The Roman Catholic bishops in the United States will decide whether President Joe Biden and other practising Catholics who support same-sex marriages and abortion need to be “punished” by the Church by denying them communion, reports Reuters.
According to the report in Reuters, the US Conference of Catholic bishops is scheduled to meet this week from Wednesday to Friday to decide if Catholics, including politicians like United States President Joe Biden, should be given communion. The church has been critical of Joe Biden’s stand on critical issues such as abortion and LGBT rights that are considered antithetical to the Church’s teachings and tenets.
Communion is a sacrament central to the Roman Catholic faith that a priest often administers to Catholics. It is the act of receiving a piece of bread that symbolizes the body of Jesus and a sip of wine representing his blood.
As Joe Biden continues to take a positive stand on abortion and LGBT rights issues, the Bishops will now take a call on the proposal to ask the ‘Committee on Doctrine’ to draft a teaching document on the topic of Communion. If the Committee on Doctrine agrees on the proposal, then it would mean that Catholic Bishops in the US would deny communion to all those who advocate LGBTQ rights, including same-sex marriage and abortion rights.
Joe Biden is the second Catholic to serve as US President, the first was John F Kennedy.
Abortion and LGBT issues are antithetical to Catholic Church’s views
In 2004, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops allowed individual Bishops to administer or withhold communion to politicians who support abortion rights.
As per the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a woman’s willful termination of her pregnancy is “gravely contrary to the moral law”. The Church also lays down that ‘marital love’ should be shared between men and women, not people of the same sex.
Biden, who is believed to be a staunch advocate of LGBT and abortion rights issues, had rolled back federal restrictions on abortion pills to make them more accessible after assuming office in January this year. In addition, Joe Biden has also proposed scrapping a long-standing ban on federal funding for abortion in his 2022 budget.
The US President’s strong stand on these controversial issues seems to have alarmed the Catholic Church, thus polarising the Christians in the country. A Pew Research poll conducted in March revealed that 67% of Catholics in the US believe Biden’s views should not disqualify him from communion.
The same poll suggested that about 56% of Catholics said they thought abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and about 61% said they favoured allowing gay marriage.
The new bishop of Biden’s home diocese in Delaware had said in April that he was open to a conversation with the President but did not weigh in on whether Biden should receive Communion.
Vatican Church urges caution, says it could create discord
Meanwhile, the Vatican has urged caution against denying communion to Joe Biden. Cardinal Luis Ladaria, a Vatican official, wrote to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in May urging it to exercise caution on the debate over politicians’ views and Communion, saying it could become a “source of discord”.
However, there are many within the community who advocate strong action against those people who fail to adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone of San Francisco had recently argued that “Catholics who do not espouse publicly the faith and moral teachings of the Catholic church”, including politicians like Biden, should not receive Communion.
A few Catholics believe that raking up these issues may prove to be divisive and lead to a further decline in the number of believers.
San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy published an essay days after Cordileone’s letter claiming that withholding communion from Biden would sow further partisan division among Catholics. “The Eucharist is being weaponized and deployed as a tool in political warfare,” he lamented.
According to a Gallup poll published in March, US Catholic Church membership has dropped nearly 20 per cent in the past two decades as the church has been rocked by sexual abuse scandals involving predatory priests and increasing division on social issues.