ROME — Joe Biden’s entourage requested permission for the president to attend Mass with Pope Francis during his European visit, which the Vatican “nixed,” according to a Wednesday report from Catholic News Agency (CNA).
The Vatican’s refusal stemmed from “the impact that Biden receiving Holy Communion from the pope would have on the discussions the USCCB [U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops] is planning to have during their meeting starting Wednesday, June 16,” the report stated, citing an unnamed Vatican source.
Tuesday’s report corrects a prior CNA story alleging that the president would meet with the pope on June 15, which will apparently not occur.
Biden has come under fire from numerous U.S. bishops for his promotion of “grave moral evils” such as abortion, which put him at odds with Catholic belief. Among the issues to be discussed by the bishops in their meeting this week is “Eucharistic coherence,” a term encompassing conditions necessary for a Catholic to receive Holy Communion at Mass.
A number of bishops have declared that a Catholic politician like Joe Biden who flouts Catholic teaching on key moral issues and uses his position to promote intrinsically evil actions should not receive Communion.
Catholics believe abortion is a grave injustice, since it involves the intentional killing of an innocent human being.
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, for example, wrote last month that politicians who promote pro-abortion legislation cooperate in the “grave moral evil” of killing an unborn child and should not receive Holy Communion.
“In the case of public figures who profess to be Catholic and promote abortion, we are not dealing with a sin committed in human weakness or a moral lapse: this is a matter of persistent, obdurate, and public rejection of Catholic teaching,” the archbishop wrote.
The Vatican has encouraged U.S. bishops to find guidance in a letter from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — the future Pope Benedict XVI — in 2004, when a similar issue arose regarding Secretary of State John Kerry, who professed to be Catholic but publicly supported abortion rights.
When a Catholic politician’s formal cooperation in the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia becomes manifest, such as “his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws,” his bishop should meet with him, Ratzinger wrote.
The bishop should instruct him about the Church’s teaching, “informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist,” the cardinal stated.
“When these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible, and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it,” Ratzinger wrote (emphasis added).
Biden is currently in Europe for high-level meetings, an occasion when U.S. presidents often request an audience with the pope. According to the CNA report, there is currently no meeting scheduled between the two leaders.