W.hen the Catholic bishops have their way, Joe Biden will soon no longer be allowed to take part in Holy Communion. When it comes to abortion, the Democrat adheres to the current legal situation, which largely declares him a private matter. His church sees it differently. At the end of a three-day virtual conference on Friday, the bishops voted with 168 to 55 votes in favor of a corresponding draft of a “lesson letter”. This will now be passed on to an internal committee for further discussion – the final vote on a new doctrine on the meaning of communion should then follow in autumn. The bishops’ draft does not name Biden – this will remain so in the final document. But there is talk of Catholic politicians and other public figures who openly oppose the teachings of their church.
Joe Biden is only the second Catholic US President after John F. Kennedy. He regularly attends Mass in his hometown of Wilmington and in Washington DC Politico magazine reportedthat bishops in the debate expressed their anger over a Catholic president implementing “the most radical pro-abortion agenda in history,” said Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, Wisconsin. A minority of officials are also worried that communion will now become a weapon in political disputes. Because the doctrine of communion will ultimately contain no names, it should be left to the individual dioceses whether they refuse politicians to participate in it. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, DC, made it clear that Biden would continue to be welcome for communion in the capital’s churches.
Before the vote, according to a report in the New York Times the Vatican warned the American bishopsmany of which are significantly more conservative. Cardinal Luis Ladaria, who takes care of fundamental matters for Pope Francis, wrote a letter to officials in the USA. It said the vote could become “a source of strife rather than unity”. The Pope himself recently said that communion was “not the reward of the saints, but the bread of sinners”. Experts rated the clarity of the warnings from the Vatican as unusual.
There are approximately 51 million adult Catholics in the United States. In a 2020 survey, 25 percent of Americans said they were Catholic. This makes them the second largest religious community in the country after the various Protestant churches. While 80 percent of white evangelicals voted Donald Trump in 2016, this was only true for 50 percent of all Catholics. But Biden causes resentment among many of them because he supports the right of pregnant women to have an abortion.
He removed restrictions on Donald Trump’s administration that other Democratic presidents had already lifted when they had the opportunity. For example, shortly after he was sworn in by executive order, the “Global Gag Rule”, which refused development aid organizations from American funds, if they carried out or provided information about abortions, fell.
Since 1980 a similar regulation for domestic programs like the poor health insurance Medicaid has been in force. They can only finance abortions in exceptional cases. The Hyde Amendment does not have an independent legislative status, but is upheld through budget laws, which are passed by a Republican majority or approval. Biden’s draft budget withdraws the regulation – but the Republicans will try again to negotiate them within the budget. Biden had said in the election campaign that he saw abortions as part of health care that must be accessible to all citizens regardless of income. The case law in the precedent “Roe v. Wade ”had comprehensively legalized abortions in 1973.
Biden’s position on reproductive rights developed over the years, also under pressure from his own party. He supported the Hyde Amendment for decades as a senator. In 1981 he also voted for a constitutional amendment that would have allowed states to amend the Roe v. Wade ”. In his 2007 book “Promises to keep” he wrote that he was “personally against abortion” but did not believe that he had the right “to impose this point of view on the rest of society”.
Biden’s proposals for reforming health insurance ultimately contained a so-called “public option”, a publicly financed pillar that should be accessible to all. It should also cover both contraceptives and abortions – the President has not yet specified the plans any further. After his numerous further developments in terms of content, Biden now also supports the goal of many democrats, the jurisprudence from “Roe v. Wade ”in legal form and thus protect against changing majorities on the bench of the Supreme Court. But even this project will probably not be able to be implemented for the time being due to the majority in Congress.