WILMINGTON – Delaware’s newest bishop has yet to meet the state’s most famous Catholic.
Appointed by Pope Francis, Monsignor William Koenig is set to replace Rev. Francis Malooly as Bishop of the Diocese of Wilmington. Malooly is 77 and has aged out of the position. Koenig, 64, is a Queens, New York, native who was ordained as a bishop in Rockville Centre, New York, in 1983.
This appointment comes as bishops throughout the country are pondering how to view President Joe Biden, the country’s second Catholic president, who supports abortion rights.
During a press conference Friday, Koenig did not specifically address whether he does or does not support Biden receiving the Catholic sacrament of Communion. Biden currently receives Communion here in Wilmington and in Washington, D.C.
“I certainly pray for him everyday,” Koenig said of Biden. “I would certainly be open to having a conversation in the future with him.
“As a bishop, I’m called to teach the fullness and the beauty of the Catholic faith.”
Biden’s devout relationship with Catholicism is rooted in Wilmington. He regularly attends Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine, even as president. He cites Bible verses in speeches and he wears his son Beau’s rosary beads on his wrist
DELAWARE’S OWN:How Biden’s faith shapes his politics
The president has said he believes his political views are in line with the Catholic social doctrine: The notion that everyone is entitled to dignity, the idea of helping the poor and the idea of being inclusive.
Yet Biden’s beliefs on gay marriage and abortion diverge significantly from the church. Some priests have refused to serve him the Catholic sacrament of Communion.
Amid the Democratic presidential primary, Biden reversed his position and did not support the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the mother, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape.
Months later, while campaigning in South Carolina, a priest refused Biden the Holy Communion during Mass. The priest said it was because of his view on abortion.
In the coming months, U.S. Catholic bishops will hold a national meeting, where they’ll decide whether to issue a strong message to Catholic politicians like Biden who support abortion rights.
The Associated Press reported this week that, if approved, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ stance would be that Biden and other Catholic public figures who support abortion should not receive Communion.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, who leads the group’s USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, told The AP that Biden having this stance is a “grave moral evil.”
“Because President Biden is Catholic, it presents a unique problem for us,” Naumann told The Associated Press. “It can create confusion. … How can he say he’s a devout Catholic and he’s doing these things that are contrary to the church’s teaching?”
Before arriving in Wilmington in 2008, Malooly said in an interview with The Dialog, a Catholic publication, that he did not “intend to get drawn into partisan politics nor do I intend to politicize the Eucharist as a way of communicating Catholic Church teachings.”
ANOTHER BIDEN BACKUP:President returning to Delaware Friday, traffic delays expected
“It is critical to keep the lines of communication open if the church is going to make her teachings understood and, please God, accepted,” he said at the time. “It is my belief that Catholics of all occupations have the same duty to examine their own consciences before determining their worthiness for the reception of communion.
“I think I will get a lot more mileage out of a conversation trying to change the mind and heart than I would out of a public confrontation.”
When Biden was denied Communion by a priest in 2019, Malooly released a similar statement, where he again refused to politicize the sacrament.
To parishioners at Cathedral of Saint Peter in Wilmington, Koenig on Friday spoke of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the role the “good shepherd” has had in his life.
“As I stand here this morning, I’m very conscious of how the good shepherd first called me to the priesthood 35 years ago. And now, the good shepherd is calling me to serve the Church and the people of God as a shepherd – and as a bishop.”
People watching via livestream simultaneously commented, congratulating Koenig and welcoming him to Delaware.
One commenter wrote: “Start out by rightly refusing Biden Holy Communion.”
Contact Meredith Newman at (302) 324-2386 or at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @MereNewman.