Psaki says Biden's faith is 'personal to him' after bishops move to deny him communion

1448

Biden continues to attend church regularly, despite the threat that clergy might punish him for his views at the communion rail.

The White House issued a careful response on Monday, after an influential group of U.S. Catholic bishops advanced a plan to potentially rebuke President Joe Biden and other progressive politicians for their stance on abortion.

"It's personal to him. He doesn't see it through a political prism," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a daily press briefing. "And we're not going to comment otherwise on the inner workings of the Catholic Church."

She said separately, "Joe Biden is a strong man of faith. And as he noted just a couple of days ago, it’s personal. He goes to church, as you know, nearly every weekend. He even went when we were on our overseas trip [in England]."

The U.S. arm of the Roman Catholic Church voted Friday to draft what they've called a "teaching document," or official statement, on the Eucharist, a Christian sacrament in which churchgoers receive bread and wine in a ritual commonly known as communion.

The proposed statement, set to be submitted in November for final approval by the the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — according to the Associated Press, two-thirds of the bishops must back it for the statement to be formally approved — is expected to include language denying communion to pro-choice politicians like Biden, marking a rightward shift for the clergy group.

Biden's response to the proposal stands in contrast to other leaders who've gone head to head with the Catholic Church in recent days. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) took the opposite tack on Friday, following the initial vote, daring clergy to deny him communion over his views.

"Dear USCCB," Lieu tweeted. "I'm Catholic and I support: contraception, a woman's right to choose, treatments for infertility, the right for people to get a divorce, the right of same sex marriage[.] Next time I go to Church, I dare you to deny me Communion."

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo was one of the first Democratic politicians to butt heads with the Catholic Church over abortion, forcefully rebutting Cardinal John O'Connor who threatened to ex-communicate him in 1990.

After O'Connor's first attack in 1984, Cuomo launched a media campaign, accusing the Catholic Church of meddling in politics.

"So I'm a Catholic governor," Cuomo said, according to George J. Marlin, author of "Sons of Saint Patrick: A History of the Archbishops of New York, from Dagger John to Timmytown." "I'm going to make you all Catholics — no birth control, you have to go to church on Sunday, no abortion. . . . What happens when an atheist wins? Then what do I do? Then they’re going to start drawing and quartering me."

The Conference of Catholic Bishops, meanwhile, has insisted its intentions were not political, but suggested they voted to advance the matter as a way of revitalizing the meaning of the Eucharist for the church and its members.

Other clergy members have pushed back against the decision, including Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, who said it constituted a threat to the church's wellbeing.

"We need to spend time, personal time, in candid straight-forward conversation together to strengthen the unity within our conference and with our people before taking the next steps on a statement or plan of action," he said, according to the Arlington Catholic Herald.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.