The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently voted overwhelmingly to approve a document that fell far short of refusing communion to individuals who support abortion rights, including President Joe Biden.
Conservatives in the Church pushed for the refusal, despite guidance from Pope Francis.
The approved document passed with 222 in favor, eight against, and three abstentions. It would have required Vatican approval before any action could be taken against an elected official, including the president.
According to Chieko Noguchi, spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “This is really something that is meant to help Catholics understand the intent of the Eucharist.”
The draft of the document, which was composed during the past summer, contained carefully measured wording that fell short of refusing communion to Biden and others who support abortion rights.
One line in the document appeared to be directed at the President and White House, saying, “Lay people who exercise some form of public authority have a special responsibility to embody Church teaching in their service of the common good.”
President Biden recently visited the Vatican and had an audience with the Pope, in which Biden said the Pope told him he was happy he was a “good Catholic” and said he should continue to receive communion.
President Biden is a lifelong Catholic and was denied communion at a Catholic church in South Carolina in 2019 due to his support for abortion rights.
Pope Francis seemingly backed Biden, speaking out against the moves made by some American Catholic bishops to deny communion to politicians who support abortion rights.
The push to deny communion to Biden has been driven by the more conservative wing of the Catholic church.
The president’s support of gay marriage and abortion rights has often put him at odds with leaders in the church. Biden has previously voiced that he opposes abortion but does not believe he should push his views on society.
President Biden also has previously stated that he and his administration are “deeply committed” to a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion and will “protect and defend that right.”
Biden recently spoke out against a Texas state law that bans abortion after as early as six weeks into pregnancy. He referred to the ban as “extreme” and said it “blatantly violates” a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion that the Supreme Court affirmed in its Roe v. Wade decision.
Biden has also stated that he would seek to eliminate the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal dollars from being used to fund abortions, except in cases of incest, rape, or when the mother’s life is at risk.
The president previously supported the Hyde Amendment but reversed his position when criticized by other candidates during the 2020 campaign.