Should Biden be given the Eucharist?
A recent debate arose amongst American bishops regarding denying American President Joe Biden the Eucharist because of his pro-abortion views. On the other hand, the Vatican is asking not to deny the communion. What lies at the root of this debate?
A recent debate arose amongst American bishops regarding denying American President Joe Biden the Eucharist because of his pro-abortion views. Several US Bishops are arguing that Biden should be denied the traditional communion. Therefore, they composed a new draft statement that – if approved – will deny Biden the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Why is communion so important?
At the roots of the denial of Biden’s communion stands the symbolic and religious importance that the Eucharist has for the Catholic way of life. Communion, or Eucharist, is a religious ritual in which Catholics are given bread and wine and, through eating and drinking them, become one with Jesus Christ. The Eucharist has always been associated with ethical and moral behaviour. For instance, communion is supposed to enhance the faith of the individual and their closeness and devotion to God. To receive the Eucharist, an individual must be in a ‘state of grace’ in which they are cleansed of all their sins.
According to the Code of Canon Law from 1983, the Holy Communion cannot be given to those “who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.”  Sins included in the code are murder, adultery, and public negation of one’s faith. The more these acts are known publicly, the more the sin is considered severe.” Some US bishops consider Biden – because of his positions on abortion – to be a persistent sinner according to this code. Since he is such a public figure, his sin is seen as even more severe.
Abortion and the Church
The fact that Biden is pro-abortion is an incredible sin for the Catholic Church. According to Archbishop Gomez, “abortion is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family. […] It is not only a private matter, it raises troubling and fundamental questions of fraternity, solidarity and inclusion in the human community.” The Roman Catholic Church considers abortion as murder and those who commit this sin are automatically excommunicated by the Church. As a consequence, many bishops are afraid that Biden is in a way legitimising abortion and promoting an untruthful understanding of Catholicism.
The Vatican’s position
In 2004, the Vatican office stated that a politician “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” constitutes “personal formal cooperation” in grave sin. Yet, today its position on the issue appears to be different and in opposition to the US bishops. Before the US bishops voted on the issue, the Vatican published a warning against the drafting of a new statement that would deny communion to Biden and would allow priests to deny communion to other Catholic politicians who oppose fundamental principles of the Catholic Church.  Cardinal Ladaria, Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote to the US bishops that the Church should not divide itself over the issue of abortion. He also added that abortion and euthanasia should not be seen as the only and most important matters of the Catholic doctrine. On his side though, Pope Francis decided not to express himself on the issue. 
Church and State
This debate between the US bishops and the Roman Catholic Church in the Vatican appears to be connected to a larger debate regarding the connection between Church and State. While it appears that the US bishops are siding for a strong connection between Church and State, the Vatican seems to argue that the State should be independent of the Church and make its decisions regardless. By denying Joe Biden the communion, the US bishops are in fact pressing him to act according to Christian principles, thereby trying to influence political decisions through religion. On the other hand, the Vatican seems to be siding for a more strict separation between Church and State and is less willing to use religious principles to influence political decisions – even though these decisions go against its beliefs. For now, the US Bishops are avoiding the Vatican’s advice. We will need to wait and see what their final decision will be in November, when the US bishops will hold a vote on the matter. In order to make the changes and draft new guidance for American priests on the Eucharist, the bishops will need a two-thirds majority.
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