Catholic bishops in the United States are engaged in an increasingly public squabble as they prepare to debate the issue of denying Holy Communion to pro-choice politicians at their spring assembly, June 16-18. The meeting will be virtual, by Zoom,
Last week, a memo to all bishops from Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), was leaked to the press. In it, Gomez said the chair of the Doctrine Committee, Bishop Kevin Rhoades, had proposed drafting a teaching document on “eucharistic coherence” as suggested by the ad hoc working group that Gomez established last year to deal with the “difficult and complex situation” posed by the election of a pro-choice Catholic president, Joe Biden.
The USCCB administrative committee, which sets the agenda for the June meeting, approved bringing the request to the full body of bishops. If approved, the Doctrine Committee would draft and bring a text to the bishops for approval at their November meeting. Teaching documents require a two-thirds majority vote and the approbation of the Holy See.
Gomez’s letter came after 67 bishops – roughly 25 per cent of the total – wrote to him, asking that discussion of the issue be delayed until the bishops could meet in person.
Citing a letter from Cardinal Luis Ladara, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the bishops said they “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 serious nature of these issues, especially the imperative to forge substantive unity, makes it impossible to address them productively in the fractured and isolated setting of a distance meeting.”
The letter was signed by four of the six residential cardinals: Sean O’Malley of Boston, Blase Cupich of Chicago, Joseph Tobin of Newark and Wilton Gregory of Washington. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York originally signed the letter but then asked that his name be taken off.
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, one of the leaders of the effort to deny communion to pro-choice politicians, said he was “deeply grieved” by the letter from the 67 bishops.
Meanwhile, President Biden sent Congress his first proposed budget that failed to include the Hyde Amendment, legislation adopted 45 years ago that bars the use of federal funds for elective abortions. “At the beginning of his term, President Biden pledged to ‘build back better’,” read a statement from the group Democrats for Life. “Advocating to use our tax dollars to pay for the killing of the smallest members of our human family and violating the consciences of the majority of Americans is a step in the opposite direction.”