On Wednesday, the U.S. Catholic bishops overwhelmingly approved (222-8) a long-anticipated document on communion that stops short of calling for the sacrament to be withheld from politicians – like President Joe Biden – who support abortion rights; but offers plenty of tacit justification for individual bishops to do so.
Biden, who describes himself as "a devout Catholic," supports abortion – which is contrary to both Catholic and biblical teaching. That has re-energized a debate over who in the Roman Catholic Church can or cannot partake in communion. After deliberation and debate, the bishops this week overwhelming approved a document that did not establish a mandatory national policy.
AFN spoke with the leaders of two Catholic organizations who say the bishops clearly missed the mark.
"Their job is to teach truth and to defend Christ at all costs, not to pander to Joe Biden," says Judie Brown of the American Life League. "I'm extremely disappointed in the bishops. What it reminds me of is the politicization of anything in this country. Once you become political, you lose your moral authority – and I'm afraid the bishops have gone down that path."
Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute argues that the bishops fell short on a major issue – specifically, how bishops are to apply canon law when it comes to reception of holy communion, especially with regard to pro-abortion politicians.
"It makes no attempt to discuss this matter," says Hichborn, "which means that the status quo is going to be maintained and everything is going to be handled within each diocese according to the wills of the individual bishops – and nothing changes.
"That's the biggest problem with this document: it doesn't even make an attempt to clarify exactly how canon law is to be applied."
Brown points out that canon law is very specific about who can participate in the Holy Eucharist – but she contends the bishops didn't base their decision on that.
"… The problem with the bishops is that they are politicians. They want to be popular; they want to be embraced by the Democratic Party," she offers. "And all of that comes before their desire to teach truth and to bring souls to Christ. It has been getting worse over time, and now it's at a point where I really wonder how many have of them actually think they're Catholic."
Both Hichborn and Brown agree that the bishops are sending a confusing message to people in the pews about communion and sin – and after that type of leadership for many years, Brown argues, the average Catholic no longer understands what their own church teaches.