US Bishops at odds over Communion to Biden


The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) plans to devote part of its national meeting next month to the sensitive issue of which Catholics are worthy of receiving Communion, and President Joe Biden will be a key subject.

Dozens of bishops had written to the USCCB president, Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, requesting to postpone the debate until a later meeting. They wanted more time to prepare for the debate, and to discuss the issue in person rather than via a virtual meeting.

But prompt action is being sought by some conservative bishops who want to signal that President Joe Biden and other Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should not receive Communion.

Archbishop Gomez explained that the USCCB administrative committee approved a request from Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, for the discussion on drafting a document to examine the “meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the church”.

Bishop Rhoades chairs the bishops’ committee on doctrine, which would draft the document if approved by the full assembly.

In a memo, Archbishop Gomez said USCCB rules require that the body of bishops first be asked whether to issue a document on a particular topic.

“Importantly, the action item does not ask the body to approve a final statement, but only whether drafting of a text may begin,” the memo said.

If the action is approved, the doctrine committee would begin its work, subject to the conference’s “usual process of consultation, modification and amendment” when presented for consideration at a future general assembly.

“As you will note, the focus of this proposed teaching document is on how best to help people to understand the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist as the center of their Christian lives,” Gomez wrote.

Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila, one of the conservatives engaged in the discussions, issued a statement Tuesday praising Gomez and saying he “followed the correct procedures to facilitate this critical discussion as a body of bishops.”

Aquila referred to a May 7 letter to Gomez from the head of the Vatican’s doctrine office, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, urging the US bishops to deliberate carefully and minimize divisions before proceeding with any action on the Communion issue.

“It was clear from it that the USCCB’s plan to discuss and debate this important issue is warranted and encouraged,” Aquila said. “In contrast, the publication of the letter calling for a halt to discussion at our June meeting on this vital issue risks creating an atmosphere of factionalism, rather than unity amongst the bishops.”

But in a recent essay, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego made a case against the campaign to deny Biden and others Communion.

“It will bring tremendously destructive consequences,” McElroy wrote. “The Eucharist is being weaponized and deployed as a tool in political warfare. This must not happen.”


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