In the future, Joe Biden could be excluded from communion by bishops (archive image)
Photo: CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS
The Catholic Church in the United States argues over whether politicians can receive communion if they support abortion rights.
Now the bishops have voted with a clear majority for the draft of a document - and thus clearly positioned themselves: According to it, Catholic politicians, including President Joe Biden, are to be reprimanded for receiving communion despite their support for abortion rights.
The result of the vote - 168 in favor and 55 against - was announced on Friday towards the end of a three-day meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Proponents said the decision was necessary because of Biden's recent actions to protect and expand access to abortion.
Opponents warned that such an action would portray the bishops as a partisan force at a time of political division across the country.
The final content has not yet been determined
As a result of the vote, the USCCB Doctrine Committee will draft a statement on the importance of communion in the life of the Church.
The bishops should examine this at a further meeting - probably in November.
A section of the document is intended to contain a special admonition to Catholic politicians and other public figures who disregard Church doctrine on abortion and other core doctrinal issues.
Doctrine Committee Chairman Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana said that no decision has been taken on the final content of the proposed document.
Bishops who are not on the committee also have the opportunity to propose changes.
According to Rhoades, Biden or any other person should not be mentioned by name in the document.
It is supposed to offer a lot more guidelines and not impose a binding national policy, says Rhoades.
This would leave the decision on communion for certain churchgoers to the individual bishops and archbishops.
Warning from the Vatican
A Vatican official, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, wrote to the conference in May urging caution in debating politicians' views on abortion and communion.
It could become a "source of discord," according to Ladaria.
This week's debate exposed some of the cultural and political rifts that have rocked the Church in recent years.
The membership of the Catholic Church in the United States has fallen by nearly 20 percent over the past two decades, according to a Gallup poll published in March.
tfb / AP / Reuters