In a 2004 memo to U.S. bishops, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote that a Catholic politician who is “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” is engaging in “formal cooperation” in grave sin, cooperation that is “manifest.”
In these cases that meet the definition laid out in Canon 915, Catholic politicians should not receive Communion, Ratzinger wrote, and their pastor must admonish them on the Church’s teachings. If the politician refuses to assent to the Church’s teachings, then “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it,” Ratzinger wrote.
Biden has long supported legal abortion, while more recently he has supported the redefinition of marriage, taxpayer-funded abortion and transgender ideology.
Biden’s home bishop in Wilmington, Delaware – Bishop William Malooly – has said he would not deny Biden Communion over his problematic policy stances. Biden’s archbishop in D.C., Cardinal Wilton Gregory, has also said he would not deny Biden Communion.
Other bishops have argued to the contrary. Retired Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote in December that Biden should not receive Communion because of his support for abortion.
In his homily at the annual Vigil Mass for Life on Jan. 28, the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) pro-life chair Archbishop Joseph Naumann – while not naming Biden – said that Catholics should not receive Communion if they are contradicting “fundamental” Church teaching.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, in a January interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, said that Communion could be withheld “for the sake” of someone’s “soul,” but only after “private conversations” had taken place between the pastor and the Catholic “to try to move the person in their conscience.”
Cordileone added that bishops must also be emphasizing the general teaching on worthiness to receive Communion – the necessity of not being conscious of serious sin and having fasted from food and drink for at least one hour.
“For that kind of action [denial of Communion] to make sense to a lot of people, we need to reclaim this sense of what it means to receive [Communion],” Cordileone said, citing a lack of belief in the Real Presence of the Eucharist among Catholics.
Leading U.S. bishops have noted Biden’s problematic stances on serious moral issues such as abortion, gender ideology, and marriage. USCCB president Archbishop Jose Gomez created a working group in November to advise the conference on dealing with a Catholic president who held both good and bad policy positions.
One of the recommendations of the bishops’ working group was a teaching document on “Eucharistic coherence.” The term has previously been used by bishops to emphasize the integrity of a Christian’s life, that in order to receive the Eucharist a Catholic must obey the Commandments and assent to the teachings of the Church.
Archbishop Gomez issued a Jan. 20 statement on Biden’s inauguration that highlighted his areas of agreement with the conference, but also pointed out that he has “pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender.”
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As a candidate for president, Biden defended his record on abortion and supported both taxpayer-funded abortion and abortion coverage on a public option health plan.
As president, Biden repealed the Mexico City Policy, allowing U.S. global health assistance to fund international pro-abortion groups. He has also instructed his health secretary, Xavier Becerra, to begin reversing a rule that blocked taxpayer funding of domestic pro-abortion groups under the Title X program.
Biden also signed a COVID relief bill into law that did not include pro-life funding protections; pro-life leaders warned that billions of dollars in health care funding under the bill could be available for abortion providers or abortion coverage.
He has also pledged to sign the Equality Act, which the bishops have warned would codify transgender ideology in law and force many religious groups and people to support the ideology in violation of their consciences.
Among issues of abortion, homosexuality, the death penalty, and immigration, abortion received the most support among Catholics on the Pew question of denying Communion to a public official who contradicted the Church’s teachings.
While 29% of Catholics said an official contradicting the Church’s teaching on abortion should be denied Communion, only 19% said that an official “disagreeing” with the Church on homosexuality should be denied Communion, and 18% answered the same on the matter of the death penalty. Only 9% of Catholics said an official should be denied Communion for disagreeing with the Church’s position on immigration.