In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church had a ceremony called “Bell, Book, and Candle.” It was a rite of excommunication reserved for powerful public figures who committed a particularly grave sin, such as murder. A bishop would publicly bring 12 priests together in a church. The bell would ring, the bishop would read from a book to declare the figure “excommunicated and anathematized,” and the clergy gathered would extinguish their candles by throwing them to the ground. The condemned would then be prohibited from receiving the sacraments of the Church. Today, we have moved on to less ostentatious methods of excommunication, but the grave sins of politicians are still present.
Today, we have moved on to less ostentatious methods of excommunication, but the grave sins of politicians are still present.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted Friday to move forward with the creation of an educational document that could lay the foundation for President Joe Biden to be denied Holy Communion due to his views on abortion. The person with the final decision as to whether or not Biden can receive the sacrament is the bishop of the diocese where he attends Mass. The conference should put as much pressure as possible on bishops nationwide, ensuring that Biden will not receive the Eucharist no matter where he goes.
To Catholics, the Eucharist is quite literally the greatest thing on earth. We believe it is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus, the “source and summit of the Christian life,” according to the Catechism. Anyone who receives the sacrament unworthily is “guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord,” St. Paul tells us. Canon Law forbids its reception by anyone committing the sin of heresy, i.e., an obstinate rejection of the Church’s teachings. With his embrace of pro-abortion legislation, Biden has severed himself from Heaven and the sacraments that come from it.
With his embrace of pro-abortion legislation, Biden has severed himself from Heaven and the sacraments that come from it.
All of us are sinners unworthy of the sacraments which Jesus instituted. Only through His mercy are we justified in participating in them. Unfortunately, many Catholics across the country receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin each week. It is true that a strict following of Canon Law would result in these people privately being denied Communion. Biden, however, necessitates a public rebuke. His case is exceptional, in that he uses his faith as a political tool by presenting himself as Catholic while rejecting the doctrines of the Church. Denying him Communion is a way for the bishops to publicly announce that Biden does not speak for the faith on matters of life. A renunciation would not be an imposition on his freedom of conscience. He is free to believe whatever he wants, but he is not free to believe whatever he wants and call it Catholicism.
Biden’s beliefs on abortion are certainly not Catholic. During the campaign, he promised to codify Roe v. Wade, shield it from state pro-life laws, and increase funding to Planned Parenthood, which performed over 354,000 abortions in 2020. In his first few months as president, he has rescinded the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits international funding for abortion, and proposed the revocation of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits domestic funding for the practice.
While Democrats like Biden are abysmal on the issue of abortion, Republicans are far from perfect when considering Catholics on the death penalty. Former Attorney General Bill Barr, a Catholic Republican, reinstated federal executions in 2019 after a two-decade ban, something inconsistent with the faith. The effort on Biden is hypocritical because there was no similar effort to deny the Eucharist to Barr, critics argue. This is factually wrong. The bishops called on Barr to stop the execution spree when it started. Their condemnation of Barr was stronger than the proposed document directed toward Biden. They rebuked the former attorney general by name, while anything they will say regarding Biden will be broad and unspecific. Even with the knowledge of the bishops’ consistency, opponents of denying the Eucharist to Biden still will not drop their objections.
One of the biggest critiques from both inside and outside the Church centers around the idea that the move would be “out of touch” or “lead to a loss of followers.” The Church is not a social club. It is not bound to change with popular attitudes. It has been resolute since the beginning. After Jesus first called His followers to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood during the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6, many of His disciples left Him. Only the most devoted stayed. The Eucharist has been unpopular since its institution, but it has also been true, divine, and sanctifying. Defending it will cost followers as well, but the most important approval for Catholics is God’s, and He demands that we protect His Son’s Body and Blood.