Fort Worth priest explains why Catholic bishops confront Biden, others about abortion

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The Rev. Jim Gigliotti of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Fort Worth cares enough about people to confront them in their sin.

That’s arguably what he was doing in November, when he used his pulpit to admonish faculty at the parish’s affiliated school for celebrating President Joe Biden’s victory on the school Facebook page, in violation of diocesan policy.

Biden’s unwavering support for the grave sin of abortion, Gigliotti explained at the time, means he’s “not a good Catholic at all.”

The state of Biden’s immortal soul garnered attention from the secular world recently after an overwhelming majority of the U.S. Catholic Bishops voted to draft guidelines for receiving the Eucharist. If adopted, they could deny Biden and other Catholic politicians Communion over their support for abortion.

According to Catholic teaching, Catholics should not receive the Eucharist (which for Catholics is the body and blood of Christ) in a state of grave or mortal sin. And publicly, enthusiastically and consistently supporting abortion would certainly qualify.

“There is a special obligation of those who are in leadership because of their public visibility,” Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who heads the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in Indiana, said after the vote.

Social media reliably erupted in a fury. Non-Catholic critics railed at the thought that Biden should be refused something they otherwise know and care nothing about.

Plenty of Catholics were upset, too, including Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat who vocally supports a litany of other issues, like contraception and same-sex marriage, that run counter to the Church’s teachings. Still, he insists he is a Catholic.

“You are hypocrites” and “nakedly partisan,” he unironically declared in a series of viral tweets.

He chastised the bishops for not withholding Communion from former Attorney General Barr for his support of the federal death penalty and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich for being divorced and remarried, and then challenged the bishops to deny him Communion the next time he attends church.

Gigliotti, according to The New York Times, informed Lieu in a letter that his “very soul is in jeopardy” and that he would refuse the lawmaker Communion if he happened to attend Mass at Gigliotti’s parish.

“Confrontation is a ministry of caring,” Gigliotti added.

When it comes to the issue of abortion, Gigliotti cares — a lot. Confronting sin is not for the faint of heart.

Despite the public perception that the potential denial of Holy Communion is an act of partisan retribution by conservative clergy, the bishops’ actions demonstrate that they care, too.

As Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson explained in the “Catholic Current” podcast, while any number of sins can endanger a person’s soul, abortion is a unique category of moral issue that differentiates it from other serious sins.

Abortion is “gravely evil [because] it lays the ax to the root,” Olson said. “It affects how we treat human life at every point of development.”

Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore J. Cordileone, writing in First Things magazine, put it this way: “Catholic principles build systematically on one another. The protection of innocent, defenseless life is first and foundational.”

So while any number of other serious sins — supporting the death penalty, separating migrant children from their parents, and limiting assistance for the hungry and food insecure — require our attention, action and penitence, they are of a different nature than the “sustained, intentional killing of innocent human life.”

Catholics who claim the bishops are “weaponizing” the Eucharist misunderstand (perhaps intentionally) the purpose of the bishops’ action.

“The bishops’ motivation is pastoral: the salvation of souls and reparation of scandal. There is nothing punitive in stating and restating the truth of Catholic belief,” Cordileone said.

With the proposal approved, a committee will draft the document for a vote at the next meeting in November.

That should give the bishops time to clarify their message, and it should give political leaders who feel they might be affected plenty of time to seek penance.

Whatever the outcome, Gigliotti will be ready for a confrontation.