Bishops Receive a Caution Over Communion Penalty

Letter from Vatican sets up steps before withholding sacrament from Biden
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 10, 2021 7:05 PM CDT
Bishops Receive a Caution Over Communion Penalty
Hunter Biden, left, rests his hands on the shoulder of his grandfather, President Biden, as they visit with churchgoers after his Confirmation at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church last month in in Wilmington, Del.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The head of the Vatican's doctrine office is warning US bishops to deliberate carefully and minimize divisions before proceeding with any plan to rebuke Roman Catholic politicians such as President Biden for receiving Communion even though they support abortion rights. The strong words of caution came in a letter from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, addressed to Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the AP reports. The bishops will convene a national meeting June 16, with plans to vote on drafting a document on the Communion issue. There is division among them, with some pressing for Biden and other Catholic public figures to be excluded from Communion over their abortion stance, and other bishops warning that such a move would be politically polarizing.

Ladaria said any new policy "requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions." Even then, Ladaria advised, the bishops should seek unanimous support within their ranks for any national policy, lest it become "a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States." In making other points that could complicate the plans of bishops pressing for tough action, Ladaria:

  • Said any new statement should not be limited to Catholic political leaders but encompass all churchgoing Catholics in regard to their worthiness to receive Communion.
  • Questioned the USCCB policy identifying abortion as "the preeminent" moral issue, saying it would be misleading if any new document "were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest accountability on the part of Catholics."
  • Said any new policy could not override the authority of individual bishops to make decisions on who can receive Communion in their dioceses. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, DC, has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.
(More communion stories.)

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