American Roman Catholic Bishops are set to meet this week at a conference in Baltimore, where they are expected to discuss Joe Biden’s ability to receive communion. Biden’s strident support for abortion on demand has caused significant dispute within the church.
The bishops are scheduled to vote on a declaration regarding the meaning of Holy Communion as the sacrament forms a fundamental basis of the faith. The document was created after the last conference of the bishops in June. At that meeting, the group discussed whether an official position was needed regarding communion for Catholics who are politicians taking positions contrary to the church’s teachings.
Biden is the second Catholic president of the country, after John F. Kennedy. Biden has stated previously that he has “personal” opposition to abortion but supports the “right to choose.” In every political setting, he has promised to protect the most liberal of abortion rights against the actions of states to enact measures to protect the life of the unborn. He recently directed his administration to fight the new Texas Heartbeat Act in court, which prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is medically detected.
The issue of Biden’s communion has divided the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. A Gallup poll conducted earlier this year found that nearly 20% of American Catholics have left the church in the last 20 years. Physical abuse scandals involving priests and disagreements on social issues have contributed to the decreasing membership.
Biden had a private meeting with Pope Francis last month while visiting the Vatican. He said after the meeting that the pope reassured him that he is eligible for communion as a “good Catholic.”
Francis has previously directed the American bishops to treat Biden and other abortion-supporting politicians with “compassion and tenderness” regarding the “gift of communion.” He added that communion should not be considered as a “prize for the perfect.”
The draft document to be considered does not name Biden or any other politician. It states that people with “public authority” have a “special responsibility to embody the church.” It says that church members who choose to live in a “state of mortal sin” without being repentant should not be eligible for communion.