We do not know inside details of the Pope’s meeting with President Biden today, but Biden himself did feel free to report that Francis had called him a “good Catholic” and encouraged him to keep receiving Communion (see, for example, this (“live” and subject to update) report from The New York Times. Ludicrous as it seems, it is no more surprising than the wailing and gnashing of teeth by the press over their exclusion from live coverage of the meeting.
Many hoped, perhaps, that the deliberate Vatican privacy imposed on the meeting indicated the Pope’s willingness to offer hard sayings for the President’s serious consideration. But there have been no precedents in this papacy which could have led anyone to that conclusion. Rather, all any of this proves (again) is that neither Pope Francis nor the Washington press is ever willing to be placed outside the warm limelight of the dominant culture.
It also means that Pope Francis is very serious about not pressing Eucharistic coherence into the political realm. Never mind that it is absurd that the behavior of Catholics in the political realm should be off-limits to pastors. Moral or immoral advocacy and action are not partisan political maneuvers outside the purview of Divine grace and Catholic teaching. They are first and foremost personal decisions by souls in need of the grace and the sanctifying ministry of the Church.
But in any case, the Pope’s views on this matter have been clear for a long time. In two Apostolic Exhortations he has chosen to emphasize that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (Evangelii Gaudium no. 47, in 2013; repeated in footnote 351 of Amoris Laetitia, in 2016). That is not surprising, as it is perfectly true; what is surprising is that Francis has steadfastly resisted all efforts at clarifying when, in fact, the Eucharist must be withheld either for the good of the potential recipient or to avoid situations of grave public scandal.
Such concerns are consistent with:
1. The constant pastoral practice throughout the entire history of the Church;
2. The clarifications by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith given to the American bishops by Cardinal Ratzinger during the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II; and
3. The requirements of the current Code of Canon Law
4. The Pope’s continuing emphasis on one aspect of Eucharistic theology, along with his deliberate refusal to comment on another theological aspect which demands Eucharistic discipline (as clearly expressed by St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians 11:27-30)—these precedents already suggested that this outcome was inevitable, and therefore, unsurprising.
Such an expectation does not lessen the scandal, of course, but it is nothing more (and surely nothing less) than the relentless scandal of an entire pontificate.
What is actually surprising (albeit, in these circumstances, in only a small way) is President Biden’s assertion that Pope Francis told him he was “a good Catholic”. There is reason to doubt this claim, since it is an extremely unlikely part of a discussion between a Pope and a President, and it does not even strike one as a normal papal remark. Moreover, even if the claim is false, it is a claim that the Vatican would be extremely unlikely to correct publicly. On the other hand, Biden has made the claim, and the sentiment is at least consistent with what we know of Francis’ personal interactions with everyone whose publicly-known sins are favored by the dominant culture.
I know I mention the “dominant culture” frequently enough to be annoying in my writing, but I do not know a better way to express the divide between honest Catholics and “Catholics” in quotation marks. Every adult man and woman knows from a kind of instinctive cultural osmosis what is approved and disapproved by the dominant culture, and Pope Francis’ known responses to persons have nearly always differed in accordance with this built-in calculus. I have remarked on this often enough, I think, as to make the enumeration of examples unnecessary.
The more important point is for every reader to understand that Joseph Biden cannot even remotely be considered a good Catholic when his social and political objectives include—indeed, with a special prominence—the expansion of abortion and the elimination of all personal, political and economic resistance to it; and the expansion of homosexual and transgender “rights”, by which I mean not the mere protection of all persons against violent attack, but a required personal and public approval of both the grave sins and the grave personal harm arising from these increasingly common sexual ideologies.
Here we have an agenda which not only champions serious objective evils but undermines both personal wholeness and the nature of the family, which is (and, in fact, must always be) the foundation of every healthy social order….
The above comes from an Oct. 29 posting by Jeff Mirus on CatholicCulture.org.