C-Span President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden responded Friday to a controversial new plan advanced this week by Catholic bishops, which would recommend guidelines for bishops to refuse giving politicians in favor of abortion communion.
Biden, the nation's second Catholic president, would be among those the church would recommend not serving communion due to his pro-choice stance.
"That's a private matter and I don't think that's going to happen," Biden, 78, said Friday, when asked if he was concerned about the measure and whether it signaled a rift in the Catholic church.
The president had been answering questions from reporters during a briefing on the administration's ongoing coronavirus response.
Although Biden is a devout Catholic who discusses his faith openly, Biden's stance on abortion has been a divisive issue among the country's bishops.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann, the chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, told The Associated Press this week that Biden's pro-choice leanings are "a grave moral evil."
"How can he say he's a devout Catholic and he's doing these things that are contrary to the church's teaching?" Naumann asked, according to the AP.
Religious officials announced Friday that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had voted 168-55 in favor of moving forward with a process to draft "a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church."
Such a statement would likely include guidelines on whether or not to deny communion to public officials based on their stance on abortion.
NPR reports the bishop's divided debate ahead of the vote was contentious, with six bishops abstaining and Biden, himself, mentioned numerous times.
Bishop Liam Cary, of Oregon's Diocese of Baker, called the debate an "unprecedented situation in the country," adding, "we've never had a situation like this where the executive is a Catholic president opposed to the teaching of the church," according to NPR.
Other bishops warned that establishing a formal doctrine on the matter could alienate some Catholics and highlight deepening divisions within the church.
"Bishops now want to talk about excluding people at a time when the real challenge before them is welcoming people back to the regular practice of the faith, and rebuilding their communities," Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich said, NPR reported.
Biden is the nation's first Catholic president since the late President John F. Kennedy, the first in U.S. history.
Biden routinely attends church services most weekends - either in Washington, D.C., or near his hometown Wilmington, Delaware. On significant occasions, the president typically attends religious services to mark key emotional moments, such as his son Beau Biden's 2015 death from brain cancer or his grandson's recent confirmation.
Biden made it a point to attend church before he was sworn into office last January, as well.