Editor’s note: This article is part of The Conversation, a new initiative of America Media offering diverse perspectives on important and contested issues in the life of the church. Read another view on the reception of the Eucharist here and here.
In the six months since the 2020 election, a growing movement has emerged in the Church in the United States that calls upon the bishops of our nation to publicly exclude President Joseph R. Biden and other Catholic public officials from the Eucharist. Those who support this action make a concise, three-part argument: The president supports positions on abortion that clearly depart from the teaching of the Church on an extremely grave moral issue; the long tradition of the Church requires personal worthiness to receive the Eucharist; and the persistent rejection of clear Catholic teaching extinguishes that worthiness.
It is understandable how numerous Catholic leaders have come to this moment. It is almost 50 years since the Supreme Court decision in the case Roe v. Wade. While progress in reducing abortions has occurred in some jurisdictions and the number of abortions nationwide has fallen, the United States still rejects the legal structures and policies that can bring meaningful protection to the unborn. The election of President Biden and a Democratic Congress is a sign that, outside of the courts, federal progress on the pivotal moral issue of abortion will not occur in the immediate future. This is an immense sadness for every bishop in our country and for the church as a whole, and leaders of the church are ardently seeking a step that will advance the protection of the unborn.
But the proposal to exclude pro-choice Catholic political leaders from the Eucharist is the wrong step. It will bring tremendously destructive consequences—not because of what it says about abortion, but because of what it says about the Eucharist.
To continue reading this article please go to America Magazine.
The Most Rev. Robert W. McElroy is the bishop of San Diego. Bishop McElroy is the author of The Search for an American Public Theology: The Contributions of John Courtney Murray (Paulist Press, 1989) and Morality and American Foreign Policy: The Role of Ethics in International Affairs (Princeton University Press, 1992).