At the risk of division within the American Catholic Church, the bishops attack a Catholic president who supports the right to abortion.
A divided conference of Catholic bishops in the United States announced Friday that it will draft a statement on holy communion that could rebuke Catholic politicians, including President Joe Biden, who support right to abortion.
Decision 168-55 to write an educational document on the Eucharist, a holy sacrament of the Roman Catholic faith, came after two hours of debate at the virtual assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on June 17 , during which the bishops weighed the merit of reaffirming the teachings of the Church against the possibility of sowing partisan division.
This week’s debate has exposed some of the cultural and political divisions that have rocked the church in recent years. The number of members of the American Catholic Church has fallen by nearly 20% in the past two decades, according to a Gallup poll released in March, according to sexual abuse scandals involving predatory priests emerged and members became more and more divided on social issues.
Biden is a dedicated and dedicated Roman Catholic who supports the ability of women in the United States to end unwanted pregnancies, a fundamental political position of the American Democratic Party he now leads. However, many American Catholics oppose abortion, believing for religious reasons that the fetus has a right to life.
Bishops supportive of the document’s drafting insisted he would not call any politician by name, but the subject of Biden’s social views repeatedly came up in the discussion. Biden, the second Catholic to serve as US president, alarmed many bishops by supporting same sex marriage and abortion rights, opinions they say go against Church doctrine.
At a White House event on Friday, Biden declined to answer a reporter’s question about the bishops’ decision. “It’s a private matter and I don’t think it will happen,” Biden said.
Some bishops arguing for the drafting of the document argued that they had an obligation to clarify the teachings of the church for all Catholics in light of inconsistencies in the faith and the actions of officials like Biden.
“Almost daily I speak with people, Catholics… who are confused that we have a president who professes staunch Catholicism and yet pushes forward the most radical pro-abortion agenda in our history,” said the Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, Wisconsin, who supported the drafting of the document.
Opponents said they feared the drafting of the document would sow more partisan divisions within the church and that the bishops would take more time to discuss the issue before moving forward.
Vatican official Cardinal Luis Ladaria wrote the conference in May calling for caution on debating politicians’ views on abortion and communion, saying it could become a “source of contention,” reported Catholic News Service.
Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego opposed the drafting of the document, saying the move would defeat the bishops’ goal of uniting Catholics through the sacrament.
“The Eucharist… will inevitably become a tool in the vicious partisan turmoil that is shaking our nation. It will be impossible to prevent the militarization of the Eucharist in partisan battles, ”he declared.
Polls coming out of the 2020 presidential election showed that the Catholic vote was almost divided between Biden and former Republican President Donald Trump.
Pope Francis congratulated Biden during a phone call after his election victory even as some Catholic bishops refused to recognize Biden’s ascendancy as president because of this support for abortion rights.
The doctrine conference committee is now expected to draft the document ahead of a November meeting where the bishops will consider an amendable draft.
In 2004, the conference issued a statement that individual bishops could decide to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who supported the right to abortion.