Sixty Catholic Democrats from the House and Senate issued a “statement of principles” to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Friday, demanding that the Conference, when drafting its document on the Eucharist due out later this year, not prohibit Catholic politicians who openly support abortion from receiving Communion despite being in open defiance of Church teachings.
The shocking letter addresses what the sixty Democrats claim is “the weaponization of the Eucharist to Democratic lawmakers for their support of a woman’s safe and legal access to abortion,” suggesting that to deny Communion to legislators who openly support abortion is “contradictory” to the Church’s mission.
NEW: 60 Catholic Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives issued a "Statement of Principles" with a message to U.S. bishops that "the weaponization of the Eucharist to Democratic lawmakers for their support of a woman’s safe and legal access to abortion is contradictory". pic.twitter.com/IeR3gSbzDJ
— Catherine Hadro (@CatSzeltner) June 18, 2021
In the nearly two page letter, federal legislators claim that they “work every day to advance respect for life and the dignity of every human being” and that they “agree with the Catholic Church about the value of human life” despite openly supporting policies that allow for and encourage the destruction of unborn children.
They then ask the Church for the ability to follow their “consciences” and argue that by supporting comprehensive government programs, “helping the poor, disadvantaged, and the oppressed, protecting the least among them” that they are qualified to receive the Eucharist despite being in open dissent from Church teachings. They quote Pope Francis on the importance of receiving Communion and then cite the “separation of Church and State,” though the Catholic Church is a separate entity that can create and enforce its own rules on adherents of the Catholic religion.
To close the letter, the group suggests that other politicians who support policies they believe to be in opposition to Catholic social teachings have not been similarly punished, noting that “no elected officials have been threatened with being denied the Eucharist as they support and have supported policies contrary to the Church teachings, including supporting the death penalty, separating migrant children from their parents, denying asylum to those seeking safety in the United States, limiting assistance for the hungry and food insecure, and denying rights and dignity to immigrants.”
The issue, however, is that support for abortion is not merely a disagreement with either the Catholic Church or the Democratic party platform. Abortion is viewed by the Catholic Church as a great moral evil, and it is to be opposed across the board. Although the Church has a stance on the death penalty, assisting the poor, oppressed, and those who seek asylum, the Church does not view a disagreement on how best to serve these individuals as a grave moral evil on part with public and open support for killing the unborn. Although “Canonical punishments” have been on the table for those who supported, for example, the family separation policy during the Trump administration, support for such a policy does not rise to the same level of concern for the church as unfettered support for abortion.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also cannot ban individual Catholics from receiving Communion, regardless. That is up to the individual Catholic’s bishop and priest.
At the end of the document, the group pledges to interfere in the bishops’ drafting and approval of the document, apparently in violation of their “separation of church and state.”
“We solemnly urge you to not move forward and deny this most holy of all sacraments, the source and the summit of the whole work of the gospel over one issue,” the lawmakers noted. “To pursue a blanket denial of the Holy Eucharist to certain elected officials would indeed grieve the Holy Spirit and deny the evolution of that individual, a Christian person who is never perfect, but living in the struggle to get there. … as such, we have a claim on the Church’s bearing as it does on ours.”