May 20, 2021
If you’re seeking evidence of how hard it is for the Church to communicate its message in and to our secularized, polarized, hyper-politicized society, consider reactions to the news that the American bishops are thinking of making a statement on Catholic politicians like President Biden who receive communion while backing abortion.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops lacks authority to deny communion to Biden or any other abortion supporter. Whether to do that or not is up to local bishops in their own dioceses. But USCCB certainly can speak to the issue. The bishops will discuss developing a statement doing that during their June 16-18 general meeting.
The discussion, which will take place virtually, will have as its background a letter to USCCB president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, S.J., prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Replying to a letter Archbishop Gomez had sent him, Cardinal Ladaria said the bishops should dialogue among themselves and with other bishops’ conference facing the same problem--Catholic politicians who back “abortion, euthanasia, or other moral evils”--before they say anything. Even then, he added, deciding what action to take, if any, will remain with individual ordinaries.
Some media chose to see the Ladaria letter as a brake on action by the bishops, but it’s more accurately read as a green light to move ahead cautiously, with indications of how to do that.