Over 60 bishops call for delay on debate over communion for pro-choice politicians

President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden attend services at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle with congressional leaders prior to the 59th Presidential Inauguration ceremony on January 20, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden attend services at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle with congressional leaders prior to the 59th Presidential Inauguration ceremony on January 20, 2021, in Washington, D.C. | Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

More than 60 Roman Catholic bishops have written a letter to the chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, urging him to delay the debate about whether pro-abortion Catholic politicians should receive communion.

The letter, obtained by the Catholic website The Pillar, was sent to Jose Gomez, the archbishop of Los Angeles and chair of the USCCB, earlier this month. Notable signatories include Cardinal Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston, and Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago. According to the publication, the letter was sent on letterhead from the Archdiocese of Washington. 

The roughly 60 signatories constitute a small share of the more than 400 bishops, auxiliary bishops, bishops emeritus and eparchs of Eastern Catholic Churches that make up the USCCB. The letter comes as the USCCB is scheduled to meet for a virtual general assembly next month, where the body is expected to vote on a draft document that would recommend that pro-abortion Catholic politicians not receive communion. 

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On March 30, Gomez indicated that the body of U.S. bishops planned to vote on the draft document in a letter to Cardinal Luis Ladaria, a high-ranking Vatican official who serves as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Ladaria responded to Gomez in a May 7 letter, stressing the need for the bishops to reach a consensus about a national policy on communion for pro-abortion Catholic politicians before its implementation.

The bishops cited Ladaria’s argument in their letter, maintaining that the “high standard of consensus among ourselves and of maintaining unity with the Holy See and the Universal Church as set forth by Cardinal Ladaria is far from being achieved in the present moment.” They also cited a desire to hold off on debating a new policy until the entire conference can meet in person.

“Having now received the May 7, 2021 letter from His Eminence Luis F. Cardinal Ladaria, SJ, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, we respectfully urge that all Conference wide discussion and committee work on the topic of Eucharistic worthiness and other issues raised by the Holy See be postponed until the full body of bishops is able to meet in person,” the bishops wrote. 

They suggested that “the bishops gather in person regionally or by province to discuss the Cardinal Ladaria letter before the September Administrative Committee Meeting and before any other conference or committee work continues on this matter.” The general assembly is scheduled to take place from June 16-18. 

The Washington Post reported that “watchers of the conference of bishops say they expect a yes vote.” As explained on the USCCB website, “decisions normally require a two-thirds majority vote of those bishops present and voting” in order to take effect. 

The renewed interest in this debate is a result of President Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic, engaging in abortion advocacy despite the fact that it directly contradicts the teachings of his faith. The Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law teaches that those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.” 

As then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI, noted in a 2004 letter to then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and then-Bishop Wilton Gregory, “the Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin.” Ratzinger quoted from the Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, which states: “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it or to ‘take part in a propoganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it.'” 

Ratzinger instructed priests to meet with Catholic politicians “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” and inform them of the Church’s teachings and that they will be denied communion if they continue to violate Church teachings by supporting such laws. 

If “‘these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,’ and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, ‘the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it,’” he added.

The Associated Press reported that even if the draft document is approved, “it would still leave decisions on withholding Communion up to local bishops,” meaning the debate about whether to withhold communion from pro-abortion Catholic politicians will continue regardless of how the USCCB votes on the draft document.

Even before signing onto the letter expressing a desire to postpone the discussion about “Eucharistic worthiness,” Gregory indicated that he does not believe that Biden’s abortion advocacy should disqualify him from receiving communion. San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who oversees territory that includes the church attended by pro-abortion Catholic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has come down on the other side of the debate. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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