The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is set to vote this week on draft guidelines clarifying the meaning of Communion that could prohibit Catholics who express support for abortion — such as President Joe Biden and House speaker Nancy Pelosi — from receiving the Eucharist.
The bishops will vote on the document when they meet for a conference in Baltimore this week. A committee wrote the document in the wake of the bishops’ June conference, where they discussed whether to take a position on the eligibility of prominent Catholics whose actions run afoul of church teaching to receive Communion.
In September, Bishop Kevin Rhoades, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, said that the document would remind Catholics of the importance of the sacrament, though he did not say whether it would outline who should be considered worthy of receiving Communion.
A draft of the document obtained by the Catholic newsletter The Pillar says that “people who exercise some form of public authority have a special responsibility to embody the church.” It adds that Catholics who live in a state of “mortal sin” without repentance should not receive Communion, but it does not say who should sit in judgment.
The vote will come after Biden met with Pope Francis at the Vatican last month and later told reporters that the pope had said he was a “good Catholic” who may receive Communion.
Pope Francis had previously said that bishops should use “compassion and tenderness” with Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.
“Communion is not a prize for the perfect. . . . Communion is a gift, the presence of Jesus and his Church,” the pope said.
At the meeting in June, San Francisco archbishop Salvatore Cordileone asked how the bishops can “expect to be taken seriously” if they do not “act courageously, clearly and convincingly on this core Catholic value,” the Washington Post reported.
Cordileone, who is Pelosi’s archbishop, has said priests should deny Communion to Catholic public figures who support abortion rights.
However, San Diego archbishop Robert McElroy argued that the proposal could make receiving the Eucharist a partisan activity.
“The Eucharist itself will be a tool in vicious partisan turmoil. It will be impossible to prevent its weaponization, even if everyone wants to do so,” McElroy said. “Once we legitimize public-policy-based exclusion . . . we’ll invite all political animosity into the heart of the Eucharistic celebration.”
At the time, a reporter asked Biden about the possibility that he would be disqualified from receiving Communion over his stance on abortion. The president responded, “That’s a private matter, and I don’t think that’s going to happen.”