Two-thirds of American Catholics think Mr Biden should be allowed to receive communion, according to a poll from the Pew Research Centre. The vote shows the gap between church hierarchy and its flock. Yet for some conservative bishops this is no great concern. As Charles Chaput, Philadelphia's former archbishop, said in 2016, "We should never be afraid of a smaller, lighter church if her members are more faithful, more zealous."
Denying someone the eucharist is rare. When John Kerry ran for president in 2004, some bishops wanted to deny him communion, but never did. The latest dispute has sharpened the rift between the American church and Rome. The Vatican issued a letter telling the American bishops to back off. They ignored it. Meanwhile, politicians who favour the death penalty (which Pope Francis wants abolished) face no such sanction from the church.
Stephen Schneck of the Franciscan Action Network, an advocacy group, who does not approve of abortion, cannot see the point of this measure. The Vatican will not approve it. It is unlikely to shame Mr Biden into reversing his stance. Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, DC, has said he will not deny Mr Biden communion. John Carr, a former spokesman for the Conference now at Georgetown University, a Catholic institution, believes that "we would all be better off if the bishops walked away from using the eucharist as a punishment."