By a vote of 168 to 55, with six abstentions, the bishops proceeded with planning a report on the meaning of the Eucharist in the Church. The vote is part of a longer process, and the rebuke of Biden and other Catholic politicians who support abortion rights has not been assured. The report will be developed over the summer and submitted for revision and approval in November.
The Vatican would have to approve any action on the part of the bishops, and if a clear report is issued that approval could be delayed.
Biden, an abortion rights advocate who is the first Catholic US president in nearly 60 years, is the most openly religious president since Jimmy Carter. The movement is driven by the extremely conservative wing of the Catholic Church.
Some bishops want the report to be a comprehensive teaching tool for all Catholics about the importance of the sacrament of communion, and have been reminding their peers of the Pope’s exhortation to avoid division.
Asked at the end of remarks at the White House on Friday afternoon about the vote, Biden replied, “It’s a private matter and I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Catholics for Choice, a liberal Catholic group that advocates for abortion rights, said it was “deeply saddened” by Friday’s vote and condemned the use of the Eucharist “as a weapon of punishment”.
“In a country and church already plagued by tension and division, bishops today chose to be partisan rather than pastoral, cruel rather than Christ-like,” the group said. “They have chosen to disobey Jesus’ command to ‘feed each other,’ but everyday American Catholics – 67 percent of whom oppose the withdrawal of Communion and other sacraments from abortion rights advocates – know better and Will continue to do better.”
He said: “I don’t believe we have a right to tell other people, women, that they can’t control their bodies. It’s a decision between them and their doctor, in my view, and the Supreme Court, I won’t interfere in that.”
Explanation: This article has been updated to better reflect the likely outcome of the report, which was approved for production by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
CNN’s Zachary B. Wolf, Eric Bradner, Arlett Sainz, Ellie Malloy, Jasmine Wright, Chandelis Duster and Rachel Zanfaza contributed to this report.