Controversy and confusion are growing about President Joe Biden's meeting this week with Pope Francis, as the distance widens between conservative U.S. bishops who want to keep Biden from being able to receive communion because he supports abortion rights, and the pope, who Biden says told him he is a "good Catholic."
"As far as the meeting with the pope, I am still waiting for the Vatican to confirm what President Biden said was told to him, about abortion and communion," former Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., told Newsmax's "The Count" Saturday. "You notice that the Vatican when they put out their version of what happened, they didn't mention that at all."
According to the Vatican's statement after the meeting, the two men discussed "care of the planet," healthcare, the pandemic, refugees, migrants, and "the protection of human rights, including freedom of religion and conscience," reports NBC News.
Biden, likewise, said the topic of abortion never came up.
But at the same time, King said, if Pope Francis did say anything about the controversial topic, King said he doubts the pontiff would want to make that public.
"It just does not sound like the type of thing that the pope would be saying to the president," King told host Joe Pinion. "First of all saying, he is a good Catholic. I don't know how you know who's good and who's bad. Generally among Catholics, we don't say that I'm good
"It's really up to God to decide."
And as far as the pope saying specifically that Biden could receive communion, "he must realize the implications of saying it in a way that Joe Biden can repeat it so casually," King said. "This is a deeply theological and moral issue, and I doubt the pope would have said it that directly."
When asked Friday if the topic of abortion came up, Biden, the second Catholic president in the United States, told reporters he and the pope "just talked about the fact he was happy that I was a good Catholic and I should keep receiving communion."
Biden received communion at St. Patrick's Church in Rome on Saturday, which was seen as significant because the pope is also technically the bishop there. Biden and first lady Jill Biden attended the Mass along with about 30 other people, reports Fox News.
Father Leo Patalinghug, the founder of PlatingGrace.com, told Newsmax on Saturday that while he is not a "judge of anyone's heart and soul," and cannot confirm what was said between Biden and the pope.
"We have no idea if the Holy Father actually said 'I want to talk to you about abortion, and respecting life when it's most vulnerable," Patalinghug said. "We do know the Holy Father has definitively spoken out against the greatest travesty, which is abortion, and it's always seemingly connected to whether or not someone should be able to receive communion, which is the highest form of worship. And so you have the worst sin in the highest form of worship."
Last month, Pope Francis called on bishops to use "compassion and tenderness" with Catholic politicians who are in support of abortion rights, commenting that "communion is not a prize for the perfect. Communion is a gift, the presence of Jesus and his Church."
Conservative U.S. Catholic bishops, who have been calling over the past year to stop Biden from receiving communion, voiced their outrage over the news coming from Pope Francis' meeting with Biden, even before the president said the pope told him he could observe the sacrament, reports the National Catholic Register.
They also questioned Francis' decision to grant a private audience to the pro-choice Biden.
"I fear that the Church has lost its prophetic voice," tweeted Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island. "Where are the John the Baptists who will confront the Herods of our day?"
Earlier, Tobin wrote Biden's "persistent support of abortion is an embarrassment for the Church and a scandal to the world."
Cardinal Raymond Burke, a conservative who has strongly criticized the pope since he removed him from his post at the Vatican in 2014, asked Twitter followers to "pray for the Church in the USA and in every nation, that she will be faithful and clear in defending the sanctity of the Holy Eucharist and safeguarding the souls of Catholic politicians who would grievously violate the moral law."
In a letter posted to his website, Cardinal Burke insists that Catholic politicians who support abortion are, as a matter of Church law, ineligible to receive communion. He says the Pope cannot change this teaching.
Another Vatican Cardinal, Gerhard Muller, told Newsmax in an interview shortly before the Pope’s meeting with Biden that no pro-abortion politician can, in good standing, receive communion.
One cannot contradict this teaching, he said, and at the ''same time receive his body and his blood.''
Biden’s alleged comment about the Pope’s acceptance of him was so incredulous a number of Catholic leaders believe he may have made it up.
In a statement issued Friday, Catholic League President Bill Donohue called Biden a “pathological liar.”
The meeting between Biden and the pope was held three days before the U.S. Supreme Court is to hear the first of two major cases that challenge state laws that limit abortion rights.
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