One month after the election of Joseph Biden I met personally with the Archbishop of Detroit, Allen Vigneron. I knew that he had been appointed to head a working committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)—a committee formed to address how the bishops would deal with a Catholic president who advocates legalized abortion contrary to the Faith of the Church.
In the months leading up to the June 2021 bishops’ meeting, it was clear that many bishops were concerned about a need to address the scandal of a pro-abortion Catholic president who regularly presents himself for Holy Communion. One week after the formation of the working committee, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C., knowing full-well that such a committee had been assembled, announced that he would not prevent Biden from receiving Holy Communion. This served as a kind of preemptive strike against the working committee ever advising that action be taken to deny Biden reception of the Eucharist.
When I asked to meet with Vigneron, I hoped to provide a way forward, despite the obstacle erected by Gregory. In a meeting in which Vigneron was very open and gracious, I suggested the following:
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
Sign up to get Crisis articles delivered to your inbox daily
- Certain bishops should be appointed to meet with the president face to face.
- Explain to him how his advocacy of abortion and policies contrary to the sanctity of marriage are a contradiction of his Catholic faith—that the right-to-life for instance is not a mere confessional peculiarity of Catholicism, but rather it is a right that exists according to the nature of the human person.
- Should he persist in his advocacy of abortion and “gay marriage,” he will be requested to not present himself for Holy Communion.
- The bishops make it publicly known that they have asked Biden, as well as all other pro-abortion Catholic politicians, to not present themselves for Holy Communion.
Due to the fact that Gregory already stated he would not deny Communion to Biden, my suggestion did not advocate such a formal denial, since it was unlikely that the committee would contradict Gregory—but I hoped that at least the bishops would do something!
Two months before the Bishops’ June assembly, I wrote to Bishop Rhoades of Fort Wayne. As head of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, he was tasked with composing a document on Eucharistic coherency. I urged that the bishops adopt the four-point path I had suggested to Vigneron. I received a cordial response from his aide that stated: “The Doctrine Committee, which Bishop Rhoades chairs, has not been asked to address the issue of President Biden and Holy Communion. The scope of the matter referred to the Doctrine Committee on the Holy Eucharist is much broader.”
Needless to say, I was now quite confused. All this time the impression was given that indeed the bishops were going to address the “issue of President Biden and Holy Communion.” And when the majority of the bishops voted to compose a document on “Eucharistic coherency” at their June 2021 meeting, it was expected that the document would directly confront the scandal of pro-abortion Catholic politicians’ reception of Communion.
However, following the June assembly, the USCCB posted a notice of clarification on its website. It stated that the bishops did not vote to “ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion,” and this was “not up for vote or debate.” Furthermore, “There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians.” Rather, the bishops intend to “bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.”
On November 17, 2021, the bishops approved the document The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church. Nearly every headline drew attention to the fact that the bishops did not call on Biden to be denied Communion. The media seemed surprised that the bishops failed to directly take up that issue! But there could hardly be any surprise when the bishops had already announced, back in June, that “There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians.” That media ship had already sailed!
Except in very few instances, the bishops have not yet dealt with the scandal of the Eucharistic incoherency of Biden’s reception of Holy Communion and that of many other Catholic pro-abortion politicians. And it is true that despite what was initially expected, and despite the media build up, the bishops’ document does not directly resolve the scandal. This author deliberately uses the word “directly”! It is not entirely accurate to say, as did The Wall Street Journal’s November 18 headline: “Bishops Avoid Abortion Issue in Guidelines on Communion.”
However, considering the enormity of the scandal caused by Biden’s reception of Holy Communion and the controversy stirred by Biden’s behavior, the document has been rightly called “tepid,” “milquetoast,” by the National Catholic Reporter. America Magazine described it as a “whimper.” Nonetheless, the document still managed to provide pastoral principles upon which pro-abortion Catholic politicians can be ecclesially sanctioned, principles that can be exploited to call the bishops to take action against those Catholics in public life who advocate the legalized killing of the innocent. Let us examine the document carefully.
Under the heading “Transformation in Christ,” the principles begin in Article 35 when it says every human being deserves to be loved. When that love is lacking, “our communion with the Lord is impaired or even contradicted. This love extends particularly and ‘preferentially’ to the poor and the most vulnerable.” The document intends to set up a connection that authentic communion with the Church requires care and love for others. Already, by their advocacy of a national slaughter of the innocent, the Bidens and the Pelosis fail this test.
Article 36 affirms that it is the “role of the laity in particular to transform social relations in accord with the love of Christ, which is carried out concretely in actions that work for the objective common good.” Lay people must “act as leaven in the dough to build up a temporal city in keeping with God’s project. [Consistency] between faith and life in the political, economic, and social realm[s] requires formation of conscience, which translates into knowing the Church’s social doctrine. Lay people who exercise some form of public authority have a special responsibility to form their consciences in accord with the Church’s faith and the moral law, and to serve the human family by upholding human life and dignity.”
It is interesting to note that Article 36 cites the Latin American bishops’ Aparecida document that called for pro-abortion Catholic politicians to be denied Communion. Pope Francis, then a bishop in Argentina, was among the prelates who issued the document. Again, the Bidens and Pelosis fail to have consistency between faith and life in the political sphere. They fail to form their consciences “in accord with the Church’s faith and the moral law, and to serve the human family by upholding human life and dignity.”
Article 38 twice specifically references the unborn as part of the “throw-away culture.” Included among the “most vulnerable” are not only the unborn but also “migrants and refugees, victims of racial injustice, the sick and the elderly.” Article 40 even throws in care for the earth. And here is a true failure of The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church. The bishops needed to emphasize that the legalized killing of the unborn is a particularly gross injustice that has claimed the lives of over 60 million innocent persons in acts of despicable violence—and that indeed abortion remains, as the USCCB itself has affirmed, the preeminent moral issue. Nonetheless, Article 39, quoting Gaudium et Spes, included abortion in a list of “infamies.” We can legitimately conclude that someone guilty of such “infamies” must not receive Holy Communion.
The section on “Transformation in Christ” strongly connects worthy reception of Holy Communion to implementation of social justice. This connection was already set up in Article 37 when, according to the Catechism, “The Eucharist commits us to the poor. To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren.” The bishops refer to Mother Teresa whose “deep faith in the Eucharist and her reception of Holy Communion motivated her “commitment to the sanctity of all human life.” Again, the Bidens and Pelosis, who directly facilitate the killing of the unborn, fail the necessary connection between reception of Communion and “recognizing Christ in the poorest, his brethren.”
Article 45 teaches that personal failures “fall into different categories, reflecting different degrees of severity” that “damage our communion with God.” And Article 46 goes on to affirm, “There are some sins, however, that do rupture the communion we share with God and the Church, and that cause grave offense to human dignity.” And “One commits mortal sin by freely, knowingly, and willingly choosing to do something that involves grave matter and that is opposed to charity, opposed to love of God and neighbor.”
Certainly, this describes Joseph Biden who, supposing himself a “devout Catholic,” knows full well that facilitation of abortion is a mortal sin—yet he “freely, knowingly, and willingly” chooses to advance the slaughter of the innocent. If the shoe fits, Biden has to wear it!
And Article 47 drives home the point that applies to pro-abortion Catholic politicians:
One is not to celebrate Mass or receive Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin without having sought the Sacrament of Reconciliation and received absolution. As the Church has consistently taught, a person who receives Holy Communion while in a state of mortal sin not only does not receive the grace that the sacrament conveys; he or she commits the sin of sacrilege by failing to show the reverence due to the sacred Body and Blood of Christ.… To receive the Body and Blood of Christ while in a state of mortal sin represents a contradiction. The person who, by his or her own action, has broken communion with Christ and his Church but receives the Blessed Sacrament, acts incoherently, both claiming and rejecting communion at the same time. It is thus a counter-sign, a lie—it expresses a communion that in fact has been broken.
Article 48 is specifically directed to Catholics who reject the teachings of the Church in their personal or professional life. It quotes the USCCB 2006 document on the Eucharist, written when pro-abortion Catholic John Kerry sought election to the presidency:
If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately to reject the defined doctrines of the Church, or knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definitive teaching on moral issues, however, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the Church. Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain.
Again, if the shoe fits, the bishops must make Biden wear it, as they state in Article 48: “Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation is also likely to cause scandal for others, weakening their resolve to be faithful to the demands of the Gospel.”
The bishops finally actually cite the scandalously neglected Canon 915 when in Article 49 they quote John Paul II’s Ecclesia de Eucharistia:
The judgment of one’s state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one’s conscience. However, in cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who ‘obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion.’ (Emphasis added)
This is a very important quotation since it specifically teaches that it is a person’s “outward conduct” that is of concern when judging worthiness to receive the Lord’s Body and Blood. The “outward conduct” of the Bidens and Pelosis in their facilitation of murder is quite obviously “contrary to the moral norm”—and thus obviously they should at least be told not to present themselves for Holy Communion. But even more just and right—they should be simply denied the Eucharist for “the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament.”
And so—who has the responsibility to correct, admonish, and discipline pro-abortion Catholic politicians? The local bishop, as articulated at the end of Article 49: “It is the special responsibility of the diocesan bishop to work to remedy situations that involve public actions at variance with the visible communion of the Church and the moral law. Indeed, he must guard the integrity of the sacrament, the visible communion of the Church, and the salvation of souls.”
In my March 2021 letter to Bishop Rhoades, I said: “My greatest fear, as a Catholic and pro-lifer down-in-the-trenches, is that Joseph Biden will be permitted to indefinitely continue to receive Holy Communion with impunity all the while facilitating the expansion of legalized abortion. In other words, there will be no sanctions, corrections, admonishments from the bishops who have care of his soul, that he should not present himself for Holy Communion or even more strongly, be denied the Eucharist.”
Biden’s hometown is Wilmington, Delaware. He often receives Communion there at St. Joseph Parish. According to Article 49, it falls to Bishop Koenig of Wilmington, Delaware, to “guard the integrity of the sacrament” against it’s being a “counter-sign, a lie—expressing a communion that in fact has been broken.”
Despite all the hoopla, the USCCB, in the end, remained faithful to their June clarification on what we could expect from their document on the Eucharist. Nonetheless, the bishops did articulate principles that provide them with the basis, should they have the conviction and the courage, to deny Holy Communion to Biden and other pro-abortion Catholic politicians. But let’s be honest. They always had the authority to do so!
The document seeks to remind Catholics that the Eucharist is truly the Real Presence of Christ and, as Article 7 states, what should be “our response to that gift.” But for a very few exceptions, the bishops have failed to “guard the integrity of the sacrament.” It is unconscionable that Biden will simply be permitted to receive Communion for the next three years—the remainder of his presidency.
The bishops can issue documents until the end of time, but all the documents, pastorals, and programs will have little to no effect in reviving faith in and reverence toward the Eucharist as long as Catholic politicians are permitted to receive the Body and Blood of Christ with the blood of the innocent on their hands. The very integrity of the Catholic Faith is at stake. Can we dare hope that the bishops’ document is not the final chapter in this sad drama? The coming months will tell. What the Church needs, what she has always needed, are not mere words but action.
[Photo Credit: Unsplash]