Biden denied Communion at Mass over abortion

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This is a file photo of St Anthony Church in Florence, South Carolina. Former US Vice President Joe Biden attended morning Mass at the church on 27 October but was refused Communion by the Parish Priest, Father Robert Morey, over the presidential candidate’s support for legal abortion. Photo: CNS, courtesy The Catholic Miscellany

Former US Vice President Joe Biden attended the 9 am Mass at St Anthony Church in the US state of Carolina on 27 October and when he presented himself to receive the Eucharist was refused by the Parish Priest.

“Sadly, this past Sunday, I had to refuse holy Communion to former Vice President Joe Biden,” Father Robert Morey wrote in a statement responding to queries from the Florence Morning News. “Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the church. Our actions should reflect that. Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of church teaching.”

Priest cites Canon Law

At the heart of that teaching is Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law which states that holy Communion should not be given to two groups of persons: those who are excommunicated or interdicted, and those “who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.”

The issue of Catholic politicians supporting abortion has been addressed at every level of the Catholic Church. In 2004, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote a memo on “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles.”

In it he stated: “Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.”

Then-US Vice President Joe Biden delivers an address after receiving the Laetare Medal during the 2016 commencement ceremony at the University of Notre Dame Stadium in Indiana. Photo: CNS, Barbara Johnston, University of Notre Dame

“This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin,” Cardinal Ratzinger wrote.

In his statement, Father Morey offered his prayers for Biden.
“As a priest, it is my responsibility to minister to those souls entrusted to my care, and I must do so even in the most difficult situations,” he stated.

Biden, campaigning for his 2020 bid for president, was in South Carolina from 26-27 October attending a town hall meeting in Florence and a justice forum in Columbia. He identifies himself as Catholic and attends Mass at St Joseph on the Brandywine in Greenville, Delaware.

Biden’s position on abortion has changed

His stance on abortion has changed over his career. He initially opposed the use of taxpayer money to fund abortions. In June, however, he reversed his position on the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of Medicaid funding for abortion. In a 5 October tweet, he wrote: “Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, and we must fight any and all attempts to overturn it. As president, I will codify Roe into law and ensure this choice remains between a woman and her doctor.”

Father Jay Scott Newman, Parish Priest of St Mary Church in Greenville, expressed support for Father Morey in an email to The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston.

Last minutes in office: US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden arrive for Donald Trump’s swearing-inon 20 January 2017 as the 45th president of the United States at the US Capitol in Washington. Photo: CNS, Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

“As a canon lawyer, my own conviction is that Catholic politicians who support abortion do fall under the exclusion described by Canon 915 and that Father Morey arguably has the law on his side,” he said. “Moreover, the law does not restrict to the diocesan bishop the decision to exclude from Communion someone who fits either category of Canon 915, so Father Morey did not exceed his authority.”

“Perhaps the best analogy to this matter is the decision of several bishops during the struggle for civil rights to exclude from holy Communion those Catholic politicians who continued to oppose full integration for African Americans,” Father Newman continued. “The archbishop of New Orleans, for example, was widely applauded for his courage in taking that step.”

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