The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted Friday to create draft guidelines on the meaning of Communion that could eventually bar people who express support for abortion from receiving the Eucharist.
The proposal to draft the guidelines passed on a 168-55 vote Friday during an annual spring meeting of the conference, held virtually this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Bishops engaged in discussion on whether to include a statement on the church’s teaching on abortion in the guidelines for receiving Communion.
The bishops’ doctrinal committee has agreed to advance the document on the Eucharist that will include stipulations on who should be eligible to present themselves to receive Communion. Some bishops believe that political officials who profess public support for abortion should be refused the sacrament.
“The eyes of the whole country are on us. If we don’t act courageously, clearly and convincingly on this core Catholic value, how can we expect to be taken seriously on another matter?” San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said in comments reported by the Washington Post.
Cordileone, who is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D., Calif.) archbishop, has previously said priests should deny Communion to Catholic public figures who support abortion rights.
San Diego Archbishop Robert McElroy said the proposal could turn reception of the Eucharist into 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.”
The idea to produce a document was first developed by a working group commissioned by Conference of Catholic Bishops president José H. Gomez, the archbishop of Los Angeles. Gomez formed the group following the election of President Biden and concerns of potential conflicts between Biden’s policies and church teaching.
Biden attends Mass every Sunday; however, his support for abortion has drawn condemnation from Catholics. A South Carolina priest denied Biden the Eucharist while on the campaign trail in 2019, citing the future president’s stance on abortion.
When a reporter asked Biden on Friday about the possibility that the bishops would disqualify and deny him from Communion, he responded, “That’s a private matter, and I don’t think that’s going to happen.”