America's Catholic bishops are furiously divided among themselves this week, after a liberal faction led by the Biden loyalists Cardinals Cupich of Chicago and Wilton Gregory of Washington tried to stop them discussing the question of whether the radically pro-choice president of the United States should be allowed to receive Holy Communion.
The US conference of bishops is scheduled to address the whole question of the Eucharist at its meeting next month. The plan is to prepare a document that will finally decide whether American bishops will enforce the Vatican's ban on actively pro-abortion Catholics receiving the sacrament while in a state of 'grave sin', as the Church puts it.
As I say in the new episode of Holy Smoke, It looks as if most of the 290 active bishops are ready to enforce such a ban – goaded by Joe Biden's increasingly hardline support for completely unrestricted abortions, and his plans to remove constitutional protection for pro-life public employees.
But doing so would anger and embarrass a Democratic president – and that's the last thing that his bishop, Cardinal Gregory, wants to do. Gregory is a former member of the McCarrick circle, and like most of Uncle Ted's ex-allies is ideologically close to the Democratic Party. Incidentally, it was then-Cardinal McCarrick who championed the cause of pro-choice politicians receiving communion, quietly suppressing the clear ban issued by Cardinal Ratzinger, reiterated when he was pope.
As the influential Catholic publication The Pillar revealed this week, Gregory and Cupich have mustered 60 bishops to sign a letter
telling the president of the USCCB, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, to kick the Eucharistic discussion into the long grass.
This has provoked an incandescent reaction from the Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, who describes it as an attempt to stifle free discussion among the bishops. 'I cannot tell you how aggrieved this makes me feel,' he told the Pillar
The controversy is particularly nerve-wracking for the US bishops because they don't know where the Pope stands on this question. Francis is a big fan of the current Argentine President, Alberto Fernandez, who has recently legalised abortion in the country. When the Pope and the President met in Rome this month, the subject apparently didn't even come up.
For more thought on the wider ramifications of this crisis – and it's a big crisis – here is the episode.