US Catholic bishops advance effort that could deny Biden holy communion

Bishop Ralph Walker Nickless of Sioux City celebrated Mass with members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Region IX in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 16 2020 during their ad Limina Apostolorum visit to the Vatica

Biden is the second Catholic US president in historyCredit: AFPWhat did the conference decide?

The bishops overwhelming voted to advance the drafting of a "teaching document" that would admonish public figures who support abortion rights, with 74% voting in favor.

Some bishops believe Biden forced their hand on making a decision and the church's credibility was on the line if they didn't move forward with a document reaffirming core Catholic values.

In a document titled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, last updated in 2019, the USA bishops lay out their official teachings on the political responsibilities of Catholics.

Biden was refused Communion in 2019 by Father Robert Morey of Saint Anthony Catholic Church in SC.

He then criticized Biden for his abortion policies and for describing abortion as a "right", adding, "this is a Catholic president that's doing this, the most aggressive thing we've ever seen in terms of this attack on life - when it's most innocent".

Biden has always been devoted and highly public, speaking the words of faith fluently and attending regular masses even on busy days such as his own inauguration and the recent G7 Summit in the United Kingdom.

"That's a private matter, and I don't think that's going to happen", the president said when asked at the White House on Friday.

"They're looking for direction", said Hying. He supports the legality of abortion, while Catholic bishops have long made its abolition a foremost policy goal.

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"The Sacrament of Holy Communion is central to the life of practicing Catholics, and the weaponization of the Eucharist to Democratic lawmakers for their support of a woman's safe and legal access to abortion is contradictory", they said. "At the same time, we can not dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity, such as racism, environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty".

The USCCB has identified the fight against abortion as its "preeminent" priority.

The bishops also deplore the "inhumane treatment" and family separations of immigrants, as well as "gun violence, xenophobia, capital punishment and other issues that affect human life and dignity".

As expected, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops discussed the document at its general assembly meeting this week, which took place virtually.

Can the bishops' conference ban Biden from communion?

Washington, D.C., archbishop Cardinal Wilton Gregory told the meeting, "The choice before us at this moment is either we pursue a path of strengthening unity among ourselves or settle for creating a document that may not bring unity but may well further damage it".

Biden's position on abortion was cited by many evangelical Christians in explaining their support for the anti-abortion Trump in the November presidential election, despite numerous allegations of sexual misconduct and other scandals against the thrice-married real estate developer.

Rhoades charged that his committee could immediately begin work on the indisputable section and wait for input from the regional conference on the more controversial part.

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