Tom McFeely is the National Catholic Register’s News Editor. He lives in British Columbia.
Vice President Joe Biden appears determined to draw renewed attention to the issue of reception of Communion by Catholic politicians who support legal abortion.
And make no mistake: Biden has a long history of voting in favor of pro-abortion legislation.
On Sunday, Biden reportedly attended Mass at a parish in Washington and received Communion. He did so, even though he continues to support abortion rights and was chastised in September by the U.S. bishops for misrepresenting Church teachings on abortion during an appearance on “Meet the Press.”
He was corrected again the next month by his own bishop, Bishop Francis Malooley of Wilmington, Del., for more false comments about Church teachings on abortion Biden made in an interview published by the Wilmington News Journal.
Then, on Election Day, Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., acted decisively by writing to Biden after it came to light that Biden had received Communion the previous Sunday at a Mass he attended at a Catholic church in Bishop Ricard’s diocese.
Bishop Ricard’s letter to Biden cited relevant passages from the U.S. bishops’ 2004 document “Catholics in Political Life,” regarding reception of Communion by those in public life, indicating that someone with Biden’s position on abortion should not present himself for Communion.
In his letter, Bishop Ricard praised Biden’s positive contributions to public life but pointedly added, “I also observe, by your support for laws that fail to protect the unborn, a profound disconnection from your human and personal obligation to protect the weakest and most innocent among us: the child in the womb.”
And to ensure that his effort to correct Biden regarding his reception of Communion was widely read, Bishop Ricard instructed that his letter be posted on the diocesan website. In fact, it’s still there.
The vice president’s actions last Sunday in Washington indicate Bishop Ricard’s efforts to guide Biden have fallen on deaf ears, just as the vice president ignored the earlier efforts by other U.S. bishops to correct him regarding Church teachings on abortion.
Some reports about Biden’s most recent reception of Communion have noted that most U.S. bishops have not taken the position that pro-abortion Catholics will be denied Communion in their dioceses, should they attempt to do so. But Archbishop Charles Chaput made an important point in this context, during an interview last fall with Thomas Peters of the American Papist website.
Archbishop Chaput rejected the claim that there is a division among the U.S. bishops about whether pro-abortion politicians like Biden are fit to receive Communion.
“I don’t think there’s any differences among the bishops about pro-choice Catholics presenting themselves for Communion,” Archbishop Chaput said. “They shouldn’t do it.”
Added Archbishop Chaput, “That’s not what the debate’s about among bishops. Because if you’re not in union with the Church on the serious issues of faith and morals you shouldn’t receive Communion, whether you’re a bishop or a private citizen, a simple Catholic or a politician who claims to be Catholic. The differences among the bishops is whether they should be refused Holy Communion if they present themselves anyway.”
— Tom McFeely