Although some US Catholic bishops are still critical of President Joe Biden's support for legal abortion, the conference as a whole will likely avoid direct criticism at him at its next national meeting.
Proposed "teaching documents" on the Sacrament of Communion are the most prominent agenda items. The conference's Committee on Doctrine spent months working on the document. This coincided with heated discussions among the bishops about whether Biden or other Catholic politicians who support abortion rights were unworthy of Communion.
Although the draft document is not new, it circulated in advance of the meeting in Baltimore on Nov. 15-18. It could be improved during the meeting. Although the draft doesn't mention abortion, it does not name Biden or any other politicians. However, it states at one point that "Lay people who exercise some type of public authority have an extra responsibility to embody Church teaching."
Bishop Michael Olson, Fort Worth, Texas, was a member of the doctrine committee. He and his colleagues determined that there should be no partisan politics in the document.
Olson is still a vocal critic of Biden’s pro-abortion stance and says that the president has "upped scandal."
Olson stated to The Associated Press that Olson has said publicly that abortion is a fundamental human right, while presenting himself as a exemplary Catholic. "The question of public confusion is at stake here."
Although some bishops have stated that they will not give Communion to Biden's, there is no national policy. The archbishop of Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory has confirmed that Biden is allowed to receive Communion in Washington.
After a private meeting at the Vatican with Pope Francis, Biden stated that the topic of abortion had not been raised but indicated that he had the general support of the pontiff.
Biden stated, "We just spoke about the fact that he was happy I was a Catholic and should continue to receive Communion."
Thomas Tobin, a conservative bishop from Providence, Rhode Island, had asked Francis to confront Biden about abortion.
Tobin posted the following tweet before the Vatican meeting: "Please challenge President Biden about this critical issue." "His continued support for abortion is an embarrassment to the Church and a scandal for the whole world."
Francis and his high-ranking aides have tried to calm the anti-Biden sentiment with USCCB ranks. calling to dialogue and a pastoral approach to Communion.
It has been a long-standing problem that Catholic politicians and bishops in the United States support abortion rights. This conflict reached its peak in 2004, when John Kerry, a Catholic, was elected to the Democratic presidential nomination.
The bishops were faced with a unique dilemma when Biden was elected -- he is the second Catholic president following John F. Kennedy and the first to have an explicit record supporting legal abortion.
President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Jose Gomez of Los Angeles was the head of the working group that examined the "complexity and difficulty" created by the new president's positions on abortion and other matters that are not consistent with official church teachings. The group suggested the creation of a new document on Communion before disbanding. This project was assigned to the doctrine commission.
Cordileone said to AP that he doesn't expect the document to single Biden out, but he does want it to send a clear message about Catholics in public life as well as their stance on abortion.
He listed several "grave evils", which pose threats to society, such as human trafficking and racism, terrorism and flawed immigration systems.
He said, "The difference with abortion is that it's the only grave evil that public life encourages explicitly."
Archbishop William Lori, the incoming chairman for the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities hopes that the document will reduce the gap between those bishops who supported a direct rebuke to Biden and those who oppose it.
He said, "Sometimes, you say, well... to be in the center is kind of the place of weakness," Catholic News Service. "These days, strength and courage are often found in the middle."
Lori stressed the importance for unity among the bishops in a time when there is political polarization at the U.S.
He told CNS that it was important to avoid going down no-exit, political alleys where there is no hope for the end.
The National Catholic Reporter sponsored a panel discussion on Thursday. Bishop John Stowe, Lexington, Kentucky, who is against rebuking President Trump, criticised the proposed teaching document for being both bland and divisive. Although he said he would not vote for it, he predicted that it will be approved by the two-thirds majority needed to be adopted.
Some prominent politicians consider denial of Communion an important issue.
Dick Durbin is a Catholic practicing Catholic and the No. Dick Durbin, a practicing Catholic and the No. 2 Democrat in U.S. Senate claims he was barred from receiving Communion in Springfield, Illinois for 17 years by two successive bishops. He is still disillusioned with the situation, even though he found a church that welcomes him in the Chicago archdiocese.
Durbin stated that it was not a pleasant experience in a recent interview with America Jesuit magazine. "I'm careful when I visit a church I've never been to before."
Gomez will address the bishops at the meeting. He is currently under fire from Catholic racial justice activists for suggesting that some current social movements and theories, such as "wokeness" or intersectionality, are "dangerous alternatives to true religion."
Gomez stated that "Today's critical theories, ideologies, and beliefs are deeply atheistic." "They deny soul, the transcendent, spiritual dimension of human nature."
Faith in Public Life, a Washington-based clergy network, circulated a petition denouncing Gomez's remarks. It was signed by prominent activists.
John Gehring, the network’s Catholic program director, said that "Racial Justice Movements have awakened the nation's conscience about the epidemic of police murders and systemic racism." He made the announcement in a statement. "Catholic bishops should be on the streets with these organizers, and not demeaning them," said John Gehring, the network's Catholic program director.