“You can continue to take communion”

‘The harsh and belligerent language of division does not suit the Pastor’s lips, he has no right of citizenship in his heart, and although it seems for a moment to assure an apparent hegemony, only the enduring appeal of goodness and love remains truly convincing. ‘. It was September 23, 2015 and in the cathedral of San Matteo in Washington, Francis, pope for two years, was holding back the impulses of the bishops of the United States. The distance between the pontiff of mercy and one of the most aggressive episcopates, between the Argentine pope and the ‘Yankee’ bishops over the years has not diminished, on the contrary. And today, on the occasion of the audience granted by Francesco a Joe Biden, the second Catholic president after John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has sanctioned it with decision.

And to say that Catholicism with stars and stripes at the end of the nineteenth century was traditionally democratic. Many of the North American Catholics – Biden is his heir – were Irish, Polish, Italian immigrants. Working class, humble origins, progressive ideals. So much so as to arouse the suspicion on the part of the white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant (Wasp) bourgeoisie, of being a foreign body to American society. In the 1960s, Kennedy had to publicly affirm his independence from Rome to be elected. Many things have changed since then. Over time, Catholics have ascended socially, they have integrated, and under John Paul II first and then Benedict XVI, the overseas Church has turned to more conservative positions. The Republican party, especially in the era of Ronald Reagan, had the ability to attract many Catholic voters to their sphere. Finally, with the arrival of the ‘tea parties’ and Donald Trump, not a conservative idea but a tendency towards traditionalism emerged in US Catholicism, most recently tinged with conspiracy and anti-democratic drive. Part of society, and several Catholics, felt more and more at war with the surrounding culture, secularized, pluralist, liberal. And the bishops have made the ‘culture wars’ their own in particular in the field of bioethics. Abortion has increasingly become the battleground.

Since his election, Pope Francis has been on a collision course with this approach. Certainly not because he is in favor of abortion – which he has repeatedly branded as ‘murder’, saying that ‘it is like hiring a hitman to solve a problem’ – but because he believes that the Church is opening up a future in today’s society if it talks, listens , includes human beings, including sinners, non-believers, non-believers.

The fault with the bishops first widened in the Trump years. In the large conservative area, more than one prelate has targeted this pastoral approach. When a former nuncio to the United States, Msgr. Carlo Maria Viganò – over time, enthusiastic about Trump and most recently a covid-skeptic – asked for the resignation of the pope due to a story of alleged cover-ups of pedophilia, which later turned out to be unfounded, many bishops have not distanced themselves. With Joe Biden in the White House, the cacophony has increased.

Against the new president, the barrage began immediately: while Pope Francis greeted Biden’s election with a sigh of relief, the president of the US bishops’ conference, the archbishop of Los Angeles José Gomez (Opus Dei), published a note . Harshly contested by the ‘Bergoglian’ cardinal Blaise Cupich of Chicago – in which he stressed that the new president ‘is committed to pursuing certain policies that will promote moral evils and threaten life and human dignity, especially in the areas of abortion, contraception , marriage and gender ‘. In the following days – the National Catholic Reporter revealed – the episcopate tried to set up a commission charged with examining the problem represented by a ‘pro choice’ Catholic in the White House, an initiative that was unsuccessful. When he put in place a document to affirm the ‘pre-eminent’ character of abortion in the moral evaluation of a Catholic politician and his ‘dignity to receive communion’, a clear, and irrational, slowdown came from the Holy See. The prefect of the congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Louis Ladaria, wrote a letter to Monsignor Gomez, in early May, to clarify that ‘it would be misleading’ if the statement about the ‘preeminent’ character of the termination of pregnancy ‘gave the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constituted the only serious subjects for Catholic moral and social teaching that require the fullest compliance on the part of Catholics’. The cardinal then advised the US bishops that ‘every statement of the bishops’ conference relating to Catholic political leaders should be contextualized in the broader framework of the dignity of receiving Holy Communion by all the faithful, rather than by a single category of politicians. , reflecting their obligation to conform their lives to the entire gospel of Jesus Christ as they prepare to receive the sacrament. ‘

Recommendations, suggestions, solicitations that have had a relative effect. So much so that at the next plenary assembly, last summer, the bishops approved by a large majority the decision to vote, at the November assembly, a communiqué on the nature of the Eucharist. For conservatives, the goal is to censor Joe Biden (and speker Nancy Pelosi) because despite being Catholics they are ‘pro choice’ (in favor of women’s free choice) and not ‘pro life’. In reality, Biden is simply adhering to existing pregnancy termination legislation. A practice that, in the United States, is legal since a famous sentence of the Constitutional Court of 1973 and could soon be overturned by the supreme judiciary after the graft of several ultra-conservative Catholic judges by Trump.

In point of law the question of the Eucharist is far from unanimous. In fact, canon 915 of the code establishes that ‘excommunicated and interdicted persons are not admitted to Holy Communion after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin’. As for abortion, canon 1398 establishes that ‘whoever resorts to abortion, achieving its effect, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication’ and canon 1329 extends this excommunication to the ‘accomplices’ of a crime. For conservatives, a ‘pro choice’ politician falls within the group of accomplices, for progressives no, all the more so when a Catholic like Biden is, in fact, personally opposed to termination of pregnancy, but respectful of state jurisdiction.

The pope has already expressed himself in this regard. His concern is that the Eucharist becomes a weapon. ‘The pastor knows what to do at all times, but as a pastor. But if he comes out of this pastoralism of the Church, he immediately becomes a politician, ‘he said on the recent return trip from Slovakia. ‘I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone, anyone’.

Finally, today, the long-awaited audience in Biden. In the United States observed with extreme caution. Ultraconservative Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke did not miss the opportunity to warn against giving him communion. Over the course of 75 minutes behind closed doors, will Francesco and Biden have talked about abortion? Of communion? The press release from the Holy See press office elegantly glossed over: in the course of the ‘cordial talks’ between Biden and the pope, first, his collaborators, secondly,’ there was no lack of reference also to the protection of human rights, including the right to freedom of religion and conscience ‘. Shortly after Joe Biden is at Palazzo Chigi. During a photo opportunity with Mario Draghi, the American reporters throw him a few quick questions to find out how it went with the pope. Did you talk to the pope about the conference of bishops ?: ‘It’s a private conversation’. As for the issue of abortion, Biden said, with the pope, there was no mention of it: ‘No. What came out – we talked about the fact that he is happy that I am a good Catholic and I should continue to receive communion. ‘ Did he tell you he can take communion? ‘Yup’.

(with source Askanews)

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