Photo by Thays Orrico via Unsplash
WASHINGTON D.C. – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced their vote on June 18 to approve the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist. Among other things, the document would provide direct justification for the denial of the Eucharist to individuals who are in ‘mortal sin’ with the church.
Day two of the USCCB conference was held virtually on June 17. Action #7, “the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church,” was proposed.
Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades, Chairman of the Committee on Doctrine, delivered the introductory remarks on the document during the virtual plenary. He explained it would focus on reminding the Catholic community of the importance of the Eucharist.
The third section of the document would focus on the celebrations and conversion the Eucharist should incite, with a subsection addressing “Eucharistic consistency.” This is the part that has incited such controversy surrounding President Joe Biden.
“One cannot discuss the centrality of the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life without addressing those actions that inflict damage to the honor to the sacrament, or cause scandal to the faithful,” explained Rev. Rhoades.
Canon laws 915 and 960 were then cited as justification for the stance. The first reads “those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”
Once the conference floor was opened to debate, the bishops debated on the draft for hours. President Biden was used as an example many times. The bishops in favor of the draft had a strong opposition to Biden, claiming that his support for pro-choice legislation is a bad example to American Catholics.
Biden’s public support of abortion is considered to some as support of murder, which is a mortal sin. Therefore, he and other public figures with similar stances must be barred from communion. The bishops against the draft were in the minority, but equally passionate.
“Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego countered that the USCCB would suffer ‘destructive consequences’ from a document targeting Catholic politicians. He warned that the initiative would weaken the bishops’ ability to speak on issues such as poverty, racism, and the environment,” said ABC.
President Biden explained in a 2012 vice presidential debate, saying although he is personally in favor of Catholic doctrine, he would never impose it on the nation as a whole.
The bishops took their vote following the debate, resulting in 168 in favor and 55 opposed.
Although the doctrine is clear, Catholics are starkly divided on this issue, with two-thirds in favor of Biden receiving communion according to a 2021 Pew Research Study. The court of public opinion reflects these numbers.
Meanwhile, the Catholic and ex-Catholic youth (18 to 25) seem to be almost completely in opposition.
Bryanna Villareal, a confirmed Catholic, says the church is against abortion and contraception, and most of the followers in her life agree. But she finds the church’s attacks on Biden hypocritical.
“I personally feel that the Catholic Church feeling the need to judge and enact a sort of banning from receiving communion is absurd,” Villareal told Scriberr news. “Not only from a religious view because as children of God we are taught to not judge others or condemn…In a political sense, I feel that the church should have nothing to do or say about the matter.”
Former Catholic-turned-Apostolic Ivan Rodriguez predicts a change in the community similar to the one he’s personally experienced. When asked if he thought this ban could alienate more moderate Catholics, he agreed.
“I know folks that are really invested in their religion as others that are not,” Rodriguez told Scriberr. “As time passes by, we’re seeing lots of changing, adapting, and points of view reconsidered. Some will maybe even leave their current religion or some will be hurt or some will just stay where they’re at.”
Agnostic ex-Catholic Martin Ngyuen told Scriberr News that he believes “the move by the bishops is meant to garner some form of traditionalist engagement in a rallying movement against abortion and gays. But also I really don’t think it matters to Biden because he’s probably just Christian for votes.”
Scriberr reached out to the USCCB, multiple Catholic writers and three professors of theology from St. Thomas University for comment or interpretation of doctrine, however, none replied by publication deadline