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US Catholic bishops may pressure Biden to stop the sacrament

When the US Catholic Bishops hold their next National Assembly in June, they will decide when to send a tougher message to President Biden and other Catholic politicians. Do not report if you continue to interrupt the public campaign for abortion rights. ,

The subject of discussion is a document that will be prepared for the US Catholic Bishops’ Conference by its Doctrine Committee, with the aim of clarifying the Church’s position on an issue that has repeatedly troubled bishops in recent decades. According to many bishops, this is a new urgency now, as Biden, who is only the second Catholic president, is the first to hold the post, while strongly advocating for abortion rights.

According to Kansas City Archbishop Naez Naumann, such a stance by a public figure is a “serious moral evil” that Biden should be publicly reprimanded for.

“Because President Biden is a Catholic, this is a unique issue for us,” Naumann told The Associated Press. “It simply came to our notice then. … How can he say that he is a devout Catholic, doing these things that contradict the teachings of the church? ”

The document, if approved, would make clear to the USCCB that Biden and other Catholic public figures with similar views should not appear for the sacrament, Naumann said.

Under USCCB policy, it left the decision to keep the program to individual bishops. In Biden’s case, the supreme leaders of his jurisdiction, where he often worships. Bishop of Wilmington F.

The working document is the result of a decision by USCCB President Jose Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, to set up a working group in November to address Biden’s position on abortion and the “difficult situation” created to address other issues. differ from official church teachings. Prior to the dissolution, the group proposed the development of a new document addressing the issue of the Sacrament, a draft assigned to the Doctrine Committee.

The committee does not provide details about its activities. Naumann said the issue would be discussed at the USCCB meeting in June, and the bishops would vote on whether the commission should continue working on the document so that it could be published later.

Two-thirds majority will be needed to continue the work, Naumann said. But even critics of the initiative, such as Ston Stone, Bishop of Lexington, Kentucky, predict that the initiative will receive overwhelming approval.

Stone is among a relatively small group of U.S. bishops who worry that touching on abortion. Stone also worries that US bishops are missing out on the opportunity to find common ground with Biden on such issues.

“If a politician is targeted as a negative example by his own church, it puts a sad context in which the church can deal with this Catholic president,” Stone said. “It contributes to the polarization of the church and society.”

Such concerns were expressed by the Bishop of San Diego, Robert McElroy.

“I do not see how depriving the president or other political leaders of Eucaristic, based on their socio-political stance, can be interpreted in our society as anything other than disarming the Eucharist … to subdue them,” he said. McElroy. February online forum.

However, the bishops, who want to send a strong message to Biden, are determined to move forward.

“There is a growing sense of urgency,” said Salvatore Cordilleone, Archbishop of San Francisco. “Abortion is not just one of the most important issues. … It’s a direct attack on human life. ”

Cordilleone envisions a statement from the USCCB to Biden and others that “will stir them up in their conscience.”

“They need to understand the scandal that has arisen when they say they are faithfully Catholic and at the same time opposed to such a basic idea of ​​the church,” he said.

American Cardinal Raymond Burke mediated the possibility of the final punishment of Catholicism. He says politicians who “publicly and persistently” advocate abortion are “apostates” who should not only be barred from receiving the sacrament but deserved to be expelled.

Concerned about Biden’s stance on the abortion in mid-April, the bishops became even more frustrated with his administration’s three measures.

It lifted federal funding restrictions on human fetal tissue research. It repealed the Trump administration’s policy of banning organizations such as Planned Parenthood from receiving federal family planning grants if they also referred women for abortions. It says that women who use abortion pills during the COVID-19 epidemic will not need to visit a doctor’s office or clinic, which will allow women to receive prescriptions via telemedicine and receive the pill by mail.

Naumann, who made harsh statements after each action, told the AP that he was disappointed that Biden could allow them to be identified as a devout Catholic.

“He has no authority to teach what it means to be a Catholic. “It is the duty of our bishops,” Naumann said. “Whether intentional or not, he is trying to usurp our authority.”

The Vatican has not ruled on the Commission’s basic training document on politicians supporting abortion, although canon law says those in persistent sin should not be allowed to receive the sacrament. It provided guidance on the conduct of Catholics in political life, urging them to adhere to principles consistent with ecclesiastical doctrine.

The then head of the Vatican doctrine, Cardinal Joseph Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, told US bishops in 2004 that priests “should” refuse the sacrament if a politician receives the sacrament despite “the persistence of blatant grave sin.” »: Including the guilt of constantly advocating for permits.

Ratzinger wrote a secret letter describing the principles to the US bishops, answering their question whether it was not possible to communicate with ion on Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president. In the end, the bishops ignored Ratzinger’s advice and instead voted in favor of the current policy, which allows bishops to decide for themselves whether or not to renounce it.

The document being developed by the Doctrine Committee may contain some guidelines for bishops, Cordilleone said, but it will not seek to deprive them of their decision-making powers.

“It will place a burden of responsibility on Catholics who stand out in public life,” he said.

Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila, who has strongly criticized Biden’s abortion, told the AP that he was in favor of a national communication policy, in contrast to the current “patchwork approach”. He said that bishops should first have a private conversation with an individual who is considered guilty and refuse to communicate if they continue to stay.

Edward Peters, who teaches canon law at the Sacred Heart Synagogue in Detroit, said the USCCB will have the opportunity to seek Vatican approval for a common Eucharistic policy that applies to all bishops. But he doubted such a request would be made.

“The Bishops’ Conference has a broad responsibility to raise issues that affect the effectiveness and clarity of the Church’s mission,” Peters said in an e-mail. “The bad example set by some high-ranking Catholics who are consistently unable to defend innocent human lives is undoubtedly one of those questions.”

Some Catholic academics are concerned about the document.

“Are you really going to deny communication to the President of the United States?” asked Margaret McGuinness, a professor of religion at La Salle University in Philadelphia. “I do not think this will shake his faith. … I do not see anything constructive coming out of it. ”

He noted that the majority of Catholics in the United States, according to opinion polls, say that abortion should be legal, at least in some cases.

Stephen Millies, a professor of public theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, says the Catholic Church has received significant financial support in recent years from conservative benefactors who are skeptical of Francis, preferring Donald Trump to Biden in 2020. In the elections.

“What we are seeing now is an effort to please donors who want a church that will fight a cultural war,” Miles said.


Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield, based in Rome, contributed to this report.


Religious coverage of the Associated Press receives support from Lilly Endowment through the US Con. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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