Biden, the church and communion

So much news seems to be bubbling up today.

Catholic bishops are pushing to withhold communion from President Biden over his abortion rights stance.

Since those in the church dragging this church matter into public politics, I would have hoped the news reporters talking to the bishops and writing the stories would have asked the bishops their political affiliation.

No matter when they are independent, Democrat or Republican, it is part of the story.

Seems to me it’s the other way around–Biden is deliberately taking a political stance contrary to his church’s position, and hoping to get away with it. If he wants to be a Catholic, he should be willing to pay the price of conforming his politics to what his church teaches. If, on the other hand, he wants to have liberal political views and still be religious, then he should find a church that is willing to go along with that.

He can also personally oppose abortion while recognizing that as a political leader his responsibility is to make the best decisions for the country. He may believe that for the country, access to abortions and right to decide for oneself is the correct choice.

His church, for whatever right they have to hold him accountable for his beliefs, then need to separate his personal belief about abortion from his support of the pro choice position.

In other words, being pro choice but personally against abortion, are not incompatible.

There are tons of Republican Catholics who reject (or outright violate) church teachings on the death penalty, the environment, marital fidelity, or a dozen other issues, and I don’t believe there’s been any significant push to deny them communion.

This is just standard hypocritical political bullshit from the right-wing faction of American Catholicism. Nothing new or particularly notable here.

Does it matter to these bishops that Biden is otherwise advocating policies to help people, particularly the poor and disadvantaged? Or does the Catholic Church care only about this one issue?

This. The American Catholic Church has been riven by the same kinds of divisions which have so damaged the country. Some bishops are extremely right-wing, and punitiveness, narrowness, and extremeness are their watchwords. Most of this type of clergy do not believe the current pope is legitimate because he doesn’t agree with them. Can you imagine.

The American Catholic laity are representative of the American political body in general, some extreme right wingers full of hate, indistinguishable from their evangelical counterparts (many of whom don’t believe Catholics are even Christian) some progressive activists, and a whole lot of people who don’t want politics in their pews.

Because of the historic authoritarian hierarchy of the Holy Mother Church, some bishops presume that they still can dictate to, well, pretty much everyone. However, few are listening, and even fewer are obeying.


Just like one-issue voters, these bastards have a one-track mind. Nothing else Biden does or thinks matters.

To be clear, this isn’t a monolithic “The Catholic Church” speaking. It’s some American bishops. To them I say, “Who do you think you are, dictating to a person’s individual conscience?”

The Catholic tradition on conscience is very extensive, while being quite unified. One may wonder, if the teaching is so unified, why there would be so much to say. The reason is because the tradition is unified on a tension. The first pole of the tension is that under no circumstances should one violate one’s conscience – one must always follow even an erring conscience. The other pole of the tension is that, at the same time, a rightly formed conscience is expected to concur with Catholic teaching. These two moral requirements, that one should follow one’s conscience and that one should follow Church teachings, are potentially in conflict. The requirements may not align, and if so, then a point of tension has appeared between an individual’s conscience and the Church’s teachings.

Biden must follow his conscience, even if a few bishops say he is wrong. Period.

No, I am not Catholic, but it seems to me that the church’s leaders lost any sense of moral superiority years ago, when they started covering up for clergy sexual abuse, including reassigning priests known to be abusers.

This is one situation where I want someone versed in Catholic law and tradition to chime in.

It does seem to me, based on what I know, that it should be possible for a good Catholic (i.e. one follow church teachings) to say that you personally would never participate in an abortion because you think it is a sin, but that it would be wrong for the government to enforce a ban. I am under the impression that Catholics generally support a separation of Church and State.

Assuming this is correct, it would seem these bishops are the ones making noises for political reasons. They are right wing, and are fishing for things they can condemn Biden for. They want to push other American Catholics from supporting him, rather than being genuinely interested in following Catholic teachings.

And yes, the fact that they single out Biden when he’s far from the only public person with this position—let alone all the Catholics who publicly support abortion—lends additional credence to this belief.

But I would love it if a Catholic scholar/legal expert could chime in.

Lapsed Catholic, here (for what that’s worth). While it’s certainly possible that one’s thoughts can be sinful, I didn’t think that one’s opinions could be. So I don’t think the bishops have a theological leg to stand on. Biden hasn’t performed an abortion, or had one, or even recommended one…he just holds that the current legal status of abortion is OK. if I were God I’d be fine with that.

I think the argument is that “good doesn’t outweigh bad.” You can’t excuse something bad by saying “well, I’m doing good things as well,” just like PETA wouldn’t excuse a puppy-kicker and kitten-beater for donating a lot of money to humanitarian causes.

I am not Catholic, I’m just guessing that’s their reasoning.

Did you read my post… and go to the link?

No, because your post wasn’t addressing my specific question about the difference between personal belief and supporting a legal ban. It appears to just be talking about whether beliefs themselves are valid.

Unfortunately that logic leads to absurd conclusions, for example substitute “murder of innocents” for “abortion”.

‘It should be possible for a good Catholic to say that you personally would never participate in the murder of innocents because you think it is a sin, but that it would be wrong for the government to ban the murder of innocents. The government that declines to ban the murder of innocents is one that a good Catholic can head in good conscience.’

“It is the role of the state to defend and promote the common good of civil society, its citizens, and intermediate bodies.” ~ Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1910.


Not Catholic, so I may be getting this wrong.

I don’t think that’s quite it.
As I understand it, the Catholic Church cares about many, many, many things and when you are out of alignment with them on any of them, you are not allowed to receive communion. A one-issue voter will overlook everything else so long as that candidate opposes abortion. The church will also deny communion to someone who opposes abortion if that person also is deficient in some other way that is deemed critical.

The church generally and these bishops specifically care about many issues, and they’re probably happy with the good that he does in many areas. However, when it comes to the very specific question of “can you receive communion?” no, a list of good deeds doesn’t matter.

So why are these particular bishops only focused on abortion, and ignoring Catholic teaching on the death penalty, war, health care, caring for the poor, the environment, and many other issues in which conservative politicians are much more likely to hold the opposite view?

Seems obvious to me that this is just hypocritical political bullshit.

No, it doesn’t. You have not motivated your replacement. There is no inherent reason why all sinful acts would be treated the same way, unless you can find an actual rule.

Nor have you argued that Catholic dogma is what is meant by “the common good of civil society.” The fact that Catholics support Separation of Church and State would, in fact, directly be in conflict with that view. Thus there must be some things that Catholicism forbids but do not produce an uncivil society.

That’s not quite right. You cannot receive communion if you are in a state of mortal sin (committed but not yet forgiven). So the bishops are saying that Biden’s political stance on the legality of abortion is in and of itself a mortal sin, which (IMHO) is nonsense.

But being pro-choice is not the only mortal sin. If you commit any of them, you still aren’t going to receive communion even if you are anti-abortion.

Joe Biden’s been a public figure all his life. Why is it only now that the Catholic Church seems to care about his stance on abortion? Oh, is it because he’s president?