FLORENCE, S.C. — 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.
Communion is one of seven sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church. The others are baptism, reconciliation, confirmation, marriage, anointing of the sick and holy orders.
In communion, parishioners receive the Holy Eucharist, a wafer and wine that when consecrated become the body and blood of Jesus, according to Catholic doctrine. In order to receive it, a Catholic must be in the state of grace, have gone to confession since his or her most recent mortal sin, have a belief in the doctrine of transubstantiation (a belief that the wafer and wine become the body and blood of Jesus), observe the Eucharistic fast and not be under censure.
“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.
His position on abortion is unclear.
Biden has said he supports codifying Roe. v. Wade — the 1973 Supreme Court decision that allows a pregnant woman to have an abortion without excessive government restriction — into statute but also said at a vice presidential debate in 2012 that he is personally opposed to abortion but does not want to impose that belief on others.
In June, his campaign told NBC News that the candidate supported the 1976 Hyde Amendment that prevents federal funding of abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger. This put Biden at odds with many of the other candidates for the Democratic nomination. Days later, he said at a gala in Atlanta that he did not support the amendment.
The position of the Catholic church on abortion is that human life must be respected and protected from the moment of conception.
Biden was in South Carolina this weekend for a town hall meeting at Wilson High School in Florence and a criminal justice forum in Columbia.
He served as vice president from 2009 to 2017 under Barack Obama, becoming the first Catholic to do so.
John F. Kennedy is the only Catholic to serve as president.
Biden also is the only Catholic among the most likely candidates to win the Democratic nomination. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts is Methodist. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont was raised in the Jewish faith but has described himself as not particularly religious and not religious in a traditional manner. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was baptized a Catholic but attends an Episcopalian church. Andrew Yang identifies as spiritual but not religious. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is a Baptist.
Prior to being elected vice president, Biden served from 1973 to 2009 as a U.S. senator from Delaware.
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