When the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meets this summer, one of the items on their agenda will be figuring out what to do about communion. More specifically, the Committee on Doctrine could take steps towards a new policy that would encourage pro-choice Catholics to not accept communion.
But if that all sounds very technical, here’s a simpler version of the story: President Joe Biden, arguably the most famous Catholic in the country, supports pro-choice policies, and these Catholic leaders can’t handle it. So they want to send a message that Biden isn’t a True Catholic™. This is how they plan to do it.
But passing such a policy could create a slew of other problems.
Here’s David Crary of the Associated Press explaining the proposed policy:
The document, if approved, would make clear the USCCB’s view that Biden and other Catholic public figures with similar viewpoints should not present themselves for Communion, [Kansas City Archbishop Joseph] Naumann said.
In accordance with existing USCCB policy, it would still leave decisions on withholding Communion up to individual bishops. In Biden’s case, the top prelates of the jurisdictions where he frequently worships — Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware, and Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. — have made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches they oversee.
“They need to understand the scandal that is caused when they say they are faithfully Catholic and yet oppose the church on such a basic concept,” [San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone] said.
This entire issue, then, revolves around a suggestion. It also appears that plenty of bishops have no intention of following it, so it’s a lot of discussion over something that could be toothless. Still, the idea that pro-choice Catholics need to be sanctioned in some way is almost laughable when you consider how many Catholics disagree with Church doctrine on this matter and who’s creating the policy.
The leaders of the Catholic Church, an organization that facilitates child sex abuse, have no real credibility when it comes to matters of morality. But even if priests accepted their proposed suggestions, consider what it would mean: 48% of Catholics in the U.S. support abortion rights. Are they all going to be purged? At some point, you have to think the Church’s unwavering commitment to controlling women’s bodies will only push more young people away.
A concern over hypocrisy would be equally silly. Plenty of Catholics support same-sex marriage; is the Church going to punish them, too, or will they only go after those who support women’s rights? Which “sins” are permitted, and why is abortion worse than everything else?
All of this is especially pointless when you consider that Biden has repeatedly said he’s against abortion privately, just not when it comes to public policy. So by the Church’s own standards, Biden should be eligible for communion, not discouraged from taking it.
It’s so bizarre that this is the hill so many bishops are choosing to die on. If they really wanted to punish people who violated Catholic principles, they should be looking in the other direction of the hierarchy.
Jamie L. Manson, president of the group Catholics for Choice, said in a press release that passing this policy would be needlessly divisive, not to mention hypocritical:
… 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. After four years of tacit complicity with Donald Trump — the most anti-life president in U.S. history, who daily profaned Catholic teachings on every issue from immigration to the environment to capital punishment — it is glaringly hypocritical for the bishops to suddenly use their voice to condemn President Biden and other Catholic elected officials whose consciences compel them to support abortion rights…
And, of course, while all of this revolves around a sacrament that’s important to Catholics, it’s ultimately a controversy about whether priests can put what they truly believe is a literal piece of Jesus’ body in the mouths of strangers via a tasteless wafer. We can’t ignore the utter bizarreness of a ritual just because it comes from a familiar religious practice.
For a Church that’s leaking members regularly, a move to punish pro-choice Catholics would only lead to more people leaving Catholicism for good.
So at least there’s a silver lining to all this.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to everyone for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier)