The United States
’ Catholic bishops overwhelmingly approved the creation of a “teaching document” that many of them hope will condemn Catholic politicians
, including President Joe Biden
, for receiving Communion while supporting abortion rights
The vote result — 168 in favor and 55 opposed — was announced Friday, near the end of a three-day virtual meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
After nearly three hours of heated debate, the bishops cast their votes
privately on Thursday.
Supporters of the measure argued that a strong rebuke of Biden was required because of his recent actions protecting and expanding abortion access, while opponents warned that such action would portray the bishops as a partisan force at a time of bitter political divisions across the country.
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, which will be submitted for consideration at a future meeting, most likely in November.
One section of the document is intended to contain a specific admonition to Catholic politicians and other public figures who disobey church teaching on abortion and other key doctrinal issues.
During Thursday's debate, Bishop Donald Hying of Madison
, said he speaks with many people
who are perplexed by a Catholic president who promotes "the most radical pro-abortion agenda in history
," and that the bishops' conference must act.
“They are seeking guidance,” Hying explained.
Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego
responded that a document targeting Catholic politicians would have "destructive consequences" for the USCCB.
“Preventing the weaponization of the Eucharist would be impossible,” McElroy said.
Biden, who regularly attends Mass, says he personally opposes abortion but does not believe he should impose his views on Americans who disagree, despite the fact that he has taken several executive actions during his presidency that have been praised by abortion-rights advocates.
Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana
, chairman of the USCCB doctrine committee, said no decisions have been made on the final contents of the proposed document, and that bishops who are not on the committee will have opportunities to offer input, and the final draft will be subject to amendments before it is put to a vote.
Rhoades also stated that the document would not name Biden or any other individuals and would instead provide guidelines rather than imposing a mandatory national policy.
That would leave decisions about Communion for specific churchgoers up to individual bishops and archbishops, though Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington
, has stated that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.