By Matt Hadro
According to multiple news reports, President Joe Biden on Friday said that Pope Francis told him to “keep receiving Communion.”
President Biden met with the pope in person for 75 minutes on Friday. According to the White House pool report, Biden told reporters afterward that he and the pope prayed for each other, and discussed climate change.
They did not discuss abortion, according to Biden, but the issue indirectly came up in the topic of his receiving Communion.
“We just talked about the fact that he was happy I was a good Catholic,” Biden said, adding that the pope told him to “keep receiving communion.” CNN and Reuters also reported that, according to Biden, the pope told him to keep receiving Communion.
The Vatican declined to comment on Biden’s statement that Pope Francis encouraged him to keep receiving Holy Communion during a private audience.
The Vatican, which has a long-standing policy of not commenting on specific statements attributed to the pope during private meetings, emphasized that the encounter between the two men on Oct. 29 was “a private conversation.”
Matteo Bruni, the director of the Holy See press office, told reporters: “I would consider it a private conversation, and it is limited to what was said in the public statement.”
Biden, the second American Catholic to become president, has supported taxpayer-funded abortion during his first year in office, and has issued statements in defense of legal abortion. The issue of pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving Communion has been a matter of widespread discussion during his presidency.
On the day of Biden’s inauguration as president, the U.S. bishops’ conference noted concerns about Biden’s policy positions on abortion, marriage, and gender. When asked if he discussed the U.S. bishops with the pope on Friday, Biden replied that it was a “private conversation.”
According to the White House pool report, Biden said that Pope Francis blessed his rosary. The president said that he had not received Communion on Friday.
Individual U.S. bishops have issued statements in recent months on Communion for pro-abortion politicians.
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois said in May that “Sadly, there are some bishops and cardinals of the Church who not only are willing to give holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians, but who seek to block the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from addressing the question of Eucharistic coherence.”
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco stated in May that pro-abortion Catholic politicians should refrain from presenting themselves for Communion.
While Biden was campaigning for president in South Carolina, he was denied Communion at a parish in 2019, in accord with diocesan policy.
Other bishops, such as Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, have said that the Eucharist should not be denied to pro-abortion Catholic public officials. At an online panel in February, McElroy warned that some bishops were seeking to make abortion a “litmus test” for Catholic officials, and said attempts to deny them Communion would be seen as a “weaponization” of the Eucharist.
Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington has already said he would not deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians. While Biden’s previous bishop in Wilmington, Bishop Francis Malooly, did not deny him Communion in the diocese, the new Bishop of Wilmington has not made a public statement on the matter.
Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law states that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in a 2004 memo to U.S. bishops as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, stated that Catholic public officials who publicly campaign for permissive abortion laws should be instructed by their pastor not to present themselves for Communion unless they stop promoting such laws. If they continue to do so despite the warnings of their pastor, and if they present themselves for Communion, the minister must deny them Communion, Ratzinger noted.
Before Biden’s visit, the White House on Wednesday said that Pope Francis “has spoken differently” than Biden on the topic of abortion.
Biden promised a “whole-of-government” effort to maintain abortion in Texas after the state’s law restricting most abortions went into effect in September. His administration is currently opposing Texas’ law at the Supreme Court, and has also fought in court to keep in place the “transgender mandate,” a requirement that doctors perform gender-transitioning procedures upon the referral of a mental health professional.