Asked about the US bishops who have discussed denying communion to President Biden and other pro-abortion Catholics, Pope Francis gave a long answer in which he condemned abortion as murder but also said:
I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone, to anyone. I don’t know if anyone in that condition came, but I never, never refused the Eucharist. As a priest, that is. Never. I have never been aware of having a person like the one you describe in front of me, that is true. Simply, the only time I ever had a bit...an interesting thing, was when I went to celebrate Mass in a rest home and we were in the living room, and I said: “Raise your hand if you want to receive Communion.” Everyone, the old men, the old women, everyone wanted Communion, and when I gave Communion to one woman, she took me by the hand and said to me: “Thank you, Father, thank you: I’m Jewish.” I said: “No, the one that I gave to you is Jewish, too...” The only strange thing, but the woman received Communion first, she said it after.
No. Communion is not a prize for the perfect, no? Let’s think of Port Royal (des Champs), of the issue with Angélique Arnaud, Jansenism: those who are perfect can receive Communion. Communion is a gift, a present; the presence of Jesus in his Church and in the community. This is the theology. Then, those who are not in the community cannot receive Communion, like this Jewish woman, but the Lord wanted to reward her without my knowledge. Why? Because they are out of the community—ex-comunitate—excommunicated they are called. It is a harsh term, but it means that they are not in the community, either because they do not belong to it, they are not baptized or have drifted away for some reason. . . .
Now let’s get to that person who is not in the community, who cannot receive Communion because they are outside the community, and this is not a punishment. No, the person is outside. Communion is uniting yourself to the community. But the problem is not the theological problem—that is simple—the problem it is the pastoral problem: how do we bishops deal with this principle pastorally. And if we look at the history of the church we will see that every time the bishops have dealt with a problem not as pastors, they have taken taken a political stance on a political problem. Think of St Bartholomew’s Night: “Oh, heretics, yes. But it’s a serious heresy...let’s cut all their throats....” No: it is a political matter. Let’s think of Joan of Arc, about that vision, let’s think of the witch-hunt.... Let’s think of the Campo de’ Fiori, of Savonarola, of all those people.
When the church defends a principle in an unpastoral manner, it acts on a political level. And this has always been the case, just look at history. What must the pastor do? Be a pastor. Be a pastor and don’t go around condemning, not condemning.... But is he a pastor for the excommunicated too? Yes, he is a pastor and must be a pastor with him, to be a pastors with God’s style. And God’s style is closeness, compassion and tenderness. The entire Bible says so. Closeness is already there in Deuteronomy where he says to Israel: “Tell me what people has its gods as close as I am to you?” Closeness, compassion. The Lord has compassion on us as we read in Ezekiel, in Hosea. Tenderness was there already in the beginning. It is enough to look in the Gospels and the things of Jesus. A pastor who does not know how to act with God’s style, is slipping and does many things that are not pastoral.
For me, I do not want to specify, since you spoke of the United States, because I do not know the details well of the United States, I will give the principle. You could say to me: “But, if you are close, tender and compassionate with a person, would you give the person Communion?” This is a hypothesis. Be a pastor, and the pastor knows what he must do at all times, but as a pastor. But if he goes out of the pastoral dimension of the church, he immediately becomes a politician: You see this in all the accusations, in all the non-pastoral condemnations the church makes.