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Opinion | A Message for President Biden on the U.S. Catholic Bishops and Communion

The final time I took communion was in El Salvador, not lengthy earlier than the pandemic. As a Catholic, I take pleasure in exploring how Mass is skilled and enriched by completely different cultures. However I had a extra pressing purpose for seeking out this ritual overseas. It offered my solely likelihood to take the Eucharist, as a result of I quietly determined 10 years in the past that I couldn’t in good conscience accomplish that underneath the auspices of america Convention of Catholic Bishops.

Whereas the Catholic Church is much from infallible abroad, I ceaselessly bear witness to Catholic leaders reminding me why my religion referred to as me to a profession selling peace and justice. However again dwelling, the persistent efforts by conservative bishops to arbitrate who among the many devoted receives communion, whereas failing to follow the confession and penance they demand of others, reinforces why the American bishops so typically stand alone.

When the bishops met on Friday, they might have voiced their assist for as we speak’s financial and racial justice actions. They may have backed Congressional efforts to ensure dignity for youngsters, mother and father, the getting older and the employees who look after them. As a substitute, these males who profit from a lifetime assure of housing, well being care, and earnings, voted to again a measure that might be an early step towards limiting communion for President Biden — a person of compassion, empathy and lived however quiet religion.

This isn’t the primary time the bishops have challenged a working towards Catholic who helps abortion rights. Former Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts was focused by conservative bishops, a few of whom even criticized Boston’s archbishop for presiding over former Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral Mass.

I’ve labored on peace and justice points at dwelling and overseas, and I used to be at all times struck by the U.S. bishops’ myopic focus. However my experiences with them throughout my transient time in Congress shocked me. As a consultant, I noticed them cherry-pick theology to advertise partisan ends, favoring a future Supreme Courtroom over their congregations struggling to afford care.

At a time when the Church may mannequin ethical accountability for its a long time of criminality and corruption, they choose as an alternative for the partisan agenda of their largest donors and the misogyny inherent of their construction. They’ve opted to mannequin the so-called “cafeteria Catholicism,” of which they accuse reformers. Their statements lack the ethical readability of their Salvadoran brethren in calling out, say, authoritarianism, or Large Tech’s position in spreading hate and lies, or elected officers who impede efforts to humanize our financial system.

Rising up round Charlottesville, Va., I spent each Sunday listening to monks sermonize in regards to the horrible atrocities dedicated in opposition to harmless civilians — even nuns — in Central America and about our personal authorities’s complicity. We heard about excessive poverty, with a transparent message {that a} failure to commit your life to addressing these injustices may result in everlasting damnation.

I’ve a joke about my profession in peace and justice: that I got here for the guilt and stayed for the enjoyment. This calling would finally deliver me to Honduras, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan, in addition to struggling communities again dwelling. Solely with time did I recognize the blessing of rising up within the Richmond diocese of Bishop Walter Sullivan, with a cadre of different reform-minded monks who sought it out for defense from the conservatives dominating Catholic management. Primarily based within the former capitol of the Confederacy, Bishop Sullivan was an unwavering drive for racial justice and therapeutic, an antagonist of anti-Semitism, and an ally for ending the soiled wars in Central America.

The Catholic lay leaders and clergy who encourage me are sometimes those dwelling the Gospel each day quite than studying it from the pulpit on Sunday. Once I go to the border or opioid-ravaged components of Appalachia, I witness Sister Beth Davies or Sister Norma Pimentel dwelling the Gospel with their each breath. And sure, I noticed Archbishop Wilton Gregory out marching with these of us demanding that Black Lives Matter, and Bishop Seitz preaching for a humane border. Because the U.S. particular envoy to the African Nice Lakes area, I stood with brave Congolese bishops who risked all the things to defend human rights and satisfied the Vatican to sponsor peace talks that cast the framework for the nation’s first peaceable democratic switch of energy.

Catholic bishops in El Salvador, the nation the place Saint Óscar Romero was assassinated for standing with the poor and susceptible, additionally met lately. They selected to take a brave place in opposition to President Nayib Bukele’s transfer to consolidate energy and create impunity for corruption. In addition they despatched the Biden administration a transparent message that “robust speak” on the border solely helps the coyotes and gangs extort the next worth from these most in danger.

These are the true Catholic leaders, and those I hope function the higher angels in President Biden’s ear.

I look ahead to taking communion once more when journey resumes and to being impressed each day by Catholic clergy and their lay colleagues whose religion evokes them to serve. I proceed to fall brief in my religion and really feel responsible, as any Catholic would. I pray this week that the American bishops mirror on Pope Francis’s message that communion “is just not the reward of saints, however the bread of sinners.” As a substitute of asking whether or not they suppose President Biden is worthy of communion from them, I pray that they ask what they have to do to rebuild the ethical authority that may have them providing communion to any of us.

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