USA bishops vote to draft statement that may rebuke Biden

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On Friday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) overwhelmingly voted to draft a statement on the sacrament of the Eucharist (commonly known as Communion), clarifying whether or not politicians who advocate for the killing of unborn babies, the erosion of religious freedom, and the redefinition of marriage and sexuality - like President Joe Biden - may properly receive the Lord's Supper, which Roman Catholics believe becomes the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ.

The decision, vehemently opposed by a minority of bishops, came despite appeals from the Vatican for a more cautious and collegial approach to the divisive issue.

The vote was announced Friday (June 18) on the final day of the USCCB's annual spring meeting, with 168 voting yes, 55 voting no and six abstaining. More than 270 USA bishops were eligible to vote.

Supporters say a strong rebuke of Biden is needed because of his recent actions protecting and expanding abortion access.

As a result of the vote, the USCCB's doctrine committee will draft a statement on the meaning of Communion in the life of the church that will be submitted for consideration at a future meeting, probably an in-person gathering in November.

San Diego Archbishop Robert McElroy said the proposal could turn reception of the Eucharist into a partisan activity. "It will be impossible to prevent its weaponization, even if everyone wants to do so", McElroy said. He warned that the initiative would weaken the bishops' ability to speak on issues such as poverty, racism and the environment. While 56% support legalized abortion, about two-thirds of those who regularly attend Mass don't, according to a March poll by Pew.

While the text of the proposal remains unwritten, a proposed outline (reported by America magazine) claimed it would "include the theological foundation for the Church's discipline concerning the reception of Holy Communion and a special call for those Catholics who are cultural, political, or parochial leaders to witness the faith".

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"That's a private matter and I don't think that's going to happen", Biden told reporters Friday at the White House. The organization Students for Life held rallies in seven cities on Thursday to urge the bishops to vote "yes". But many Catholics - like Americans in general - are starkly divided on the issue by party; more than half of Catholics who also identify as Republicans said Biden should not be allowed to receive the sacrament because of his views on abortion.

That would leave decisions about Communion for specific churchgoers up to individual bishops and archbishops.

The idea to produce a document was first developed by a working group commissioned by Conference of Catholic Bishops president José H. Gomez, the Archbishop of Los Angeles. During Thursday's debate, Gregory pressed against authoring a new Communion document at this time.

The Vatican, meanwhile, has attempted to slow the US bishops' drafting of the document.

"No elected officials have been threatened with being denied the Eucharist as they support and have supported policies contrary to the Church teachings", they added, "including supporting the death penalty, separating migrant children from their parents, denying asylum to those seeking safety in the United States, limiting assistance for the hungry and food insecure, and denying rights and dignity to immigrants".

He wrote to the conference saying it would be "misleading" to suggest abortion and euthanasia were "the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest level of accountability on the part of Catholics".

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