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Catholic Bishops Choose Not to Bar Pro-Abortion Politicians from Receiving Communion

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops annual General Assembly meeting in Baltimore, Md., November 16, 2021 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) passed new guidance on Communion on Wednesday that does not address whether politicians who support abortion rights should be prohibited from receiving the Eucharist.

The bishops had discussed whether to bar prominent pro-abortion Catholics — such as President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — from receiving communion for nearly a year. In June, the group discussed whether to take a position on the eligibility of prominent Catholics whose actions run afoul of church teaching to receive Communion and voted to draft new guidelines on Communion. 

In September, Bishop Kevin Rhoades, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, said that the document would remind Catholics of the importance of the sacrament, though he did not say whether it would outline who should be considered worthy of receiving Communion. A previous draft of the document obtained by the Catholic newsletter The Pillar says that “people who exercise some form of public authority have a special responsibility to embody the church.” It adds that Catholics who live in a state of “mortal sin” without repentance should not receive Communion, but it does not say who should sit in judgment.

However, the new guidance passed Wednesday in a 222- 8 vote ultimately did not mention the issue and instead offers general guidance on the sacrament, according to the Wall Street Journal

The vote came after bishops met in private sessions this week, allowing them to quietly reach an agreement on the issue, the outlet reported.

Pope Francis had previously said that bishops should use “compassion and tenderness” with Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.

“Communion is not a prize for the perfect. . . . Communion is a gift, the presence of Jesus and his Church,” the pope said.

Biden met with Pope Francis at the Vatican last month and later told reporters that the pope had said he was a “good Catholic” who may receive Communion.

Some bishops had warned that passing guidance excluding pro-abortion officials could make receiving the Eucharist a partisan activity while others have argued that the church should take a stand to clearly communicate that it does not condone their support for abortion.

Meanwhile, individual bishops are not required to follow the guidance from the USCCB and have the power under church law to deny Communion.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, who is the president’s pastor, has said that he wouldn’t refuse him Communion.

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