When U.S. Catholic bishops hold their next national meeting in June, they’ll have a number of issues to discuss, including whether President Joe Biden and other Catholic public figures should continue to present themselves to receive Communion. Because of Biden’s public advocacy of abortion rights, some Catholics feel that Biden receiving Communion is a moral evil that must be stopped.
According to The Associated Press, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, is among those who believe it’s necessary to publicly rebuke Biden on the issue.
“Because President Biden is Catholic, it presents a unique problem for us,” Naumann told AP. “It can create confusion. ... How can he say he’s a devout Catholic and he’s doing these things that are contrary to the church’s teaching?”
Naumann told AP that the bishops will decide in June whether to approve a document that would clearly state that public figures who share abortion views similar to Biden’s should not present themselves for Communion. However, in accordance with USCCB policy, it would still leave the decision of whether to withhold Communion up to local bishops.
The issue was debated at "Taking Measure of the 'Biden Effect': American Catholics and the President," a virtual conference hosted by Villanova University's law school on April 23. According to National Catholic Reporter, conference panelist Francis X. Maier, a longtime speechwriter and assistant to retired Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, argued that Biden should be denied Communion to avoid causing "scandal."
But not everyone agrees that Biden should be denied the sacrament.
Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, D.C., has said that he would not deny Biden Communion; Rev. C. Kevin Gillespie, pastor of Biden’s home parish in Washington, Holy Trinity Catholic Church, agreed with that decision.
“It’s really an encounter with God,” Gillespie told The Atlantic. For Biden, this “sacred and intimate moment” is a “gift that enhances his faith, and it energizes his witness,” and “we most certainly encourage him to improve his intimacy with God through the Eucharist.”
A January 2021 poll by Catholics for Choice, an organization that uplifts and amplifies the voices of pro-choice Catholics, revealed that 66 percent of Catholic voters in the 2020 election oppose withholding Communion and other sacraments from pro-choice Catholics, and majorities across party lines – Democrats, Independents, and Republicans – reject it, too.
In a statement, Jamie L. Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, said that this demonstrates that “the Catholic laity understand a profound truth about our faith that the bishops still don’t seem to comprehend: all are welcome and worthy at God’s table, and nothing can estrange us from God’s love."
“As Catholics, we believe that the central message of our faith can be found in Jesus’ command to ‘Feed one another,’” Manson wrote in the statement. “For the bishops to consider using the body of Christ as a weapon with which to divide the faithful and punish President Biden is a reprehensible betrayal of the power of the sacraments.”