Roman Catholic bishops in the US have voted to press ahead with moves that could result in Joe Biden being banned from receiving communion because of his stance on abortion, and that risks increasing tensions in a divided church.
Meanwhile, President Biden has attended Mass this weekend.
After three days of online debate, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voted by three to one to draft new guidance on the eucharist. The unexpected strength of support for the move among the bishops was a rebuff to the Vatican, which had signalled its opposition.
Biden, a devout Catholic who attends Mass every weekend and carries a rosary that belonged to his late son, said in response to the vote that the matter was private: “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
In recent years, some conservative Bishops have feared a misunderstanding of the importance of the Eucharist or Holy Communion to Catholic life. They believe denying the sacrament to the President and other Catholic politicians with similar views on abortion, would send a strong message.
Opponents to the move fear it is a polarising move which would lead to weaponisation of the Eucharist.
The unexpected strength of support for the move is a rebuff to the Vatican, which had signalled its opposition fearing a breakdown in unity. The bishops will hold a debate on the teaching document in November, when it will require a two-thirds majority for it to proceed.