signaling that discussion of the issue may be brought up at the meeting later this summer.

Such a stance, by a public figure, is “a grave moral evil,” according to Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, who chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities and believes it’s necessary to publicly rebuke Biden on the issue.

“Because President Biden is Catholic, it presents a unique problem for us,” Naumann told The Associated Press. “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?”

In this Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 file photo, President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, attend Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle during Inauguration Day ceremonies in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

In this Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 file photo, President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, attend Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle during Inauguration Day ceremonies in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

He added later that the president “doesn’t have the authority to teach what it means to be Catholic.”

“Whether intentional or not, he’s trying to usurp our authority,” Naumann told the outlet.

Such a 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.

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone told the AP that “there’s a growing sense of urgency” regarding the church’s stance on abortion, which he described as “not just one among many important issues” but “a direct attack on human life.”


The discussion stems from USCCB President Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, who decided to form a working group in November of 2020 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.

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.

Stowe is among a relatively small group of U.S. bishops who worry that the USCCB’s emphasis on abortion is undercutting Pope Francis’ exhortations for the church to also stress such issues as climate change, immigration and inequality. Stowe also worries that the U.S. bishops are missing a chance to find common ground with Biden on such issues.

“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,” Stowe told the AP. “It contributes to the polarization of the church and of society.”


The top prelates of the jurisdictions where Biden 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 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 Associated Press contributed to this report.

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