Catholic bishops approve Communion document draft aimed at possible rebuke of Biden

Catholic bishops approve Communion document draft aimed at possible rebuke of Biden

Members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have voted to draft a document on the Eucharist, green lighting a controversial effort championed by a group of conservative clerics who have called for denying Communion to President Joe Biden and other Catholic Democrats who support abortion rights.

The decision, vehemently opposed by a minority of bishops, came despite appeals from the Vatican for a more cautious and collegial approach to the divisive issue.

The conference of bishops had met for a three-day virtual conference before taking the vote on Communion.

The bishops will likely vote on the statement in November. Biden, the second Catholic to serve as USA president, has alarmed many bishops by supporting same-sex marriage and abortion rights, views they say are antithetical to church doctrine.

The bishops' doctrinal committee will now proceed to draft a document on the Eucharist that will include a section on the conditions under which politicians may receive Communion. To be formally adopted, the document would need support of two-thirds of the bishops.

The vote on the proposal - which advocates describe as a broad "teaching document" that does not overrule the right of individual bishops to decide questions of Communion denial for their own diocese - was the culmination of a years-long controversy that stretches from a SC church to the White House to the Vatican, with Catholic prelates giving voice to a range of opinions about whether politicians who back abortion rights should be denied the Eucharist.

During Thursday's debate, Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, Wisconsin stated that many he spoke with were "confused by a Catholic president who advances "the most radical pro-abortion agenda in history, '" adding that action from the bishops" conference was necessary.

Holy Communion is the most important ritual in the Catholic Christian faith.

San Diego Archbishop Robert McElroy said the proposal could turn reception of the Eucharist into a partisan activity. "It will be impossible to prevent its weaponization, even if everyone wants to do so", McElroy said, according to media reports. He warned that the initiative would weaken the bishops' ability to speak on issues such as poverty, racism and the environment.

Biden asked for clarification, "Say again?"

"That's a private matter, and I don't think it's going to happen", the president said of potentially being denied communion.

Yet Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who leads the USCCB's Committee on Doctrine, which put forward the plan for a resolution, said in a news conference that the upcoming midterm and presidential elections "never entered my mind, or the committee's". Six bishops abstained from the vote. But many Catholics - like Americans in general - are starkly divided on the issue by party; more than half of Catholics who also identify as Republicans said Biden should not be allowed to receive the sacrament because of his views on abortion.

The final decision on receiving Communion would be left up to individual bishops and archbishops.

Gregory was one of almost 70 bishops who signed a letter to USCCB president and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez urging him to delay the Communion discussion until the bishops convene in person, but that request was not granted.

"The choice before us at this moment", Gregory said during Thursday's debate, "is either we pursue a path of strengthening unity among ourselves or settle for creating a document that will not bring unity but may very well further damage it".

The Vatican, meanwhile, has attempted to slow the USA bishops' drafting of the document.

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