Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the episcopal conference, announced the task force in the wake of a Vatican press conference last week in which Cardinal Francis Arinze said that politicians who support abortion must not go to Communion. He also said that priests must deny such politicians the sacrament.
Cardinal Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, was presenting a new Vatican instruction, "Redemptionis Sacramentum" (The Sacrament of Redemption), aimed at ensuring the proper celebration and reception of the Eucharist.
Bishop Gregory noted that the prefect's comments extended to U.S. politicians and said: "Cardinal Arinze stated it is the responsibility of the bishops of the United States to deal pastorally with such situations as they exist here."
"Each diocesan bishop has the right and duty to address such issues of serious pastoral concern as he judges best in his local church, in accord with pastoral and canonical norms," Bishop Gregory said.
"To assist us in our common discernment, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has established a task force to discuss issues with regard to the participation of Catholics in political life, including reception of the sacraments, in the cases of those whose political advocacy is in direct contradiction to Church teaching," he said.
"The establishment of this task force is a clear sign of the seriousness with which we take these issues and continue to consider how best to interpret and apply the norms of the Church in their regard," said the bishop of Belleville, Illinois.
He added: "It has always been our hope and expectation as bishops that men and women in political life, whatever their religious convictions, would be guided by and live out the truth of the faith given them by God with integrity."