On Friday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) overwhelmingly voted to draft a statement on the sacrament of the Eucharist (commonly known as Communion), clarifying whether or not politicians who advocate for the killing of unborn babies, the erosion of religious freedom, and the redefinition of marriage and sexuality — like President Joe Biden — may properly receive the Lord’s Supper, which Roman Catholics believe becomes the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ.
The USCCB publicized the decision on Friday afternoon, The New York Times reported. The vote — 73 percent in favor and 24 percent opposed — came at the end of three days of contentious debate at a virtual meeting of the USCCP.
While the text of the proposal remains unwritten, a proposed outline (reported by America Magazine) claimed it would “include the theological foundation for the Church’s discipline concerning the reception of Holy Communion and a special call for those Catholics who are cultural, political, or parochial leaders to witness the faith.” The proposal, once drafted, will require a two-thirds majority vote to become binding.
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The bishops will likely vote on the statement in November. Even if the USCCB approves of a statement that would ban politicians like Biden from receiving communion, the USCCB only has the authority to publish guideline statements. Only the local bishop or the Pope can determine who can and cannot receive the sacrament of Communion.
New York Times reporter Elizabeth Dias suggested that the motivations behind the vote are more political than religious.
Anti-abortion advocates already see political opportunity in the bishops’ plan. The organization Students for Life held rallies in seven cities on Thursday to urge the bishops to vote “yes.” So far, Republicans are “not having much luck demonizing Biden,” so they are testing abortion as a potential issue on which to criticize him, as they did with transgender athletes in youth sports and critical race theory, said Mike Mikus, a political consultant in Pittsburgh who advises Democratic campaigns.
“The point is to mobilize Republicans; it is all a play to the base,” he said.
Bishop Robert M. Coerver of Lubbock, Texas, also played into Dias’ narrative. “I can’t help but wonder if the years 2022 and 2024 might be part of the rush,” the bishop said.
Yet Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who leads the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, which put forward the plan for a resolution, said in a news conference that the upcoming midterm and presidential elections “never entered my mind, or the committee’s.”
Indeed, the central issue at stake is not the political stances of Joe Biden but the integrity of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church has made its positions on abortion, marriage, and gender clear, rooting these doctrines in the Bible and Church tradition. The widespread presence of self-proclaimed Catholics who not only disagree with these positions but actively aim to force payments for abortion, celebrations of same-sex marriage, and the performance of transgender surgery on Americans who object is a devastating scandal for the Church.
When Biden took the oath of office in January 2021, the head of the USCCB issued an historic rebuke of the president. While José H. Gomez, the archbishop of Los Angeles and USCCB president, began his remarks with prayer for Biden’s welfare, he condemned Biden for having “pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender.”
Gomez also noted that “of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.”
Indeed, Biden has fought to resurrect an Obama-era HHS rule that would force Roman Catholic doctors to perform transgender surgery, in violation of Catholic teaching on sexuality and in violation of the Hippocratic oath. He vigorously supports the Equality Act, which explicitly guts the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act — a bill for which Biden himself voted when he was in the Senate. Biden has also excluded the Hyde Amendment from his federal budget proposal, fighting to force pro-life taxpayers to unwittingly fund abortion.
Earlier this week, the Vatican nixed a plan for Biden to receive Communion from Pope Francis himself. This should presage an even more historic rebuke than Gomez delivered on Inauguration Day.
The USCCB should clarify the limits of Communion not just because of Joe Biden’s radical anti-religious freedom stances but because the Left in general is becoming extremely hostile to the unborn and to those who dissent from LGBT orthodoxy. If Catholicism does not involve adherence to Catholic doctrine on these fundamental issues — or at the very least a respect for Catholics’ religious freedom to live by them — what kind of flagrant disregard for the Church can nominal Catholics not get away with?
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