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What happened to the USCCB working group on Biden?

By Matt Hadro for CNA

President Joe Biden is seen behind a video camera during a visit to the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., Feb. 10, 2021. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 17, 2021 / 03:57 pm (CNA).- A source at the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) has disputed the notion that a special working group formed to deal with new President Joe Biden was terminated prematurely this week.

Reports earlier this week at the National Catholic Reporter indicated that the USCCB’s working group on dealing with new President Joe Biden was “disbanded,” just three months after it was formed in November after the presidential election.

According to a USCCB source with knowledge of the situation, however, it is “not really accurate to say ‘disbanded’” when referring to the working group—as the group was always intended to be temporary and had reportedly accomplished its assignment.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles—president of the conference—stressed the need for the group as he announced it in November. Gomez noted the “unique” circumstance posed by Biden’s position as a prominent Catholic in public life who has taken public stances against Church teaching. He said the group would help bishops “navigate” this “complex situation.”

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, vice president of the USCCB, was asked to chair the working group. According to the USCCB source, Vigneron “apparently feels he’s done what’s been asked of him. He has made a proposal that the full body of bishops issue a pastoral statement later this year on the general issue of worthiness for communion.”

The working group, formed in November, met twice and produced two recommendations by the end of the year 2020.

CNA has confirmed that the group advised Archbishop Gomez to send an open letter to President Biden before his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021, outlining areas of policy agreement and disagreement with the conference and presenting the Church’s teachings on those matters. The letter should clarify that not all policy issues share the same gravity, and that some issues are more important than others, the group noted.

Those concerns were included in Gomez’s Jan. 20 statement on behalf of the conference, on the day of Biden’s inauguration. Gomez offered prayers for Biden, stated the bishops’ role as pastors in forming consciences and not acting as partisan players, and detailed areas of agreement and disagreement between the conference and Biden’s policy positions.

That statement was initially withheld on the morning of Jan. 20, and then released later in the day around the time Pope Francis issued his statement.

While some bishops commended Gomez in their own inauguration day statements, others—including Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C.—criticized Gomez’s statement as “ill-considered” and “ill-timed,” respectively, implying that it was too critical of Biden on his first day in office.

In addition to this statement by Gomez, the USCCB working group called for a teaching document on the Eucharist, CNA has confirmed.

The document should instruct the faithful about worthy reception of Holy Communion, the working group said, and it should also clarify that Catholic politicians have a special responsibility to uphold the Church’s teachings in public life. Catholic holders of public office should not present themselves for Communion if they contradict Church teaching on grave moral issues, and have been warned already by a pastor, the working group stressed.

According to the USCCB source, that “pastoral statement” will be accompanied by “individual bishops” who “are going to issue their own statements on eucharistic coherence.”

One of these bishops is Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who discussed the topic of “Eucharistic coherence” in a Jan. 28 interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

Asked when it is necessary for a pastor to deny someone Communion for the sake of their soul, Cordileone responded that “private conversations” must first take place between pastor and communicant.

However, he added that this topic needs to be considered within the larger situation of worthiness to receive Communion. If Catholics do not understand that they must be in the state of grace to receive Communion, then a bishop denying Communion to a pro-abortion Catholic politician would not “make sense,” he said.

“So for that kind of action [denial of Communion] to make sense to a lot of people, we need to reclaim this sense of what it means to receive [Communion],” he said.

Cordileone also cited the working group’s efforts to promote Church teaching on the Eucharist.

“At the USCCB, we’ve formed a working group to focus on what we call ‘Eucharistic coherence.’ So it’s a very important issue, but it’s part of this bigger picture,” Cordileone said.

Cordileone did not say, as it was reported, that denying Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians such as Biden “makes ‘sense to a lot of people.’” Rather, he said that in order for any denial of Communion to make sense to the broader faithful, Catholics must be aware of the Church’s teachings on worthiness to receive Communion.

When he announced the formation of the working group in November, Archbishop Gomez noted that Biden’s election as just the second Catholic U.S. president presented a “unique” circumstance.

Biden, a prominent Catholic in the highest public office, supports “some good policies” but also advances other policies that “pose a serious threat to the common good” on abortion, gender ideology, and contraception, Gomez said.

Biden’s problematic policies lend to “confusion among the faithful about what the Church actually teaches on these questions,” Gomez said, stressing the need for the working group to help “navigate” the “difficult and complex situation.”

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  1. Sounds like democrat operatives Cupich, Gregory and Tobin have the USCCB by the throat, getting their way yet again. Why have a bothersome committee raise thorny issues that might discredit their “man of character” and “a president they can talk with.” Besides, they have already rolled out the red carpet for Biden in the communion line. Whatever that putative committee would have recommended was meaningless to them. In the end, actions speak louder than words, and we are hearing them loud and clear.

    • Feb. 19th: I don’t understand why this is a ‘complex’ issue. Joe Biden, as well as Nancy Pelosi and other Catholics in public life, promote and support the mass slaughter of innocent babies in the womb. While the Bishops ponder the seriousness of this mass slaughter, babies are dying!! Those Bishops like Cupich who deny or water down the teachings of Christ and His Church should be publicly corrected because they are confusing some Catholics and aiding and abetting those who promote abortion. All the good Catholic charity programs in the world will not benefit those babies whose lives have been terminated. Biden has become more arrogant and condescending toward the Bishops, the Church and Church teaching and is now demanding that a baby can be legally killed in the womb up until a moment before birth. Evil begets evil and if the Bishops don’t take a stand against this then they are aiding and abetting the mass slaughter of millions of human babies. This is not a complex issue.

  2. If you are fornicating, do not receive. Using, prescribing, or dispensing contraception, do not receive. Involved in the abortion or IVF industry do not receive. Divorced and remarried, do not receive. Using porn, committing adultery, stealing, lying, coveting, do not receive.
    It isn’t that hard to write a basic, minimal list of Shalt Nots. The only one people will really question is the contraception (and possibly IVF) issue, but I think any person of good will understand a Natural Law arguement. A talk by Scott Hahn explained the Church’s side of things many moons ago, and I was good with it. The USCCB will need to strongly promote NFP as a concept among Catholic doctors, especially Creighton Model. Any hospital with ties to the Church should be involved in NFPs promotion, including offering CEUs to medical staff and outside interested parties.

  3. ANY catechized middle schooler in the nations Catholic school system KNOWS the faith’s responsibilities of the proper reception of the eucharist! Biden, by his very admission has been a practicing Catholic for years! He KNOWS what the Church teaches. There was NO reason for the USCCB to restate the obvious. Biden knows and the USCCB knows, and any Archbishop, Bishop or priest who wiling serves the eucharist to Biden knows what they are doing and should beware of those around them carrying a millstone in their hands. The USCCB could be using it’s “influence”, if it has anymore to the faithful, practicing Catholics of this country, to create committees and procedures to police our seminaries admission policies, to prevent, what is happening now because of tainted candidates accepted in the 60s and 70s. WHEN IS THE USCCB GOING TO UNDERSTAND IT’S TRUE PURPOSE……TO KEEP THE CHURH CLEAN.

  4. Getting an accurate fix on this article is a bit like reading Braille through a mattress. Why does it not “make sense” to teach and act clearly about, at least, sacrilege against the Real Presence? Instead, another paper and additional statements from SOME individual bishops.

    Given the malignancy of the Cupich/Tobin (Newark)/Gregory faction, the USCCB, as a group thingy, is still beyond their depth. Yes, there might be some prudential judgment in how finally to clean up the kumbaya mess of past decades…. We recall in 1945 that when the concentration camps were liberated, the emaciated inmates died when abruptly offered solid food after so long. So, what kind of broth does one first offer to the victims of decades of content-free mis-catechesis?

    PROPOSAL: The laity in those dioceses subject to SILENT bishops might provide the needed leadership from behind (to “make sense”!) by asking/demanding that the relevant and timely “Prayer Before Mass,” by Pope St. John Paul II (National Catholic Register, May 19-22, 2006), at least be placed on their DIOCESCAN websites and in PARISH bulletins.

    “Eternal Father, we members of your blessed son Jesus Christ’s Mystical Body (His Church), in prayerful union with other members of His Church throughout the world, especially those who are suffering or living under oppression, and those who desire to go to Mass but are unable to do so; in spiritual communion with the intentions and affections of The Immaculate Heart of Our Lady of Sorrows on Calvary, the Angels and Saints in Heaven, our patron Saints, our Guardian Angels—we all join in offering this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, this unbloody renewal and extension [!] of Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross for the following intentions:

    1) To adore and worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and to pledge our love and loyalty forever to the God who made us to Know, Love and Serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.
    2) To thank Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for opening the gates of Heaven by His sacrificial death on Calvary and to thank God for all the blessings and graces He has bestowed upon us throughout our lives especially for the supernatural gifts of Faith, Hope, and Charity; those gifts of Truth, Love and Peace which Christ promised to leave with us.
    3) We express our sorrow for having offended God in any way throughout our lives and offer our prayers, works, sufferings, joys and even ourselves [underlined], to the Eternal Father with this sacrifice of the Body, Blood, [and!] Soul and Divinity [!] of His Dearly Beloved Son in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
    4) Finally, we petition the Triune God for the Grace from this Eucharist to conform every conscious endeavor of our lives to the will of the Father in all things as did Christ. We also pray for all persons, places and things—absent, present, living and dead—for which we are bound in conscience or have expressed a desire to pray for, especially for an increase in vocations, for peace among nations, for the conversion of Russia and for the end of the unspeakable crime [!] of abortion. AMEN.”

  5. “The general issue of worthiness for Communion.”

    Try this – if a person who is the most prominent and powerful ‘Catholic’ in the country advocates positions on life and death issues that are in direct opposition to the Church’s oft-stated positions on these same issues, he should not present himself for Holy Communion.

    If he DOES, however present himself for Holy Communion – the Priest should deny it to him, and as a courtesy should inform him of same beforehand.

    Works for me.

    • Simple solution for Mr. Biden…don’t go to a priest for communion. Just go to an extraordinary eucharistic minister. Problem solved.

      • Good point but not a solution at the Extraordinary Form of the Mass where there are no extraordinary eucharistic ministers.

  6. Let’s see – for decades 99.5. to 100 % of people at mass have been going to communion, and now the bishops believe they should issue a Pastoral statement later this year on the issue of worthiness for communion. I suppose it is a good thing that they can fit this in among their statements on the environment, climate change, etc.
    I would really like to say something positive about archbishop Cordileone since he is not in the category some other bishops. But, it is really hard as he keeps beating the drum that before denying a militantly pro-abortion politician communion they must first have a “private Conversation” with the person. And, the two key politicians that this pertains to have been Catholics for 78 and 80 years. He has been the bishop for Nancy Pelosi for almost nine years. When is he going to have that conversation? And if he has had it, then it obviously did no good.
    Issuing a document on the worthiness to receive communion is just another way to avoid actually doing anything, like enforcing Canon 915. How else can you read this?

  7. The President actively and knowingly pursues an aggressively pro-abortion agenda yet somehow our bishops can’t seem to agree to vigorously and unambiguously condemn him for it. At the risk of creating a false equivalency, isn’t this the same kind of episcopal leadership that enabled and prolonged the abuse scandal? If actions and positions are abjectly wrong, then they’re wrong. Rationalization, compromise and the easy embrace of the path of least resistance would not seem the appropriate responses. And yet, here we are.

    • Well stated.
      The church hierarchy is in serious trouble and in need of change. Come Holy Spirit.
      The gates of hell will not prevail against His church.

  8. I wouldn’t be so sure that any middle schooler knows what receiving Communion worthily means. When I go to a funeral or wedding (not to mention Christmas and Easter) and everyone goes up to receive Communion, I think there is a problem. I agree with Archbishop Cordileone. There is a huge need, probably years’ worth, for catechesis on this subject.

  9. But what more can be done to educate people, especially if they don’t want to be educated? Every missalette I’ve seen in the last ten years, maybe more, has a note about who should and should not receive Holy Communion– I believe that is a USCCB requirement. It does seem as though they might be trying to hide behind a fig leaf. Those of the laity who still matter in the Church aren’t going to fall for it any more. The bishops either take decisive action, even if that action is unwelcome by some or even many bishops, or they will lose what little credibility they have left.

    • All Catholics should be taught before their first Holy communion on what the true presence is and who is worthy to receive.Maybe raise the age to 11 when they can really grasp what the meaning of holy communion is.Joe Biden should know!

  10. Andrew – I almost never look at the missalette. The reason I know about worthy reception of Communion is because of my pre-historic vintage. If I were going by what I’ve heard IN CHURCH for the last fifty years, I’d figure it doesn’t matter anymore.

  11. In July 2004, His Eminence McCarrick publicly lied at the USCCB Conference in Denver, and withheld the memo from then-Cardinal Ratizinger, head of the Congregation for the Faith (CDF), which reminded Bishops that they have a duty to enforce Canon 915, and withold Holy Communion from “others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin.”

    Ratzinger’s memorandum, titled “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion—General Principles,” included these paragraphs 5 and 6:

    5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

    6. When “these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,” and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics” [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.

    One source on the above is here:

    In the wake of the 2004 USCCB Conference, it was publicized in First Things, in the print journal, by editor Fr. Richard Neuhaus, that then-Cardinal McCarrick withheld the memo, and lied about its contents, pretending that the memo did not direct Bishops to enforce Canon 915, and remarking only about persuading, for instance, politicians promoting abortion etc, to refrain from presenting themselves (i.e., obeying Canon 916).

    It is 2021, 17 years later, and there are 2 different Catholic Bishop-Teachers to follow: (1) Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) or (2) ex-Cardinal McCarrick.

    In 2021, His Eminence Gregory (Archbishop of Wasington), a “progressive” Bishop, has already publicly declared he will not withold Holy Communion from Catholic politicians like Biden (i.e., those who promote abortion and same-sex “marriage” etc etc).

    In 2010, Cardinal Dolan (Archbishop of New York), a so-called “conservative” Bishop, stated on TV that he did not intend to enforce Canon 915, and also misrepresented the teaching of Ratzinger/Benedict and John Paul II. Article on that here:

    Which “Catholic leaders” are US Catholic Bishops, whether collectively (the USCCB), or individually, teaching the faithful to follow:

    (1) then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who was being faithful about Holy Communion and Canon Law, and who was telling the truth, and the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?


    (2) Follow instead the teaching of the abuser and deceitful manipulator Theodore McCarrick?

    We is the truthful answer?

  12. I remember a very sweet priest now deceased that when he would preside at weddings and funerals he would explain about receiving communion or coming forward with arms across the chest for blessing but he would also add if a person believed it was the body and blood of Christ whether Catholic or not they could receive. I could never understand how that was correct and found it rather scandalous.

  13. Re Chris in Maryland – I agree that McCarrick’s treachery should be more widely recognized as a large part of today’s confusion about Communion. People may be confused about worthy reception but they don’t seem to be terribly confused about McCarrick.

    • McCarrick’s treachery is and remains the political cry of most US Bishops and assuredly the default position of the USCCB.

      McCarrick is not really gone, His will on Holy Communion is done by the USCCB and most Bishops.

      McCarrick’s will that “Catholic” colleges and universities are not bound to teach Catholic theology and morality – His will being declared in the 1967 Land-of-Lakes” Statement, signed by McCarrick when he was President of the University of Puerto Rico (and co-signed by Notre Dame and several Jesuit Universities like Fordham) – His will is done by 90% of the 200 or so mostly “former-Catholic” colleges and universities, with near complete cooperation of the US Bishops, who ignore JP2’s ExCorde Ecclesia,” and stab parents in the back.

      McCarrick lives in the US Church Establishment. It has “the mind of McCarrick.”

  14. Denial of communion to someone who is in manifest error and safely presumed sinful is of itself sufficient reason for laity to comprehend why. Furthermore, most laity already know why. They simply are not that ignorant as Cordileone implies. Hesitation by the more stalwart Cardinal Cordileone, Archbishop Gomez and lack of determined response by others in favor of refusing Biden, Pelosi the Holy Eucharist tells a story of intimidation by Cardinals Cupich, Tobin, Gregory and allied bishops. Their undue influence on the issue is largely owed to the Pontiff who has personal views other than traditional on the Eucharist. Vatican policy as indicated in Amoris Laetitia and elsewhere has consistently been a softening of implementing the ‘Rules’. Words like requiring caution to “navigate this complex situation” further tells the story. Cardinal DiNardo’s unfortunate experience in attempting to boldly address adult clerical homosexuality is likely an intimidation factor. Despite that, the measure of their decisiveness is the measure of their faithful practice. The Pontiff cannot prevent the bishops from exercising their office as defenders of the faith. They owe it to Christ and his Church.

  15. I totally agree, Kathryn, and so does Father Spritzer. It is a mortal sin to murder and murdering the most vulnerable is even more evil. Simple as that!!! The USCCB needs to get their act together and state the beliefs of the Holy Catholic Church. Cupich and Wilton are wrong. What is so complicated about that? Biden says he is a “devout” Catholic and he is Proabortion and tearing down the family structure. There is nothing “devout” about that. Before we know it, the USCCB is going to have to come up with a plan on how to treat all Catholics who in the not too distant future will be required to pay with their tax $’s for abortions world wide and the abortion clinics that support it. Then we have a religious liberty problem and we will be joining the little sisters of the poor at the Supreme Court.

  16. Seems to me there is some sort of twisted play for power and appeasement among the privileged clergy. I see why the local priests don’t know which way to turn. Frankly the local priest is the last bastion of Catholic practice. We should not and cannot let these political, prominent clergymen foul the faith. I never learned anything about the Catholic faith from a Bishop or a Cardinal. I did learn a lot from my many different priests, and those teaching with them. They all sang from the same hymnal. I just can’t recall any sort of justification for allowing anyone to receive Holy Communion with a mortal sin on their soul, especially someone who would continue the gravest of sins regularly.
    Can I go to confession and tell the priest I am responsible for arbitrarily killing a bunch of children, and expect absolution so I can receive Holy Communion? And if I don’t atone for my sins, in fact next week I’ll repeat them, can I receive Holy Communion? If I continue my murderous ways, and I don’t even bother to go to confession, can I receive Holy Communion? A 2nd grader in our Religious Ed. class would know the answer. My priest would know the answer. Our bishops and cardinals have strayed too far to see the answer. And now we’re going to get a ‘pastoral statement’ to suggest what, some consideration be given to some elite Catholics that some mortal sins aren’t really mortal sins.
    What sort of future do they expect from the Church, from its parishioners? We have taken the Ten Commandments and thrown them at the golden idol of abortion, homosexuality, intolerance, and ‘unity’ (not togetherness).

  17. Biden’s problematic policies lend to “confusion among the faithful about what the Church actually teaches on these questions,” Gomez said, stressing the need for the working group to help “navigate” the “difficult and complex situation.”

    No! Most of the laity are NOT confused. By and large the members of the USCCB are intimidated by fellow bishops and the political elite. Clergy lack courage to speak out the truth of Catholic teaching.

    Notice how now that laity are fed up and speaking up, it is becoming more and more prevalent for prominent hierarchy to lay confusion, ignorance and non accountability at the feet of laity. The real problem is that the lazy, political money manipulating clergy have abdicated responsibilities as ordained ministers of the sacraments. Many do not explain the Word of God to parishioners, rather their homilies are similar to what one would hear on evening talk shows, together with tacky jokes. Laity are sick of the sloppy celebration of the sacraments where chuckling, tittering and clapping seem to be the measure clergy use to assess a successful celebration of the sacraments. By and large clergy seem to be confused about their mission as ordained Catholic Clergy.

    As to this article—once again the USCCB has “tabled” the action necessary to strongly address a major problem because courage has left the room.

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