President Joe Biden is the most religiously observant occupant of the Oval Office since Jimmy Carter. He attends mass virtually every Sunday, whether he’s in Washington, D.C., at Camp David or at home in Delaware. There’s absolutely zero chance he would hold a Bible upside down while posing for a photo op in front of a church.
Nonetheless, the Roman Catholic bishops of the United States have overwhelmingly voted to draft a statement advocating that the president be denied the sacrament of the Eucharist – communion – because Biden supports abortion rights. Their decision, which was announced Friday, directly contradicts a warning from the Vatican that said they should remain silent on the matter.
Holy communion is one of the most sacred rituals in Christianity. For years bishops have been worried about declining Mass attendance and misunderstanding of the importance of the sacrament to Catholic life.
The decision aimed at the United States’ second Catholic president (John F. Kennedy was the first) came after three days of heated debate in a virtual meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The measure was approved by a vote of 73 percent in favor and 24 percent opposed.
Targeting Biden, who unapologetically makes his faith a central focus of his life, is seen as particularly hypocritical considering how conservative Catholics had absolutely nothing to say about twice-impeached, one-term former president Donald Trump’s numerous sexual improprieties and multiple marriages. Despite his paying paying multiple women, including a porn star, to keep quiet about the sexual affairs he had with them while married, Trump was eagerly embraced by the religious right because he said he was opposed to abortion.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops can issue guideline statements such as the one indicated today, but does not have the authority to decide who can or cannot receive the sacrament of communion. That power rests solely with the local bishop, who has autonomy in his diocese, or the Pope.
Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, has made it abundantly clear that he does not support denying communion to Mr. Biden. Bishop-elect William Koenig of Wilmington, Del., Mr. Biden’s hometown, has remained largely quiet on the issue ahead of his installation next month.