A retired archbishop has said that President-elect Joe Biden should not receive Holy Communion because of his stance on abortion — an issue that has divided Catholic leadership in the U.S.
The head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Biden’s support for abortion rights presents the church with a “difficult and complex situation,” but Charles J. Chaput, a retired archbishop, has made his stance clear: Biden has demonstrated that “he is not in full Communion with the Catholic Church.”
“The implications for the present moment are clear,” Chaput wrote in the magazine First Things. “Public figures who identify as ‘Catholic’ give scandal to the faithful when receiving Communion by creating the impression that the moral laws of the Church are optional.”
“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.”
Biden will be the second baptized Catholic to serve as president of the U.S., and during his campaign, he frequently cited his Catholic faith as a source of strength and guidance in his life.
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Catholics have been sharply divided over the issue of denying Holt Communion to public figures who take controversial stances on issues near and dear to the church, with bishops sharply divided over Biden in particular.
The USCCP president, Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, ahead of Thanksgiving announced a working group of bishops who would assess the dilemma. Gomez rankled conservative bishops when he congratulated Biden on his victory and praised many of the president-elect’s stances, including on immigration and racial justice.
While Catholic voters were almost evenly divided in the Nov. 3 presidential election, Biden’s biggest detractors have been those staunchly opposed to abortion.
Biden’s policy agenda “is incompatible with the Catholic position on abortion and the protection of innocent human life,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a leading anti-abortion group.
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Chaput does note that Biden “has championed many causes and issues that do serve the common good. However, many of his actions and words have also supported or smoothed the way for grave moral evils in our public life that have resulted in the destruction of millions of innocent lives.”
Chaput has also urged other bishops to carefully consider their own stances, claiming that any bishop who publicly announces their intention to give Biden communion risk doing a “serious disservice” to Biden and the rest of the American bishops.
Washington archbishop Cardinal Wilton Gregory already declared that he would not deny Biden any Communion. Cardinal Gregory would Biden’s local bishop, and he called the issue of denial a “confusion” over Church teaching.
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“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,” Cardinal Gregory said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.