Roman Catholic higher-ups in the United States have outrageously announced that they will draft guidance to deny President Biden communion because of his support of abortion rights.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, by 73-23 percent, voted that Biden should be denied the “Eucharist,” known as holy communion. The proposal must still be drafted and then approved by a two-thirds majority vote in November.
Biden recently showed integrity and backbone in omitting the Hyde Amendment, which denies low-income women on Medical Assistance abortion care, from his budget. Now the Catholic hierarchy in the United States is out for blood, or rather the communion wine (same thing?). How ironic, given that Biden makes continual display of his faith, crossing himself at the drop of a hat and even inflicting that debasing dirge, “Amazing Grace,” on the nation as part of his Inaugural.
But this is about politics, not piety. The Catholic upper hierarchy is declaring war, for partisan reasons, against a seated president — and such conduct is anathema.
It’s reassuring that 60 Catholic Democrats in Congress immediately condemned the announcement. The action was also over the objections of the Vatican, making for strange bedfellows.
In fact, while the Catholic Conference can inveigh and rant, only the local bishop in charge can actually deny communion. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of the D.C. Archdiocese, does not support the effort, and the bishop-elect in Biden’s Delaware Diocese has not committed. A slim majority of Catholics are pro-choice (shouldn’t they all be denied communion, too?), and their views are divided by party line, with 55 percent of Catholic Republicans concurring that Biden should be denied communion, and 87 percent of Catholic Democrats opposing such retribution. A 2019 Pew study found, to the credit of American Catholics, that only about a third believe communion bread and wine literally become the blood and body of Jesus during Mass.
Anti-abortionists are currently emboldened, with more than 500 anti-abortion bills having been introduced in statehouses just since January. And now the Supreme Court that Donald Trump reconstituted as president has accepted an appeal from the state of Mississippi, which is seeking to uphold a ban on abortion care at 15 weeks in direct contravention of Roe v. Wade. Anti-abortionists and other Christian extremists seem to be plotting their strategies for the midterms next year and the 2024 presidential election.
In 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, famously pledged fealty not to the Vatican or bishops, but to the U.S. Constitution, when he said: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act … where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference … where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope … where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.” FFRF is proud of the TV commercial it has created and aired employing footage from that speech.
Catholic bishops in this country are seeking to tell the president how to act — and to impose their will directly upon the general populace and “the public acts of its officials.” Whether or not they succeed in weaponizing the Eucharist, the real threat is to women’s right to bodily autonomy and to the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. How hypocritical that these bishops are seeking not only to destroy the separation of state and church, but to deny Biden his “free exercise of religion.”
As the Freedom From Religion Foundation famously urged in its New York Times ad in 2012, it’s time for Catholic progressives with a conscience to “quit the Catholic Church,” and for the rest of us to raise our voices even louder to demand that Catholic theology stays out of women’s biology.