CV NEWS FEED // A planned presidential visit to the Vatican, which reportedly would have included Mass and an audience with Pope Francis, will not occur this week.
According to the Catholic News Agency:
“[t]he President’s entourage had originally requested for Biden to attend Mass with the pope early in the morning, but the proposal was nixed by the Vatican after considering the impact that Biden receiving Holy Communion from the pope would have on the discussions the USCCB is planning to have during their meeting starting Wednesday, June 16.”
The U.S. Bishops are set to begin their Spring Assembly meeting Wednesday via zoom, with discussion over whether to approve the drafting of a teaching document about reception of the Eucharist expected to occur in open session on Thursday, followed by a decision in a closed executive session on Friday.
The Bishops’ plan to produce such a document carries considerable political implications for Biden and his Catholic supporters, as the statement is expected to reaffirm the teaching of both the USCCB and the Church itself on whether political figures who publicly oppose the Church on grave moral matters should receive Communion.
Biden, whose spokesperson has repeatedly described him as “devout,” has created conflict and confusion among Catholics over of his aggressive promotion of taxpayer-funded abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, among other controversial policies.
In recent weeks, a number of liberal-leaning prelates have opposed the Bishops’ effort to issue a clarification of Church teaching since it was first suggested earlier this year. Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark reportedly lobbied the Vatican to intervene, resulting in a letter warning the USCCB to tread lightly on the topic of whether public officials who advocate for morally repugnant policies such as abortion and euthanasia should receive Communion.
If Biden’s Vatican visit had gone through as planned, it would have sent a strong signal to U.S. Bishops who, despite the Vatican’s earlier intervention, planned to go ahead with the teaching document nonetheless.
“Our sources confirm that there was indeed a plan for the President to visit the Vatican, with the hope that he could attend Mass as part of his European trip,” said CatholicVote President Brian Burch Tuesday. “If he received Communion at the Vatican — whether directly from Pope Francis or not — it would surely have been used by partisans to influence the anticipated discussion expected among the Bishops in the United States later this week.”
Burch noted the irony given the repeated efforts of left-leaning Catholics to frame the discussion over the Eucharist as a so-called “weaponization”:
If this whole kerfuffle is indeed what it looks like, what’s more cynical, or more political, than attempting to create a photo opp at a Mass at the Vatican in the hopes of scuttling the Bishops’ attempts to protect timeless teachings on the Eucharist? The mere attempt of such a ploy is the definition of weaponizing the Eucharist for political ends, and further proof of the need for clarity in our teaching and practice.