FLORENCE, S.C. (CNS) — Former Vice President Joe Biden attended the 9 a.m. Mass at St. Anthony Church Oct. 27 and when he presented himself to receive the Eucharist was refused by the pastor.
“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.”
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.”
Biden, campaigning for his 2020 bid for president, was in South Carolina Oct. 26-27 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, Del.
After the incident was publicized, the Diocese of Wilmington, Del., issued a statement saying: “The Church’s teachings on the protection of human life from the moment of conception is clear and well-known.”
It said Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly has “consistently refrained from politicizing the Eucharist and will continue to do so. His preference, as with most bishops, is to interact with politicians individually who disagree with significant Church teachings.”
Bishop Malooly in the Sept. 4, 2008, edition of The Dialog, Wilmington’s diocesan newspaper, addressed the issue of politics and Communion, specifically concerning Biden, shortly before his installation.
“I look forward to the opportunity to enter into a dialogue on a number of issues with Sen. Biden and other Catholic leaders in the Diocese of Wilmington,” the bishop said in an interview that was published four days before he was installed as bishop of Wilmington.
The bishop said it is “critical to keep the lines of communication open if the Church is going to make her teachings understood and, please God, accepted. 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. ...”
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.”
“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.