Congressman dares bishops to deny him Communion over support for abortion, contraception

Ted Lieu The entrance to the office of Rep. Ted Lieu in Washington D.C. on July 18, 2017./ Katherine Welles/Shutterstock

In a series of tweets from his personal social media account over the weekend, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) called the U.S. bishops “partisan hypocrites” and dared them to deny him Communion over his support for contraception, legal abortion, and “same-sex marriage.” 

In a tweet tagging the U.S. bishops’ conference on Friday, Lieu, a Catholic, wrote that he supports contraception, “A woman’s right to choose,” and “The right of same sex marriage.”

“Next time I go to Church, I dare you to deny me Communion,” Lieu wrote to the bishops.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles - which includes the territory of Lieu’s congressional district - did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNA on Monday. 

The issue of Communion for pro-abortion politicians has resurfaced following the election of President Joe Biden - a Catholic who supports taxpayer-funded abortion. Although the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted last week to draft a teaching document on the Eucharist, a proposed outline of the document did not single out the president or any public official. 

It included a subsection on “Eucharistic consistency,” or worthiness to receive Communion. The bishops’ doctrine committee said the proposed document would include “a special call for those Catholics who are cultural, political, or parochial leaders to witness to the faith.” 

Some bishops last week did affirm the need to safeguard the Eucharist from scandal, during debates over the document. They cited cases where Catholic politicians who support permissive legislation on grave evils approach to receive Communion, despite having been warned about their positions. 

Canon 915 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law states that Catholics “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.” Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in a 2004 memo on Communion, said that Catholic politicians who are “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” are considered to be formally cooperating in the grave sin of abortion, and in a “manifest” way. 

In such cases, Ratzinger said, the pastor of the official must meet with them and admonish them, instructing them that they cannot receive Communion. If the politicians persist in their pro-abortion advocacy, the minister of Communion “must refuse to distribute it,” he said. 

On Friday, 60 Catholic Democratic members of Congress issued a joint statement asking not to be denied Communion over their stances on the abortion issue. Lieu, one of the signers of the statement, issued a series of tweets from his personal Twitter account that criticized the U.S. bishops, and dared the bishops to deny him Communion.

In other tweets over the weekend, Lieu criticized the U.S. Bishops for not denying communion to Catholic Republicans, especially to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for his extramarital affairs and multiple divorces. Lieu also brought up the case of former Attorney General Bill Barr, a Catholic who sought to resume use of the federal death penalty and pushed for the execution of 13 inmates in the span of seven months. 

He also brought up other hypothetical scenarios and asked the bishops if they would deny Communion in those cases. 

“Dear @USCCB: Are you going to deny Communion to Catholic athletes who use condoms?” he asked. “Or deny Communion to Catholics who believe people should have the right to decide if they want to use contraception?”

“How radical is the @USCCB decision? A Catholic can love Jesus with all her heart, oppose abortion & work at Catholic Relief Services. But if she believes government shouldn’t put women in jail for an abortion, then she can be denied Communion,” Lieu tweeted. 

Lieu also argued “God’s love is not a quid pro quo transaction.” 

“Dear @USCCB: Instead of denying God to Catholic human beings who disagree with your political views, you should be inviting everyone to God’s table. God’s love is not a quid pro quo transaction. Remember Agape?” he asked. “It’s no wonder Catholic membership has been rapidly declining.”

During their meeting last week, some bishops warned against drafting the Eucharistic document with the section on “Eucharistic consistency,” saying that they could be seen as partisan actors or as politicizing the Eucharist.

More in US

Supporters of the document, including the bishops’ pro-life chair, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, said that the bishops needed to call for “integrity” from Catholic public officials. Archbishop Naumann said that those Catholic politicians who contradicted the Church’s teachings on grave issues and approached to receive Communion anyway were the ones politicizing the Eucharist.

“Those who advocate for abortion no longer talk in the language of choice,” Naumann said on Thursday. “They talk about it [abortion] as a right.” Pope Francis, he added, expressed agreement that the issue of abortion is a “preeminent” concern for the Church, during the ad limina meetings with the U.S. bishops in Rome during 2019 and 2020.

“We’re calling everybody to integrity, including those in public life,” he said. 

In their joint statement, the 60 Catholic House Democrats affirmed their commitment to “the basic principles that are at the heart of Catholic social teaching.” The members said they also believe “the separation of church and state allows for our faith to inform our public duties and best serve our constituents.”

They referred to their position on abortion as “support of a woman’s safe and legal access to abortion,” and said that denying Communion to Catholic public officials who support permissive legislation on abortion would be a “weaponization of the Eucharist.”

“We solemnly urge you to not move forward and deny this most holy of all sacraments, the source and the summit of the whole work of the gospel over one issue,” the statement said.

They added that no elected officials “have been threatened with being denied the Eucharist” on issues such as the death penalty, family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border, or failing to reduce food insecurity. 

(Story continues below)

On Friday, Biden was asked about a “resolution” by the U.S. bishops to deny him and other publicly pro-choice politicians Communion - even though the bishops’ vote was not on a national Communion policy, but rather on whether to begin drafting the teaching document. Biden replied, “That's a private matter, and I don't think that's going to happen.”