Before I begin to write about the controversy that has engulfed American Catholicism (and much of America that is not Catholic), I feel that it is only right for me to admit that I am, at best, a very bad Catholic. There are many ecumenical teachings that I am unable to incorporate into my own beliefs, I have (and still do in many ways) lived in sin and I am at odds with some of the most fundamental teachings of not only the Catholic church, but Christianity as a whole. At the same time, I do still consider myself to be a Catholic – perhaps in a way not so different from the way that Biden does.
For those who may be unaware, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops recently met and discussed possible changes to the Eucharist, with much of the purported conversation said to be on changes to who may be eligible to receive the Eucharist. For those of you who are Christians but not Catholic, this is of especial importance to Catholics, as the belief is not that the Eucharist is a symbolic meal, but the literal incarnation of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and participating in this sacrament brings one closer to Christ Himself (to the best of my limited understanding).
This then leads us to the controversy around President Joe Biden. Biden will often, both on the campaign trail and otherwise, talk about his personal life as a devout Catholic, and how it influences his life on a wide scale. However, one of the belief that Biden holds in his public life is in the legal right of women to have access to abortions. For many Catholics, this public action and support by Biden is in direct contradiction to Catholic teaching and contributes to the wholesale genocide of American pre-born children.
As an aside, in order to be transparent, I should say that I am not pro-life (if you are at all interested, you can read my thoughts on this in my essay “The Sanctity of Suicide”). At the same time, I am anti-abortion. For me, the difference comes down in two essential steps – I believe that life begins at conception, and I believe that if one is to condone the killing of a human life (specifically suicide), there needs to be a conscious decision made, which is completely impossible for a pre-born infant.
Due to Biden’s support of the legality of abortion, many Catholics believe that Biden goes in direct contradiction of the teachings of the Catholic Church – this action is one that many believe should bar Biden from participating in Communion, which is in many ways removing him from the ability to actively participate in the Catholic tradition.
At the end of the day, I do believe that Biden should be refused the Eucharist, due to his active and wilful denial of the teachings of the Catholic Church. I do not believe that there is a single practicing Catholic on this planet who can be said to be in full agreement with the teachings of the Catholic Church (I would be hard pressed to even say that the Pope himself does), the main difference in Biden and, say, someone like me, is Biden’s public and political role. Someone condoning this wholesale slaughter of innocent life that is unable to defend itself is not someone who I believe should be allowed to be in communion with the Catholic Church.
And, to be honest, someone as bad of a Catholic as myself? I am not sure that I deserve to be in communion either. Perhaps, for both Biden and myself, as well as anyone else out there who considers themself to be a Catholic (and particularly those that, like me, consider themselves to be bad Catholics on their best day), the question is not whether or not we deserve to be in communion – not whether we are worthy of being in communion with Christ, but what promotes the most Christ like behavior. And, to be honest, I do not know what the answer to that question is.