President Biden is expected to meet Pope Francis for his first time as president next Friday, just weeks before the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meets in part to draft a document guiding bishops as to whether politicians who support the abortion should be banned from communion.
Over the summer, the USCCB overwhelmingly voted to draft a formal document on the meaning of the Eucharist after a controversial debate over whether Roman Catholic politicians who support opposing policies to the teaching of the church should receive the sacrament. The announced vote count was 168 bishops in favor, 55 against and six bishops abstaining.
Any document adopted by the bishops when they meet in Baltimore next month is unlikely to mention Biden or any other politician by name.
The Bidens generally attend Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church while in Washington, DC, which has stated that they “will not refuse the Eucharist to those who come forward to receive it.”
âAs Pope Francis recently reaffirmed, communion should be viewed ‘not as a price for the perfect, but as a powerful medicine and food for the weak,â âthe church said, quoting the Pope. “None of us, whether we are standing on the pews or behind the altar, is worthy to receive it. The great gift of the Holy Eucharist is too sacred to make it a political issue.”
Massimo Faggioli, professor of historical theology at the University of Villanova, told The Associated Press that the rift between the bishops and the president is “beyond embarrassment”.
Faggioli claimed that some of the bishops used the Eucharist as “an act of intimidation” against Biden. âAnd they have a pope who protects a Catholic president‘s access to the sacraments – he must have sent a signal from the Vatican saying, ‘We don’t think that’s wise. “”
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Chad Pecknold, professor of theology at the Catholic University of America, told the AP he didn’t expect the Pope to confront Biden about his views on abortion, but noted how many of Catholics would like this to happen.
“I think the Catholic faithful have a right to hope for this and to express their concern for Mr. Biden’s soul,” Pecknold said.
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Pecknold also said the meeting “may in fact highlight the urgent need to unite around a clear and cohesive vision of how bishops should respond to politicians who publicly disregard Church teaching while by presenting himself for Holy Communion “.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced the president’s papal meeting last week, saying: âThey will discuss working together on efforts based on respect for basic human dignity, including the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fight against the climate crisis and the care of the poor. . “
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Also recently met with Pope Francis. Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone has repeatedly spoken out against Catholic politicians supporting abortion and urged to pray for Pelosi.
Brooke Singman of Fox News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.