This is no small thing. (h/t Fr. Matthew Schneider!)
It’s not uncommon for prominent politicians to be advised by bishops not to receive communion — I think it’s happened with Pelosi, Kaine and Cuomo — but I can’t recall reading of a figure of Joe Biden’s prominence actually being denied the sacrament.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential race, was denied Holy Communion on Sunday morning at a Florence church.
Father Robert E. Morey of Saint Anthony Catholic Church confirmed Monday afternoon that he had denied the presidential candidate Holy Communion because of his stance on abortion. Biden, a lifelong Catholic, had attended the church’s 9 a.m. Mass.
“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.”
Morey said that as a priest, it is his responsibility to minister to those souls entrusted to his care and that he must do so in even the most difficult situations.
“I will keep Mr. Biden in my prayers,” Morey added.
The Biden campaign would not confirm he had attended the church but said if he did attend he did so in a private capacity. A spokesperson directed the conversation to a public appearance at 11 a.m. Sunday at Jerusalem Baptist Church in Hartsville.
It’s worth noting the canon often cited in cases like this:
Can. 915 Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.
Crux reported earlier this year:
[Biden’s] history with Catholic leaders in the U.S. hasn’t always been rosy.
Shortly after announcing his decision to run for Vice President in 2008, Biden came under fire from U.S. bishops for his position on issues such as gay marriage and abortion, saying that while he personally believed that life begins at conception, he would not force his views on other people and would therefore run as a pro-choice candidate.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan in 2008 chastised Biden and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying at one point, “It bothers me if any politician, Catholic or not, is for abortion.”
“In my mind, we’re talking about a civil right, we’re not talking about a matter of Catholic Church discipline. We can’t allow the noble pro-life cause to be reduced to a denominational issue,” Dolan said, adding that “Church tradition is equally clear that bishops are the authentic teachers of the faith.”
“When prominent Catholics publicly misrepresent timeless Church doctrine – as Biden and Pelosi regrettably did (to say nothing of erring in biology!) – a bishop has the duty to clarify,” he said.
Several bishops at the time insisted that despite his personal views, given his pro-choice political stance if Biden presented himself for communion in their diocese he would be refused.
Bishop Michael Sheridan, who oversees the diocese of Colorado Springs, said at the time that Biden should know [he would be turned away] and, “I would do everything I could do to make sure that he knows he ought not to be receiving Communion.”
Meanwhile, a little Googling turned up this item on the priest from several years ago:
Morey brings a wealth of experience having been a priest for 14 years, but what he did as a career before priesthood still helps him today in several ways.
For 14 years, before being ordained as a priest, Morey was a lawyer. Seven of those years he practiced general law in eastern North Carolina, and then he spent the following seven years working in Washington, D.C., for the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
“As a criminal defense lawyer I heard a lot of confessions, but I could not give absolution,” he said, smiling.
Being devoted to his faith and relying on it was what he said got him through the tough times of being a lawyer.
“You really had to have a higher power to call on to be able to deal with things in that career,” Morey said.
Having a sense of humor is important, too, and he said it is based on a virtue of Christian hope and when you know that it’s a little easier to laugh about things.
“The problems we deal with are not the end of things,”he said. “There is a direction in which we’re going and it is a greater plan that’s working itself out,” he said.