EDITORIAL: It’s the pro-abortion Catholic politicians themselves — including President Joe Biden — who are doing just that.
In the wake of the decision by the U.S. bishops to include a treatment of Eucharistic consistency in a new bishops’ statement about the Eucharist, pro-abortion Catholic politicians and their supporters in the media rushed to collectively accuse the U.S. bishops of “weaponizing” the Eucharist.
But it’s not the bishops who are politicizing this matter. It’s the pro-abortion Catholic politicians themselves — notably including President Joe Biden — who are doing that. By insisting on receiving Communion, despite their actions in support of legal abortion that are in total contradiction to what the Church teaches about the sanctity of human life, they are the ones seeking to wield the central sacrament of our Catholic faith as a political weapon.
To properly understand what’s in play, it’s necessary first to debunk a couple of the misrepresentations propagated by pro-legal-abortion Catholic politicians and their supporters. The U.S. bishops did not vote in favor of establishing a national policy mandating that pastors would be required to deny the Eucharist to wayward political Catholics. Decisions about the fitness of individual politicians to receive the Blessed Sacrament will remain in the hands of their local bishops. A national policy was never what the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ leadership had in mind when they included this issue in the proposed outline of the Eucharistic document they have now been authorized to craft ahead of the three-year National Eucharistic Revival that is scheduled to commence next year.
The proposal debated at the spring assembly, and ultimately endorsed by a strong majority of the active bishops in virtual attendance, was merely to include the problem of dissenting politicians who present themselves for Communion within the context of a far broader presentation on Eucharistic coherence. That presentation is intended to remind all faithful Catholics who receive the sacrament, not just politicians, of their solemn duty to strive to follow God’s will in all their actions.
Another misleading claim of the pro-legal-abortion Catholics is that the bishops are elevating the abortion issue above other equally important political issues, such as immigration, racism, climate change and the alleviation of poverty. In fact, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, who heads the doctrine committee that will draft the Eucharistic document, specifically communicated at the assembly that other issues will be cited in it (and that politicians won’t be the only public figures referenced).
But more fundamentally, while other aspects of the Church’s social doctrine certainly deserve attention, they aren’t of equal significance to abortion for the straightforward reason that legal abortion is directly responsible for the deaths of 1 million unborn babies in the U.S. every year. Exercising prudential judgments about matters like how many immigrants our nation should welcome annually is necessarily of less political and spiritual importance than working to putting an end to the legalized murder of these unborn babies.
That’s why there’s an urgency for the bishops to speak out about the actions of Biden and other Catholics in the Democrat-controlled Congress to expand access to and taxpayer funding for legal abortion, since the president took office in January. This is a scandal Church leaders simply can’t ignore, as many bishops noted during their debate over the Eucharistic document. And the scandal is compounded immensely by Biden’s continuing reception of Communion, even while totally embracing abortion rights in defiance of moral law and Church teaching.
Admittedly Biden is not playing politics with the Eucharist as contentiously as Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., who publicly dared the bishops to deny him Communion after the spring assembly concluded. But because of his prominence and political authority, the president’s actions remain more scandalous. And, in contrast to Lieu and the other Catholic Democrats in Congress who signed a June 18 letter chastising the U.S. bishops for calling them to a faithfully Catholic political witness regarding abortion, Biden previously has publicly acknowledged the validity of the Church’s teaching about the unequivocal evil of abortion. As recently as 2015, he told America magazine that as a matter of faith, he agrees that “abortion is always wrong.”
Regardless of his shifting during the 2020 presidential campaign to a position of 100% support for the expansion of legal abortion, and while remaining fully aware of the wrongness of abortion, he continues to receive Communion. And make no mistake, he’s not reluctant about scoring political points by doing so.
Whenever one of Biden’s pro-abortion actions is called into question at a press conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has been instructed to sidestep the question by stating that Biden is a “devout Catholic” who regularly attends Mass, thereby implying that no contradiction exists between the president’s promotion of legal abortion and the teachings of his Church.
Herein lies the most damaging witness: Biden publicly claims to be devoutly Catholic while calling the obvious contradiction his policies have with his Church’s teaching a private matter. Countless Catholics who aren’t so public in defying Church teaching are encouraged to do the same.
The reception of Communion is always a public act. The Eucharist exists to bring grace to a community of people who are united in belief and are striving for greater personal communion with God and to bring others to that union, too.
If Biden really wants to be true to what he says he believes, he should at a minimum stop receiving Communion until he repents of his current position on abortion — not because the bishops have “weaponized” the sacrament against him, but first and foremost because of a concern for the salvation of his own soul. And instead of instructing his media underlings to duck away from admitting that he is flagrantly failing to govern in accordance with his Catholic beliefs regarding abortion, he should publicly and personally reaffirm his awareness that legal abortion is a moral evil that every Catholic must strive to correct, to whatever degree they are in a position to do that.
Such a conversion of heart and mind would conflict with the president’s political ambitions, to be sure. Probably to him it also appears more or less impossible, given that his current lofty political perch was purchased in good measure by his campaign-trail willingness to cast aside his residual convictions regarding the evil of abortion.
But if he is truly as devout as he claims, like every other Catholic, President Biden needs to reflect very carefully on the cautionary words of Christ himself about the risk of gaining the acclaim of this world, at the cost of forfeiting one’s own immortal soul.