“And,” Chaput continued, “bishops give similar scandal by not speaking up publicly about the issue and danger of sacrilege.”
During their Fall General Assembly last month, the U.S. bishops noted that Biden’s public Catholicism and his policy platform presented a unique set of challenges for the bishops as they sought to work with the incoming administration.
The conference president, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, closed the meeting on Nov. 17 by announcing the creation of a bishops’ working group to prepare for the Biden presidency.
The USCCB president noted several Biden policies that “pose a serious threat to the common good, whenever any politician supports them.”
Gomez went on to observe that “when politicians who profess the Catholic faith support them, there are additional problems. Among other things, it creates confusion among the faithful about what the Church actually teaches on these questions.”
As a consequence, he announced the formation of a special committee, chaired by Archbishop Alan Vigneron of Detroit, and made up of the heads of various USCCB committees to “emphasize our priorities and enhance collaboration.”
Despite the announcement of this committee, on Nov. 24, Washington archbishop Cardinal Wilton Gregory announced in an interview that he would not deny Communion to Biden, and committed himself to dialoguing with the president-elect to “discover areas where [he and Biden] can cooperate that reflect the social teachings of the Church, knowing full well that there are some areas where we won’t agree.”
As the Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Gregory would be Biden’s local bishop when he arrived in the White House. In his interview, the cardinal dismissed the possible “confusion” over Church teaching caused by a Catholic president promoting unrestricted access to abortion.
“It’s not a matter of confusion,” Gregory said. “On my part, it’s a matter of the responsibility that I have as the archbishop to be engaged and to be in dialogue with him, even in those areas where we obviously have some differences.”
Chaput wrote on Friday that “Those bishops who publicly indicate in advance that they will undertake their own dialogue with President-elect Joseph Biden and allow him Communion effectively undermine the work of the task force established at the November bishops’ conference meeting to deal precisely with this and related issues.”
Chaput said that unilateral action by bishops on Biden and Communion “gives scandal to their brother bishops and priests, and to the many Catholics who struggle to stay faithful to Church teaching.”
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“It does damage to the bishops’ conference, to the meaning of collegiality, and to the fruitfulness of the conference’s advocacy work with the incoming administration.”
“When bishops publicly announce their willingness to give Communion to Mr. Biden, without clearly teaching the gravity of his facilitating the evil of abortion (and his approval of same-sex relationships), they do a serious disservice to their brother bishops and their people,” said Chaput.
The archbishop went on to argue that denying a Catholic in a state of grave sin Communion was an essential pastoral action.
“This is not a ‘political’ matter,” he said, “and those who would describe it as such are either ignorant or willfully confusing the issue. This is a matter of bishops’ unique responsibility before the Lord for the integrity of the sacraments.”
“Moreover,” Chaput concluded, “there is also the pressing matter of pastoral concern for a man’s salvation.”