Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is expected to debate at its June 16 meeting a draft document advising bishops to deny Communion to "Catholics in public office who support legislation allowing abortion, euthanasia, or other moral evils," a move spurred by the election of America's second Catholic president, Joe Biden. The Vatican doesn't seem enthusiastic about the idea.
In a May 7 letter to the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, urged the USCCB to slow down, seek unanimity before coming up with a national policy on "the worthiness to receive Communion," and ensure no document encroaches on the rights of individuals bishops to set policy in their own dioceses.
Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, has made clear he will not deny Communion to Biden.
Ladaria's letter, first reported Monday by the Jesuit magazine America, advised U.S. bishops to reach "true consensus" on any new policy or risk creating "discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States."
Any statement the bishops issue, Ladaria said, "would best be framed within the broad context of worthiness for the reception of holy Communion on the part of all the faithful, rather than only one category of Catholics, reflecting their obligation to conform their lives to the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ as they prepare to receive the sacrament." Also, he wrote, "it would be misleading if such a statement were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest accountability on the part of Catholics."
Division within the USCCB has already broken into the open with rival letters this month from San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who argued that pro-choice politicians should be denied Communion, and San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, who warned that "the Eucharist is being weaponized and deployed as a tool in political warfare," risking "tremendously destructive consequences."
Along with Biden, there are 158 Catholics in Congress, most of them Democrats who favor abortion rights, and six Catholic Supreme Court justices, most of them anti-abortion Republicans. "In the 2020 presidential election, Catholic voters split their votes almost evenly between Biden and Republican Donald Trump," The Associated Press reports. "National polls have consistently shown that a majority of U.S. Catholics believe abortion should be legal in at least some cases."