The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Joe Biden reportedly denied Communion at a South Carolina church because of his stance on abortion

Former vice president Joe Biden speaks at Clinton Community College in Clinton, Iowa, on June 12. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Former vice president Joe Biden was reportedly denied Communion on Sunday morning at a church in Florence, S.C., where he was making a campaign stop.

The Rev. Robert E. Morey of Saint Anthony Catholic Church told a local newspaper that Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, attended his church’s 9 a.m. Mass. Morey said he denied Biden Communion because of the candidate’s political stance on abortion.

“Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that,” Morey said in a statement to the Morning News. “Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.”

Morey did not immediately return a phone call and email request for comment on Tuesday.

The Catholic Church opposes abortion, but local priests and bishops in the United States have varying policies regarding whether to give Communion to someone who supports an issue such as abortion rights.

This is not the first time Biden has been barred from receiving Communion over his stance on abortion rights. Biden was baptized and spent his early years in Scranton, Pa., where the bishop there had reportedly barred him from receiving Communion.

Publicly, Biden has a complicated relationship with Catholic leaders. After he announced his presidential run in 2008, several U.S. bishops insisted he should be refused Communion in their diocese.

Biden said in 2012 that he personally opposes abortion. “But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews. … I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that — women they can’t control their body,” he said during a debate.

In the past, he has supported the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding of most abortions. But earlier this year, he joined with other Democratic presidential candidates saying that he did not support the amendment, and he defended his record at a Planned Parenthood event.

Biden’s campaign did not immediately return a request Tuesday for comment on Sunday’s incident.

The question of Communion and politicians who support abortion rights has come up in previous campaigns. During then-Sen. John F. Kerry’s 2004 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, the archbishop of St. Louis forbade the Catholic candidate from taking Communion while campaigning in the area.

Catholic leaders consider ongoing and vocal support for legalized abortion as a grave sin with consequences. For instance, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) cannot receive Communion where he lives in the Archdiocese of New York. Cuomo’s support for the state’s new law allowing abortions later in pregnancy earlier this year raised questions about whether he should be excommunicated from the church.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bishop, San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, has suggested publicly that politicians who favor legal abortion should be refused Communion. But other church leaders, including Washington’s recently retired archbishop Donald Wuerl, have openly disagreed.

Catholics who identify strongly with a political party often express opinions that are much more in line with the positions of the Democratic Party or Republican Party than with the teachings of their church. Among Catholic Republicans and GOP leaners, 55 percent say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, which mirrors other Republican voters. On the other hand, 64 percent of Catholic Democrats and Democratic leaners say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, just slightly lower than other Democrats.

Biden and his wife, Jill, both regularly attend Mass at St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine in Greenville, Del., according to the Catholic news outlet Crux.