The President of United States, Joe Biden must not be denied his right to the sacrament of Holy Communion because of his political opinions according to California Democrats and some religious leaders.
This is after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to draft a document on the Eucharist that could contain instructions on withholding the sacrament from politicians who supports abortion. The U.S. president supports abortion and at that time, Mr Biden said the issue was “a private matter” and told White House reporters that he didn’t think such a prohibition would come to pass.
California Democrats are taking the threat seriously. They suggest that that Catholic church should be stripped of tax-exempt status if it denies Joe Biden communion.
Representative for California’s 2nd congressional district, Rep Jared Huffman has said that the Catholic church should have their tax-free status revoked if they decide President Joe Biden should not be able to take Communion.
The Democratic congressman’s comment comes after a recent US Conference of Catholic Bishops voted on 18 June to begin the process to deny Mr Biden the ability to take Communion. Seventy-three per cent of US bishops voted for the motion. However, according to a report published by the Pew Research Centre, 67 per cent of US Catholics disagree with banning Biden from taking Communion
Mr Huffman wrote on Twitter, “If they’re going to politically weaponise religion by ‘rebuking’ Democrats who support women’s reproductive choice, then a ‘rebuke’ of their tax-exempt status may be in order.”
According to U.S. Internal Revenue Service’ website, churches may enjoy certain tax relief if they are not beholden to shareholders. Additionally, the conditions state that churches “may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates”.
Recently, a wave of Republican-controlled states have been passing restrictive anti-abortion laws, including Texas and Alabama. They have introduced limits on the medical procedure at as early as six weeks of pregnancy. This trend is believed to be a part of an overall strategy to overturn Roe v Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court ruling that allowed safe and legal access to abortion.
The debate about Biden being able to take Communion comes from him being personally pro-life, but uninterested in denying women the right autonomy over their own bodies. He wrote in his 2007 book Promises to Keep he did not think he has “right to impose my view on the rest of society.” Since then, Biden has repeated this belief on the record, such as in a vice-presidential debate in 2012 against Paul Ryan.
When asked about the vote on Friday, Biden said to reporters, “That’s a private matter and I don’t think that’s going to happen”. Biden is well known for his Irish Catholic faith and regularly attends church services, including in England during the G7, surprising local parishioners.
According to The Washington Post, the Vatican has warned against the drafting and publishing of the document, as Cardinal Luis Ladaria has written a letter to US bishops stating that creating policies about politicians receiving Communion would “become a source of discord rather than unity”.
Holy Trinity, located about 3 miles from the White House, reiterated this by releasing a statement which reads:
“As Pope Francis recently reaffirmed, communion should be viewed ‘not as a prize for the perfect, but as a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.’ None of us, whether we stand in the pews or behind the altar, is worthy to receive it. The great gift of the Holy Eucharist is too sacred to be made a political issue.”