Catholic bishops clash with Biden over abortion, alienating parishioners
- Some American Catholic bishops have expressed interest in denying Biden Communion because of his stance on abortion.
- But polls show a majority of Catholics share Biden’s view of abortion rights.
- Bishops could push Catholics further at a time when church membership is already shrinking.
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The faith of the second Catholic president of the United States was the subject of heated debate last month.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has given the green light to draft a document that could bar President Joe Biden from receiving Communion, due to his stance on abortion.
Biden, one of the most religious presidents of decades, was previously denied communion in 2019 at a church in South Carolina. The priest told the Florence Morning News when he denied Biden fellowship because “any public figure who advocates abortion is outside the teaching of the Church.”
But this pro-abortion stance would also include a majority of American Catholics.
A 2019 survey of Pew Research Center found that 56% of Catholic respondents said abortion should be legal in all or most cases. In fact, the views of many American Catholics on abortion are similar to those of Biden, according to Dr. Patrick Whelan, a physician and professor at the Institute of Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California.
“The vast majority of Catholics are pro-life and pro-choice,” Whelan told Insider. “It’s a moral question, but they don’t think the government should be making this decision.”
Biden has personally expressed reservations about abortion in the past, but now supports a woman’s right to choose. Whelan said the Tory Bishops’ decision to target Biden puts them at odds with church members who hold similar views.
The clash could be particularly damaging to the Catholic Church, where mass attendance has been declining for decades and where divisions between leaders and members are already widespread.
A “long train of usurpations”
the National Catholic journalist, a progressive publication, ran a sarcastic editorial last month in support of the bishops’ plan to refuse Biden’s communion.
“Just do it, so that if there remains a Catholic who is not convinced that the bishops’ conference as it stands today has become completely irrelevant and ineffective, they will be perfectly clear. on this reality after the conference leaders moved. with this obviously bad idea, ”the editorial said.
Insider spoke to three American Catholics who support the right to abortion, all of whom echoed the sentiment.
“I find it horrible that bishops abuse their authority in this way,” said Rebecca Houston, who has taught at a Catholic high school in Chicago for more than two decades.
She said it was “shocking” that the bishops potentially deny Biden, a “devout” Catholic, the Eucharist on a political issue, but that for her it is only the latest example of the failures of the Church. direction of the church.
Houston said she found Catholic support for former President Donald Trump “blatant”. Catholic voters were divided in 2020, with 50% voting Trump and 49% voting Biden, according to AP VoteCast. Meanwhile, Catholic leaders in the United States, including the same bishops who could refuse Biden’s communion, have praises Trump, especially on issues like abortion and religious freedom.
“It was truly the culmination of a ‘long train of usurpations,’ to quote the Founding Fathers,” Houston said, adding that although she thinks “the Church is made up of many different viewpoints “, she” can no longer be satisfied with that. “
“I would support the church more openly if such things did not happen”
A Gallup poll published in 2019 revealed that many others have also seen their faith in church leadership shaken. The percentage of Catholic respondents who appreciated the honesty and ethical standards of the clergy fell from 49% to 31% from 2017 to 2018, when more allegations of sexual abuse and questions about the church’s response were raised. been raised.
That percentage was down from 66% in 2004. Gallup said significant drops in trust over the years have clearly coincided with religious scandals.
Sean, a 28-year-old Catholic from Chicago, told Insider that the church’s response to the sexual abuse scandals had hit him particularly hard.
“The big secret to how things go behind the scenes took my breath away,” said Sean, who asked Insider not to use his real name.
Sean went to Catholic school from kindergarten to high school and still considers his faith a big part of his life, but he doesn’t talk much about it.
He said the bishops targeting Biden for abortion were just another factor making him hesitate to openly support the Church. He has long opposed abortion, but said his change on the issue was possibly the most important he has ever had.
“I understand where the Church would be tough and firm on this,” he said. “But I can’t justify making someone else suffer because of my personal beliefs.”
Still, Sean said if the bishops deny Biden Communion, it won’t greatly affect his relationship with his faith, as he already feels disconnected from church leaders. But that would be another factor that would deter him from talking more about his religion.
“I think I would support the Church more openly if such things did not happen,” he said.
With the decline in church membership, it is a “terrible time” to focus on this.
The number of Church members in the United States has been declining steadily for decades, but the Catholic Church has seen a particularly steep decline, according to a Gallup Poll 2021. The percentage of self-identified Catholics who belonged to a specific church has increased from 76% around the year 2000 to 58% today.
“It’s a terrible time to try to make this a preponderant issue,” Whelan, who wrote a essay criticizing bishops on the Biden-communion issue, said. “When people have lost the habit of going to church and risk insulting a majority of Catholics.”
A much better approach, according to Whelan, would be for the bishops to embrace the country’s second Catholic president and his personal concerns about abortion to find ways to actually reduce the number of abortions. He points to the decrease in abortions this happened under former President Barack Obama, when the Affordable Care Act made contraceptives and other reproductive health care available to women who previously couldn’t get it.
“Biden has moral concerns about this, like most other Catholics,” he said. “Let’s work together to find common sense solutions.”
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