On Friday, October 20, Pope Francis met with President Biden. Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, live broadcasts of interactions between world leaders and the pope have been restricted. The two met privately for 75 minutes. When the press questioned Biden on whether the issue of abortion came up in their discussions, the president replied: “No, it didn’t. It came up – we just talked about the fact that he was happy I was a good Catholic and I should keep receiving Communion.”
The director of the Holy See Press office, Matteo Bruni, told reporters: “I would consider it a private conversation, and it is limited to what was said in the public statement.” The public statement released by the Vatican stated that in the private conversation the two spoke about the environment, the coronavirus pandemic, refugees and human rights. Did Pope Francis really say those words to President Biden? We don’t know.
The Church’s constant teaching remains that those who receive Holy Communion while persevering in manifest grave sin commit sacrilege. Contrary to media narratives, Pope Francis’s pastoral or compassionate approach does not mean that he contradicts Church teaching. In fact, his gift to President Biden “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” (2019), includes a condemnation of abortion. Many observers consider the possibility more likely that the President misinterpreted the Pope’s counsel. Regardless of what the president did, as Catholics we need to pray for him that he recant his public support of the grave evil of abortion so that he will be a good Catholic able to receive the Eucharist fruitfully.
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