The following views do not necessarily represent those of Clarifying Catholicism’s writers. We enjoy hosting debates on hot-button issues and encourage you to respectfully contribute in the comments section and vote in the poll at the end of this article.
Yes, Biden and Pro-Choice Politicians SHOULD be Denied Communion
By Andrew Houser, Aquinas College Alumnus
On June 18, the USCCB voted to pass Action Item 7, which states: “The full body of bishops also voted to task the Committee on Doctrine to move forward with the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.” Immediately following this, the news media started releasing stories about how Catholic bishops are specifically targeting President Biden and any Democratic politician who supports abortion rights. Specifically, some Democrats, such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, stated that this was “weaponizing” the Holy Eucharist. However, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is not politicizing the Eucharist; rather, they are defending its sanctity.
To begin, Catholics believe that the Holy Eucharist is the literal Body and Blood of Christ through the concept of transubstantiation, as this can be seen in paragraph 1374 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states: “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” From these points, it is obvious that Catholics hold the Eucharist in very high regards, as numerous Eucharistic miracles have occurred throughout history. Similarly, paragraph 1374 also states that the Eucharist is “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.” It is obvious that the Eucharist is divine and considered by Catholics as a gift from God. But why can Catholic bishops permit those who support abortion to be denied the Eucharist?
The answer can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Regarding the morality of abortion, paragraph 2271 states that “the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion,” as well as how life begins at conception. To continue, “abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes,’ while paragraph 2272 dictates that “formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense,” which covers the support of and enacting of legislation of abortion laws. Essentially, Catholics view abortion as a moral evil, and those who support abortion is accomplices in this evil. Meanwhile, paragraph 1395 states that “the Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church.” This passage means that one must not be in a state of mortal sin in order to receive the Eucharist. Mortal sin is any sin which follows these three criteria in this order: it must be an action of grave matter, which is committed with the knowledge that it is grave matter, and it is committed with consent. When these criteria are met, mortal sin is present. Since mortal sin is grave, one cannot receive the Holy Body and Blood of Christ until absolution has been bestowed upon them.
What does all of this mean? Since, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, supporting abortion is a grave evil, allowing those who publicly support and promulgate the practice of abortion to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist is inherently problematic. Without ignorance or repentance, anyone who publicly engages in mortal sin distances themselves from God. Society has seen Bishops deny Communion before as well, so this is not a new aspect of Catholic history. Since those who openly support abortion are in a state of mortal sin, bishops and priests are morally obliged to deny the supporters communion, until they get a chance to repent via the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Denying supporters of abortion the Eucharist is not a political weapon. Rather, it is the Catholic clergy upholding the very vows they swore to uphold. Also, it is an affirmation of the belief that Christ is ever present in the Eucharist, which is paramount to the Catholic faith.
No, Biden and Pro-Choice Catholics should NOT be Denied Communion
By Julia O’Donnell, Ave Maria Alumnus
Should the Clergy Deny Biden and Other Prominent Democrats Communion?
After the Bishops declared their Eucharistic conference, arguments that had simmered since the inauguration came to the forefront. I can say for the Democratic side that many tears were shed and hearts broken by the fear that the Church authority in the US would condemn all of us. What all of this confusion and anger came down to was one question. Should the bishops deny reception of the Eucharist to Biden and other high profile democrats?
There is precedence in the Church for denying communion to someone who is publicly advocating for, or committing a mortal sin. It is considered a last resort for high profile leaders who taught or led others to believe that a mortal sin was not in fact sinful, or who engaged in that mortal sin publicly. For the sake of this conversation, I will not argue whether the Church should ever refuse communion, but whether Biden is in a certain enough state of mortal sin for the bishops to deny him access to the Body and Blood of Jesus.
In order to continue, we must talk about what makes something a mortal sin:
1: The act must be grievously wrong
2: We must know it is grievously wrong
3: We must fully consent to it
First, is Biden’s act(or that of other high profile Catholic democrats) grievously wrong. The two most common charges are that by voting in favor of laws that permit abortion, high profile democrats are encouraging it, and setting an example that Catholicism allows for belief in abortion. However, Biden has publicly stated that he is pro-life, and Pelosi says she wants as few abortions as possible, and it is difficult in our current state to speak of abortion that way as a Democrat. In fact, Biden has spoken in his biographies about how he has not been democrat enough for the democrats because of the pro-life issue.
Additionally, and unfortunately, in America laws tend to have more to them than just one issue. For example, Biden publicly discussed a law that would result in charities being unable to help during natural disasters. The Hyde Amendment would take away funding from organizations that provide abortion, not just from the department that performs abortions, but from the organization as a whole. This would address the issue of fully consenting, because Biden may wish to defund the abortions, but not the help that these organizations are giving in other ways.
Roe V. Wade is the other argument against Biden. This Supreme Court decision itself clearly cites complications to the case. The court cited 1. freedom of religion as there are other religions that do not believe life begins at conception, 2. Lack of scientific consensus, meaning that the scientists did not agree on when exactly life begins, and 3. The interconnectedness of the medical decisions of the mother and the baby. If the court were to have ruled against RvW, the infant in the womb would have had rights separate from the mother, and that could have caused other issues for women legally. Now, my point here is not whether you must agree with RvW or not, but that there are legal complications to it, which means one may believe it must be upheld without fully consenting to it.
In fact, Catholic moral teaching is not exact on what should be law. Both St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas believed that prostitution should be legal. This is not because they did not believe it was wrong. For St. Thomas, it was because he believed that there would be too much chaos if it was made illegal, people would just keep doing it anyway, and it would result in lack of respect for the law. This was not a mortal sin for St. Thomas. He was not encouraging the sin to take place, but instead desiring to preserve other goods by allowing the law to remain how it was at the time. In the same way, Biden’s beliefs on these laws do not mean that he is guilty of the sin of abortion, or even encouraging others to commit that sin
I want to add that Biden and Pelosi are working against abortion in the way I see as most effective. Biden has repeatedly implemented plans to serve families at times when I was crushed under the weight of financial strain. Pelosi has fought to protect women from the discrimination that added a heavy burden to the birth of my first living child. Becoming a mother in our country can be terrifying, but if Biden and Pelosi and other high profile democrats are allowed to help people like me, that might change. To deny them communion over laws, when they are working to help families seems disingenuous at best.
Even if one disagrees with me on that, I believe that the lack of certainty on whether or not Biden, Pelosi, or any other current Catholic democrat is in mortal sin would make it a grievous wrong to refuse them closeness to Jesus. If anyone needs the extra grace of Communion, it is these much hated public figures with the weight of billions on their shoulders, especially if they are following the Holy Spirit in their decisions, but misunderstood.
It is also important to note that the Church is severely divided on these issues, To side against Biden on this, with so much grey area present, would effectively condemn a part of the Church that is already suffering. We are called to respect and unity with the body of Christ, even in our differences, and there has been enough hatred between the parts. I long for a Church where instead of condemning those we do not understand; we will hear out their stories, and why they fight for what they do. St. Paul tells us that sometimes the most important parts of the Mystical Body of Christ are those we do not see as valuable. May we work towards the peace and understanding he recommends even when we are divided, just as St. Peter and Paul did in their own arguments over the future of the Church.
No, Unless ALL Americans are Denied Communion
By Dmitri Garlic, Texas A&M University
In this essay I will discuss the likely decision to ban President Biden and other pro-abortion Catholic politicians from receiving Holy Communion. This decision has received wide acclaim across the Catholic world. Finally, the bishops are standing up to the watering down of Catholicism by secular society. Even fairly left of center Catholic acquaintances lauded this decision. However, I think this decision is incorrect for two connected reasons. Firstly, it is a politically contentious decision within a very politically divided culture. Secondly, and totally unforgivable for a political decision, it does not go far enough.
It should be obvious to anyone who has eyes to see that this decision is extremely controversial, as the attached storm of hyperlinks demonstrates. As His Excellency, Bishop McElroy, has pointed out in America magazine, this decision will make the Eucharist, the most uniting of the Church’s sacraments, into a battlefield in a partisan war. As one of the above hyperlinks shows, there are already some who are questioning why this censure is not being applied to politicians from the Republican party. While I do not think there is much of a leg to stand on for withholding Communion to those who refuse to support gun control, I could see a case being made for those who pass laws contrary to Catholic social teaching on economics. Surely, we would not want to make the Body of Christ into another talking point in the endless American Culture War? By withholding Communion on such a contentious political issue, the Church would turn herself into a weapon which both sides of the political spectrum would seek to use against each other.
Bishop McElroy also talks about a “Theology of Unworthiness”. He worries that by setting the expectation that Catholics should hold to all doctrines of the Church to be worthy of Communion the Church will be too great of a burden to bear for “a church of sinners and questioners, who must face intense pressures and complexities in their daily lives.” His depiction of the current Church is undoubtably accurate. According to Pew, more than half of US Catholics support legalized abortion, much like President Biden. In addition, according to a 2016 survey by Pew, only 8% of American Catholics believe contraception is a sin and, according to a 2020 survey by Pew, 69% of American Catholics support same-sex marriage. To call the American Catholic Church a church of questioners is to put it lightly! But most shocking of all is the statistic, again from Pew, that only one third of Catholics in America even belief in the Eucharist anyway. If the American Catholic Church broadly is allowed to receive despite these figures, why not Biden?
This brings me to my second point. Obviously, Biden is merely the tip of the iceberg regarding the lack of belief in Catholic dogma among the American faithful. Thus, to only withhold the Eucharist from him would be both to unfairly single him out and to turn a blind eye to the disturbing facts outlined above. I propose that given these trends there is only one correct course of action for the Church in America: to ask His Holiness to place the American Church under interdict. Specifically, a general local interdict for the duration of one year.
Some would object that the use of interdict in this case would be beyond extreme. However, I think history clearly shows this to not be the case. As the New Advent article notes, interdicts were placed on France in 1200 because the King divorced his wife and on England in 1208 because of royal meddling in the election of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Further, the last major interdict was placed on the Republic of Venice because of the arrest of two priests! If a divorce, an election, or two priests can merit an interdict, why not widespread disbelief in the teachings of the Catholic Church?
I do not mean to deny that this would be a weighty decision. As New Advent notes, an interdict means a full denial of all the sacraments of the Church except for the Sacrament of Penance and Last Rites. This will do a great deal of harm to many innocent Catholics, who fully believe in the doctrines of the Catholic Church. But, by forgoing sacraments for a year, American Catholics will be reminded of just how wondrous and weighty the Sacraments, Holy Eucharis among them, are. The Eucharist is not merely a symbol of unity. It is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Jesus Christ. It should not be something received out of habit despite no longer actually believing in what it stood for. Further, by denying the Eucharist to everyone in America, the bishops would completely short circuit the objections that the Eucharist was being used as a weapon in a political war. Not only high-profile Democratic politicians would be denied the Eucharist. Everyone would be. At last, a point of unity in American politics.
Author’s note: This essay is written as a Devil’s Advocate against the vote by the bishops. As such, it only partially reflects my actual views on the subject. I welcome comments and further discussion.