Archbishop Wilton Gregory announced in an interview yesterday that he will not deny Holy Communion to Joe Biden, and committed himself to working with the president-elect’s administration. But the soon-to-be cardinal’s pledge could put him in tension with the work of the U.S. bishops’ conference, as it tries to speak to the White House with a unified voice.
Last week, USCCB president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles announced the formation of a special committee, tasked with coordinating the U.S. bishops’ response to, and work with, the incoming Biden administration.
Recognizing the unique “challenges” presented by a Catholic president pledged to several policies in opposition to Church teaching, the conference under Archbishop Gomez set out to ensure a collegial and consensus approach to national issues for the Church.
But yesterday Archbishop Gregory suggested he planned to dialogue directly with Biden on issues, without reference to the USCCB, raising the question: who will speak for the U.S. bishops at the White House, and with whom will President Biden choose to deal?
In his interview Tuesday, Archbishop Gregory said he hopes to “discover areas where [he and Biden] can cooperate that reflect the social teachings of the Church, knowing full well that there are some areas where we won’t agree,” the very work the committee set up by Archbishop Gomez intends to do.
Archbishop Gregory is not a member of that committee, but the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington is nonetheless a player: As the hometown cardinal, he may well receive a more ready audience from the president than, for example, the Archbishop of Los Angeles; especially so if he has publicly pledged to strike a balance in conversations between the Church’s support for areas of agreement with Biden, like comprehensive immigration reform, and points of opposition, like the immorality of killing unborn children.
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