As stated by Peter Weber in theweek.com, “There’s plenty for Democrats and Republicans to love and hate” about Catholic Church doctrine. While this may be the case on paper, the U.S. bishops seem to have a blind eye when it comes to the behavior of Republican politicians, especially in light of their recent attack on President Joe Biden for doing his job and enforcing the law, including a woman’s right to an abortion.
The Church has a long history of condemning abortion. They also have a long history of condemning the death penalty, supporting immigration, and for supporting labor unions, which puts many Catholic Republican politicians on the wrong side of Church teachings. Weber wonders, however, if the bishops are not taking “a big step toward making the U.S. Catholic Church a one-issue denomination” by going after Biden on abortion while ignoring Republican policies that are adherent to long-standing Church doctrine.
This all came to our attention when the bishops voted on June 18 to have a discussion about withholding the Eucharist or Communion, nationwide, to U.S. politicians who do not follow the Church’s doctrine on abortion. Following significant fallout from within and outside of the Church, and a few comments from the Pope, the bishops have announced that they will not follow through on their plan, after all. Still, some folks are wondering why, all of a sudden, the bishops became concerned about connecting the dots between politicians and Church doctrine? The answer, of course, is Biden, the second Catholic President of the United States who happens to be a Democrat.
Biden is following his constitutional responsibility to uphold American law, including a woman’s right to have an abortion under restrictions determined by each state. He is not having an abortion, performing an abortion, or encouraging anyone to have an abortion. He is doing his job and defending the laws of our nation as he promised during his inauguration.
Rob Boston, the editor of Church & State, wrote that the president’s job “is entirely secular and does not involve the promotion of any church’s doctrines” and that the president is not a “theological enforcer.”
Many Americans, especially American Catholics, are wondering why the bishops are pushing Biden on his political positions but not pushing on Republican politicians. For example, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Catholic, carried out 18 executions as governor, so far. Abbott had the power to stop each of these executions but did not. As president, Biden has no power to stop any woman in America from having a legal abortion. Yet, as Weber points out, the bishops have not asked Abbott to stop receiving Communion.
Nor did the bishops ask Catholic Attorney General Bill Barr to stop receiving Communion after he pushed for 13 federal executions during his tenure, ending a 17-year federal moratorium on executions which was supported by the Church. In fact, while he was pushing to end the moratorium, Barr was awarded a “Faithful Christian Laity” award by the bishops during a National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. One has to ask: Why the double standard?
Pope Francis fears that the bishops are trying to weaponize the Eucharist which, he said, “is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners.” In a message to the bishops, Pope Frances wrote, “The Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.”
According to Pew Research, 67 percent of Americans believe that Biden should not be excluded from receiving Communion. In addition, 82 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans say abortion should be legal “in all or most cases,” with 55 percent of Catholics agreeing.
It is interesting that the bishops never seem to go after Republicans who push anti-Catholic doctrine like the death penalty, and anti-Christian policies like cutting health care, unemployment benefits, and other services for the poor. Where were the bishops, for example, during the Trump administration when he trampled Catholic doctrine on health care, the treatment of immigrants and their children, and the ninth commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness” which, according to my dictionary, forbids speaking falsely, lying, or deceiving? Did the bishops give Trump a free pass because he is not Catholic or because he is a Republican? Their hypocrisy, clearly demonstrated in their attack on Biden compared to their silence during the Trump administration, speaks volumes.
This is one reason, among many, why the Church is losing so many followers, especially young people, who see no value in belonging to a church led by hypocritical men whose conservative politics blinds them from following the path of Christ.
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Tom Zirpoli is the program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.