In a reporting article yesterday evening, one of the Washington Post’s religion reporters attempted to explain a debate within the U.S. Catholic Church but instead revealed her own misunderstandings of Catholicism as it relates to American politics.
The article, written by Michelle Boorstein, is meant to serve as a report on the debate amongst U.S. Catholic bishops about whether Catholic leaders who publicly contradict Church teaching — namely, President Joe Biden — should be permitted to receive the Eucharist when attending Mass.
Because Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the real body and blood of Jesus, only Catholics in full communion with the Church — i.e. those who are baptized and in a state of grace, and who are in communion with the Church’s moral teaching — may receive communion at Mass.
Rather than outline the theological contours of the debate or explain the reasoning of those who believe Biden should not receive communion due to his advocacy for elective abortion, Boorstein frames the issue as a matter of left-wing vs. right-wing factions within the Church hierarchy, as if Catholic teaching and practice is reducible to the simplistic categories of American politics.
The Post’s tweet sharing the article neatly captured the trouble with its thesis: “A rising group of right-wing U.S. Catholic bishops is colliding with a very Catholic president who supports abortion rights.”
Though Boorstein doesn’t refer to Biden as “very Catholic” in the piece, she suggests that it is “powerful to millions of American Catholics” to have “a U.S. president who attends Mass week after week and talks about his faith.”
In reality, Biden’s Catholicism has very little do with whether he attends Mass or talks publicly about being Catholic, as any reporter familiar with Catholic teaching would know. What some leaders and countless Catholics take issue with is Biden’s active support for unlimited elective abortion, funded by the U.S. taxpayer — a set of policies that blatantly contradicts the Church’s unequivocal condemnation of abortion as an intentional act that takes an innocent human life.
Rather than noting the Catholic Church’s non-negotiable teaching in defense of the sanctity of every human life from the moment of conception or explaining that Biden’s position on the subject contradicts his professed faith, Boorstein instead describes his support for abortion merely as “a source of shame” for some American Catholics.
The controversy within the U.S. Catholic Church over Biden’s active pursuit of abortion policies that flout Church teaching has nothing to do with shame or with the “loud right wing of the church,” as Boorstein puts it. And it isn’t, as she suggests, a question of “abortion purity.”
The debate within the Church instead is over whether a Catholic public figure — indeed, the President of the United States — should face public remonstrance for enacting a political agenda that undermines a fundamental principle of the faith he claims to practice.