BALTIMORE, Maryland– A new document on the sacrament of the Eucharist was approved by the Roman Catholic bishops of the United States on Wednesday that does not refer to President Biden or any other politicians by name.
Which Catholics are eligible to receive communion and under what circumstances? This was the central question at stake. Catholic politicians who publicly support and advance abortion rights should not be denied the sacrament, according to some conservative Catholics.
In spite of the document’s reluctance to directly criticise Mr. Biden, its existence highlighted an ideological divide within the Catholic Church in America and pitted some of the country’s most powerful prelates against the country’s Catholic president.
Dissensions among ordinary American Catholics have grown wide and deep as a result of Trump’s presidency, shattering political as well as religious allegiances. Catholic conservatives, including the media and activist groups that have grown in strength under Pope Francis’ leadership, are increasingly free to criticise the pope and his policies.
In June, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted unanimously to draught the guidance after a contentious meeting that lasted for hours. It was a victory for conservative bishops who have characterised Mr. Biden as a threat to the church. According to Archbishop José H. Gomez, the conference’s president on Inauguration Day in January, the new president is pushing policies that “advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage and gender. Gomez said. ”
This time, the bishops held a closed-door meeting the night before the vote to discuss the issue.
Catholic public figures are expected to demonstrate moral consistency between their personal faith and their public actions, even if the new guidance does not single out individuals. To “serve the human family by upholding human life and dignity, lay people who exercise some form of public authority” have a particular responsibility, the document states. There is a “special responsibility for bishops” when there is a discrepancy between public actions and church teaching, according to this document.
There has been no official comment from Pope Francis, but he has a warm relationship with Vice President Biden because he is the country’s second Catholic president and attends Mass regularly. He invited President Trump to Vatican City for a private meeting in October. The pope had described Mr. Biden as a “good Catholic” and told him to keep receiving communion, Mr. Biden told reporters after the service ended. The following day, Mr. Biden took communion at St. Patrick’s Church in Rome.
During an interview with reporters in September, the pope was asked about the communion controversy and said, “I have never refused the eucharist to anyone,” though he noted that he had not been aware of the dilemma.
Vatican representative Christophe Pierre, who spoke on Tuesday, mentioned the discord in an address to the group. Pope Francis has said that the Eucharist should not be seen as a “prize for the perfect” and that it should not be regarded as a “privilege for the few.”
Some had hoped — and others had feared — that the document approved on Wednesday would directly address the issue of public figures’ right to the eucharist. And the word “abortion” is barely mentioned in the 29-page guide.
As a result of this investigation, Catholics believe that bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ when they partake in the Eucharist.
Dorothy Day, St. Augustine, and Pope Francis’ Twitter feed are all cited in the text.
While church leaders have long expressed concerns about lay Catholics’ lack of knowledge about eucharistic doctrine, their concerns have only grown louder in recent years. Some of those anxieties were heightened when a Pew poll in 2019 found a majority of American Catholics believe the bread and wine of communion are just symbols.
When it comes to matters of politics, power, and the future of the Catholic Church, the debate over theology has served as a proxy.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops met in Baltimore for the first time since 2019 for its annual general assembly. As a preventative measure during the coronavirus pandemic, the previous year’s meeting was postponed. The bishops met online in June.
This meeting had been a source of contention for weeks prior to it. When Archbishop Gomez spoke about social justice movements and “wokeness” in early November, he dismissed them as dangerous false religions. Some scholars and progressives reacted angrily to the speech, which was delivered virtually to the Congress of Catholics and Public Life.
Archbishop Gomez’s opening remarks at the meeting on Tuesday were less inflammatory, and he asked how the church can engage an increasingly secular country. A national “story” rooted in biblical worldview and Judeo-Christian values had crumbled, he lamented. The Baltimore bishops gave the speech a standing ovation.
Catholics should not receive communion if they are in a state of mortal sin, which is a grave offence committed willingly, without first going to confession and receiving absolution, according to the new document.
The Aparecida Document, a 2007 document issued by a committee headed by Pope Francis, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, and named after a meeting of bishops from Central and South America, is quoted in the text. One of his most influential works is that document. “legislators, heads of government, and health professionals” who defy church teaching on abortion and other “grave crimes against life and family” are targeted in the document. Those who hold such positions of power, according to the Catholic Church, are not allowed to receive communion.
Vatican officials wrote to the American bishops in May, urging them to engage in “extensive and serene dialogue” before drafting the document, warning that the vote “could become a source of discord instead of unity.”
Conservatives hailed the final product as evidence of the necessity of maintaining high standards in relation to the eucharist. This document “does acknowledge that not everyone should just walk up and receive,” according to Tyler Bishop Joseph Strickland, who has been a harsh critic of Vice President Biden.”
Attendees and protesters with a wide range of theological and political objections to the conference’s proceedings and to the church’s overall direction were drawn to the gathering.
One liberal group after another joined together to pray outside the hotel on Monday to urge the bishops to “be pastors, not political operators.”
At a waterfront pavilion near the conference hotel, Church Militant, a right-wing Catholic media outlet, hosted a combative prayer rally on Tuesday that drew hundreds of conservative Catholics. To express their displeasure with the church hierarchy, the group held a rally titled “Enough Is Enough.” Crowd members held up signs reading “No Communion for Killers” and “Let’s Go Brandon,” which is code for “Biden Must Go.”
In the wake of his indictment by a grand jury last week on two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to provide information to a House investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Stephen K. Bannon, one of the expected Church Militant speakers, did not appear at the event. On Monday, Mr. Bannon appeared before a federal judge in New York.
President Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has positioned himself as a “gladiator” of right-wing Catholicism in recent years. When it came to emceeing the event, Milo Yiannopoulos, the controversial media personality who has been widely shunned by mainstream conservatives for his views on child abuse, was chosen.
Gladys Garavito, along with her sister, had flown in from Jacksonville, Fla., to take part in the festivities. When asked about her disillusionment with the church hierarchy’s inability to stand up to politicians like Joe Biden, she said she was “a lifelong Catholic.” President Trump and Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, are examples of “country club Catholics,” according to Ms. Garavito, a self-described “traditional” Catholic.
This is the church, she said, pointing to the defiant crowd. I believe that this is what the church should be, and this is what the church was meant to be. “