Rev. Robert Morey told the Florence Morning News that he denied Joe Biden Communion at St. Anthony Catholic Church where he is pastor because of the former vice president’s stance on abortion.
“Sadly, this past Sunday, I had to refuse Holy Communion to former Vice President Joe Biden,” Morey told the Morning News via email. “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.”
It’s not the first time Biden’s religion — which is against abortion — has clashed with his views on abortion laws. He was asked about that split in a debate during the 2012 campaign.
“I accept my church’s position on abortion,” Biden said in the vice presidential debate. “Life begins at conception, that’s the church’s judgment, I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others.”
Biden has frequently attended Mass near his Delaware home, but Wilmington Bishop Francis Malooly released a statement saying he has “consistently refrained from politicizing the Eucharist and will continue to do so.” The Wilmington Diocese statement added, “It is the responsibility of every Catholic to examine his or her conscience and refrain from reception of Christ in the Eucharist if he or she is not worthy.”
In June, Biden reversed his position on the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal health care dollars to pay for abortions. “If I believe health care is a right as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code,” Biden said at a Democratic National Committee event in Atlanta.
Biden’s opponents in the Democratic primary had been critical of Biden’s previous position supporting the Hyde Amendment. That law is still on the books.
Other Catholic Democrats have run into similar situations. In 2004, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry was forbidden from taking Holy Communion by some bishops for his stance on abortion and stem cell research. That same year, New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey voluntarily said he would not take Communion after some bishops in the Garden State said he should not do so.
Earlier this year, some New York Catholics argued Gov. Andrew Cuomo should be excommunicated — thrown out of the church — for signing one of the most expansive abortion rights laws in the country.
This story has been corrected to properly identify the governor of New York.