However, other bishops—including Bishop William Malooly of Wilmington and Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C.—have said recently or in the past that they would not withhold Holy Communion from a politician such as Biden.
As part of the USCCB’s “working group” on dealing with Biden, the group will be drafting a statement on “Eucharistic coherence” of Catholics who publicly oppose Church teaching on grave matters.
When asked by moderator Kim Daniels if teaching about “Eucharistic coherence” in the Biden presidency is a “good idea,” McElroy replied “No. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
The matter of Communion for Catholic politicians is a pastoral concern, he said, and should be addressed by Biden’s bishops in D.C. and in his home diocese of Wilmington, Delaware.
“The conference has no pastoral relationship with President Biden,” he said.
“I do not see how depriving the president or other political leaders the Eucharist, based on their public policy stance, can be interpreted in our society as anything other than a weaponization of the Eucharist and an effort not to convince people by argument, and by dialogue and reason, but rather, to pummel them into submission on the issue [of abortion],” he said.
Other bishops have mentioned the topic of Eucharistic coherence in recent days, framing it within the broader teaching of worthiness to receive Holy Communion.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, in an interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly last week, said that Communion can be withheld from someone “for the sake of their soul” but only after “private conversations to try to move the person in their conscience” have taken place.
Furthermore, he added, Catholics must recover the “bigger picture” of “worthiness to receive Communion,” and “to be in the state of grace.”
In his homily at the annual Vigil Mass for Life on Jan. 28, the USCCB’s pro-life chair also preached that Catholics should not receive Communion if they are contradicting “fundamental” Church teaching.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City said that “integrity requires that a Catholic not receive the Eucharist while acting in a manner incoherent with fundamental Catholic teaching.” He made that statement after explaining the Church’s teaching on reception of Communion as something neither “inhospitable” nor “exclusive.”
The topic of abortion as a “preeminent” concern of the conference also came up on Monday.
In a Jan. 21 statement on the day of Biden’s inauguration, the USCCB president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles issued a statement that the bishops would pray for Biden. He emphasized that bishops “are not partisan players” but are pastors responsible for souls.
While noting areas of agreement between the conference and Biden on issues such as immigration, he said that “the continued injustice of abortion remains the ‘preeminent priority’” of the conference.
“‘Preeminent’ does not mean ‘only’,” Gomez said, but “abortion is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family.”
At the U.S. bishops’ fall meeting in 2019, McElroy argued against calling abortion the “preeminent” concern of the conference, saying that to do so was “at least discordant with the Pope’s teaching, if not inconsistent.”
“It is not Catholic teaching that abortion is the preeminent issue that we face in the world of Catholic social teaching. It is not,” McElroy said.