US Catholic bishops OK steps toward possible rebuke of Biden

© Provided by Associated Press FILE – In this Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 file photo, President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, attend Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle during Inauguration Day ceremonies in Washington. When U.S. Catholic bishops hold their next national meeting in June 2021, they’ll be deciding whether to send a tougher-than-ever message to President Joe Biden and other Catholic politicians: Don’t partake of Communion if you persist in public advocacy of abortion rights. (AP Photo)

U.S. Catholic bishops overwhelmingly approved the drafting of a “teaching document” that many of them hope will rebuke Catholic politicians, including President Joe Biden, for receiving Communion despite their support for abortion rights.

© Provided by Associated Press FILE – In this Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 file photo, President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, listen as Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, delivers the invocation during a COVID-19 memorial at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington. Gregory has made clear that President Biden, who sometimes worships in Washington, is welcome to receive Communion at the archdiocese’s churches. (AP Photo)

The result of the vote — 168 in favor and 55 against — was announced Friday near the end of a three-day meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that was held virtually.

The bishops had cast their votes privately on Thursday after nearly three hours of impassioned debate.

Supporters of the measure said a strong rebuke of Biden was needed because of his recent actions protecting and expanding abortion access, while opponents warned that such action would portray the bishops as a partisan force during a time of bitter political divisions across the country.

© Provided by Associated Press In this image taken from video, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, addresses the body’s virtual assembly on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops via AP)

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 that will be submitted for consideration at a future meeting, probably an in-person gathering in November.

One section of the document is intended to include a specific admonition to Catholic politicians and other public figures who disobey church teaching on abortion and other core doctrinal issues.

© Provided by Associated Press In this photo taken from video, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., head of the doctrine committee for the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops, addresses the body’s virtual assembly regarding a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the church on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops via AP)

Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, Wisconsin, said during Thursday’s debate that he speaks with many people who are confused by a Catholic president who advances “the most radical pro-abortion agenda in history,” and action from the bishops’ conference is needed.

© Provided by Associated Press In this photo taken from video, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington rejects a motion to draft a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the church during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ virtual assembly on Thursday, June 17, 2021. Wilton has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops via AP)

They’re looking for direction,” Hying said.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego countered that the USCCB would suffer “destructive consequences” from a document targeting Catholic politicians.

“It would be impossible to prevent the weaponization of the Eucharist,” McElroy said.

Biden, who attends Mass regularly, says he personally opposes abortion but doesn’t think he should impose that position on Americans who feel otherwise. He’s taken several executive actions during his presidency that were hailed by abortion-rights advocates.

In this image taken from video, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops president and Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles confers with staff to alert the next speaker during their virtual assembly on Wednesday, June 16, 2021.(United States Conference of Catholic Bishops via AP)

The chairman of the USCCB doctrine committee, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, said no decisions have been made on the final contents of the proposed document. He said bishops who are not on the committee will have chances to offer input, and the final draft will be subject to amendments before it is put up to a vote.

Rhoades also said the document would not mention Biden or other individuals by name and would offer guidelines rather than imposing a mandatory national policy.

In this photo taken from video, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, opposes the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the church during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ virtual assembly on Thursday, June 17, 2021 in Washington. McElroy felt the bishops’ conference would suffer “destructive consequences” if the document targeted Catholic politicians. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops via AP)

That would leave decisions about Communion for specific churchgoers up to individual bishops and archbishops. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.

In this image taken from video, the Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, archbishop of San Francisco, rejects an agenda motion during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ virtual assembly on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops via AP)

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