The bishops have approved a Communion document that does not single out Vice President Joe Biden.

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The bishops have approved a Communion document that does not single out Vice President Joe Biden.

Associated Press writer PETER SMITH contributed to this report.

BALTIMORE (AP) — US Catholic bishops overwhelmingly approved a long-awaited Communion document on Wednesday that stops short of calling for the sacrament to be withheld from politicians who support abortion rights, such as President Joe Biden, but provides ample justification for individual bishops to do so.

“The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ first major statement on Communion in 15 years, does not explicitly address the debate over elected officials, abortion, and the sacrament that has surrounded the document over the past several months and partly inspired its creation in the first place.

Instead, it provides an overview of church teaching, emphasizing the Eucharist’s centrality in faith and worship, and reflecting bishops’ concern that many Catholics are unaware of or unwilling to accept such teachings.

After only minor revisions from drafters on the bishops’ Committee on Doctrine in recent days, it was approved by a vote of 222-8 at the conference’s fall assembly in Maryland.

The drafters added a reference to defending “the unborn” as well as other vulnerable people like immigrants, the elderly, and racial injustice victims.

They also bolstered the definition of “scandal” by implying that it weakens other Catholics’ resolve to adhere to church teachings.

The latter change was made in a passage that reaffirmed a 2006 statement that it’s a scandal if a Catholic “knowingly or obstinately rejects” the church’s doctrines or moral teachings in his or her personal or professional life.

“Lay people who exercise some form of public authority have a special responsibility to embody Church teaching,” the document says at one point, though it does not name Biden or other politicians by name.

It encourages Catholics to examine their consciences to ensure that they are in line with church teachings, and it states that bishops have a “special responsibility” to respond to situations involving “public actions at odds with the visible communion of the church and the moral law.”

The document, according to Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, who chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities and whose work includes anti-abortion advocacy, affirms the importance of “our responsibility for the care of the souls…”

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