From The New York Times: The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States, flouting a warning from the Vatican, have overwhelmingly voted to draft guidance on the sacrament of the Eucharist, advancing a push by conservative bishops to deny President Biden communion because of his support of abortion rights.
I remember one unfortunate thing about the funeral Mass for Mary Corey, the first woman to lead the Baltimore Sun newsroom as our top editor. She died from breast cancer in 2013 at age 49. The funeral Mass took place in the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, and I remember distinctly how disgusted I was that the priest felt it necessary to warn the hundreds in attendance — many of them Mary’s non-Catholic friends — that, while they might be tempted to take communion that day, they were not allowed to do so. I don’t remember his words exactly, but something like, “If you’re not Catholic, you should not receive the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Eucharist.” It was not stated in a nice way, either; it was a crisp admonition. For me, it spoiled the mood completely, the feeling of camaraderie among those mourning a woman we all knew, respected or loved, and who had been taken too soon. I could not understand why this priest felt a need to be so uninviting and doctrinaire at that moment. What would it have mattered if those who felt communion with Mary’s spirit took the Eucharist that day?
You can tell me that a non-Catholic taking communion is a violation of the rules. But these are the rules of the Church, and they have nothing to do with Christ. Would Christ deny a Jewish or Muslim or Protestant friend of Mary Corey a taste of her spirit and His? Would Christ deny a mourner yearning for comfort a taste of the bread of faith?
And now we have the bishops wanting to deny Eucharist to one of the nation’s most fervent Catholics, President Biden.
I was hoping, at this stage of life, that it would come back to me — the desire to return to the Church in which I was raised. After the long, exhausting and infuriating pedophilia scandal, I had concluded that I could no longer support a Church that had betrayed so many, that had become so bloated with hierarchy and the hierarchy so corrupt and isolated from the real lives of people. I was encouraged when Francis became Pope. I believe he embodies the spirit of Christ more than any Pope of my lifetime. But close to nothing has changed, and, if anything, the bishops and cardinals who run the joint have returned arrogantly to their old ways. The most conservative American bishops have even ignored the Vatican’s warning to stay away from communion denial for Biden and the rest of us who respect the law of the land and a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. They voted to consider drafting a statement on communion that would keep the Eucharist away from the country’s most religious president since Jimmy Carter, reviving a fear that goes back 60 years to John F. Kennedy — that a Catholic president would have to serve Rome before the Constitution.
This action by the bishops affirms, once again, the hierarchy’s misogyny. It sends a message of conservative elitism — that all who wander from Church doctrine are not wanted here. Women still cannot be priests and priests still cannot marry. Church attendance continues to fall; the percentage of Catholics who say they are a “member” of a church has dropped by nearly 20 points since 2000, according to Gallup. And now the bishops want to further alienate — if that’s even possible at this point — liberal and moderate American Catholics by denying Joe Biden communion. While some were critical of Trump, the most conservative bishops tolerated his immorality, his cruelties and his racism because they liked his Supreme Court nominees. They are now the ones calling out Biden on abortion — and they are joining the counterproductive American culture wars at a time when Biden is trying to move the nation out of the pandemic and away from Trump’s draconian and destructive policies. In that light, the Church becomes just another right-wing political organization, just another PAC, the bishops just ideological hacks. They presume to represent the values of Christ, but they could not be less Christian than at this moment. Christ would not deny communion with his spirit to anyone, even someone he considered a sinner. Christ was about love, kindness, forgiveness and understanding. If there’s a group of individuals He could not countenance, it would be these bishops, these hypocrites in shepherd’s clothing.