Here, in 50 words, is the reason President Biden may find himself denied Holy Communion following a vote this month at the US Catholic bishops’ conference.
The Church has always regarded abortion as uniquely evil. Biden plans to make infanticidal late-term abortions widely available. In the eyes of the Church, this means he’s committing a grave mortal sin and can’t receive Communion until he confesses it. He won’t, so he could be barred from the sacrament.
That’s the essence of it. It’s why 73 percent of the 290 US bishops voted to prepare a document that will clarify teaching that, in fact, was already set in stone. It will apply to all US Catholics, not just the President or public figures.
The New York Times, in a spectacularly biased piece of reporting, says the bishops were responding to right-wing targeting of America’s second Catholic president.
‘The fact that Mr Biden’s views on abortion are even a matter of public discussion is already a victory for conservative Catholics,’ writes Elizabeth Dias.
Bullshit. Joe Biden’s support for abortion on demand, up to birth, for any reason whatsoever, puts him at what you might politely call the radical end of the pro-choice spectrum.
It’s not only grotesquely at odds with a doctrine of the sanctity of unborn life dating back nearly 2,000 years, but also unrepresentative of the opinions of ordinary US Catholics. About half of them support abortion rights in limited circumstances, but the number who go as far as Biden is vanishingly small.
As I said in my recent Holy Smoke podcast devoted to the controversy, if you give Biden Communion you might as well offer it to the leaders of Planned Parenthood.
If the President’s views on abortion — which he shifted sharply leftwards in order to get the Democratic nomination — were not a matter of anguished discussion among Catholics, that would be extraordinary.
Dias isn’t wrong to say that Biden’s election pushed this onto the bishops’ agenda. How could it not? Here’s a guy who makes a show of religious observance — and I’m not saying it’s bogus, just a little theatrical in the manner of many US politicians — who doesn’t just dissent from one of the Church’s most sacred teachings. He wants to drive a bulldozer through it.
And, being President of the United States, he has the opportunity to do that. In addition to lobbying for abortion up to birth, his administration wants to remove First Amendment protections from public employees who won’t participate in or be associated with abortion in any way.
Biden has forced the hand of the American hierarchy. Only the so-called ‘Biden bishops’, small in number but powerful, since they include the cardinal archbishops of Washington, Chicago and Newark, remotely sympathize with his views.
Note to Ms Dias: US Catholic bishops are not natural Republicans. Of the three quarters who voted to proceed with this Eucharistic document, only a handful were enthusiastic Trump supporters. I’m guessing that most of them found the 45th president pretty repugnant personally. Archbishop José Gomez, president of the USCCB, was among the most savage critics of Trump’s border policy. They are overwhelmingly opposed to the death penalty, as they should be. (And yes, in response to pro-Biden Catholics, you can make a case for denying communion to politicians who are as keen on lethal injections as the president is on last-minute ‘terminations’.)
For decades, since the heyday of Teddy Kennedy, most American bishops wanted the subject of pro-abortion politicians receiving Communion to go away. Biden’s election made that impossible.
Dias tries to drag the Pope into this. Well, it’s true that Francis wanted this kicked into the long grass, if possible. He cares less about abortion than any pope in history. He hated Trump, likes Biden and systematically uses the Vatican’s appointments procedure to humiliate theologically conservative bishops.
But if you really forced him to answer the question of whether you should give Communion to someone who, in Catholic terms, is an unrepentant pro-choice extremist, then I think the answer would be no.