Los Angeles, CA – The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has voted to move ahead with controversial new orders barring office holders who support reproductive choice and marriage equality from receiving Holy Communion. By a vote of 168 to 55 at their meeting held virtually, the bishops decided to order their doctrine committee to draft a document and submit it to their next meeting in November. If two-thirds of the bishops there approve it, it would then be issued as guidance to parish priests throughout the US.

The move is clearly aimed at Democratic politicians like President Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who are devout Catholics but also support choice and marriage equality as matters of public policy. The issue was pressed by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, a long-time foe of Pelosi and the city’s LGBTQ community. In voting to go ahead with drafting the document, the USCCB defied an explicit warning from the Vatican, telling them that the Church should be inclusive and not turn people away from sacraments. In an article on June 14 and updated on June 22, Jason Horowitz wrote in the New York Times that on May 7, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, Pope Francis’ top doctrinal official wrote Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles urging caution. He said it would be “misleading” to present abortion and euthanasia as “the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching.” Horowitz also said that the conservative American bishops are largely out of step with Francis and his agenda of putting climate change, migrants and poverty on the church’s front burner. (For the full article go to https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/14/world/europe/biden-vatican-communion-abortion.html) Although the vote for moving ahead was overwhelming, some bishops worried that their colleagues were politicizing the sacraments.

“The Eucharist itself will be a tool in vicious partisan turmoil,” San Diego Archbishop Robert McElroy told the Washington Post. “It will be impossible to prevent its weaponization, even if everyone wants to do so. Once we legitimize public-policy-based exclusion… we’ll invite all political animosity into the heart of the Eucharistic celebration.” Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, DC, has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at any church in his archdiocese. During the bishops’ debate, Gregory argued against issuing a new Communion document. “The choice before us at this moment is either we pursue a path of strengthening unity among ourselves or settle for creating a document that will not bring unity but may very well further damage it,” Gregory said. Biden, a devout Catholic who attends Mass weekly, says he personally opposes abortion but doesn’t think he should impose that position on American women. Sensing a backlash, four days after the meeting the bishops issued a document that said in one part, “There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians.” (Seattle Gay News – Mike Andrew at http://sgn.org/sgnnews49_26/page9.cfm)