Cardinal Dolan: I would not have denied Joe Biden Communion

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan at a news conference on Sept. 20 in New York City. (CNS photo/Jeenah Moon, Reuters)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, said that while he understands why a South Carolina priest chose to withhold Communion from former Vice President Joseph R. Biden over his stance on abortion, he would not have done so himself.

“I think that priest had a good point,” Cardinal Dolan told Fox News on Oct. 31. “You are publicly at odds with an issue of substance, critical substance. We’re talking about life and death in the church. You personally, out of integrity, should not approach Holy Communion, because that implies that you’re in union with all the church beliefs.”

Advertisement

Cardinal Dolan added that he has never denied anyone Communion, but he noted that he has held private conversations with public officials about their political stances.

“My job is to help people make, with clear Church teaching, make a decision on the state of their soul and the repercussions of that,” the cardinal said.

[Don’t miss the latest news from the church and the world. Sign up for our daily newsletter.]

Cardinal Timothy Dolan: "If only saints could receive Holy Communion, we wouldn’t have anybody at Mass, including myself."

He said he “admires” Catholics who refrain from taking Communion if they do not agree with church teaching on important issues. But he also pointed to Pope Francis and his approach to the Eucharist.

“We also remember Pope Francis: ‘I personally can never judge the state of a person's soul.’ So, it’s difficult, that’s what I’m saying. I’m not there as a tribunal, as a judge in distributing Holy Communion,” the cardinal said.

“If only saints could receive Holy Communion, we wouldn’t have anybody at Mass, including myself,” he added.

[Want to discuss politics with other America readers? Join our Facebook discussion group, moderated by America’s writers and editors.]

Mr. Biden attended Mass at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Florence, S.C. on Oct. 27, and when he presented himself to receive the Eucharist he was refused by the pastor. Father Robert Morey wrote in a statement responding to queries from the Florence Morning News that he “had to refuse holy Communion” to Mr. Biden because a “public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of church teaching.”

Mr. Biden, campaigning in his 2020 bid for president, was in South Carolina Oct. 26-27 attending a town hall meeting in Florence and a justice forum in Columbia. He frequently references his Catholic faith and when at home he attends Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine in Greenville, Del.

The Diocese of Wilmington, Mr. Biden’s home diocese, released a statement saying that the Bishop William Francis Malooly “has consistently refrained from politicizing the Eucharist, and will continue to do so. His preference, as with most bishops, is to interact with politicians individually who disagree with significant church teachings.”

While Mr. Biden has not spoken in depth about the incident, he did address the controversy earlier this week.

Asked about it Tuesday on MSNBC, the former longtime Delaware senator shifted to an overall discussion of his views on faith.

“I practice my faith,” Biden told the network. “But I’ve never let my religious beliefs, which I accept based on church doctrine... impose that view on other people.”

A number of his supporters have defended him. A progressive faith-based political group called Faithful America created a petition condemning the episode.

Edward Peters, a professor of canon law, invoked church law to explain that Mr. Biden’s private views on abortion do not outweigh his public position.

“Holy Communion is not a tool for punishing political opponents. We have seen this despicable behavior before, used by right-wing clergy to attack John Kerry and Tim Kaine,” the petition reads, referring to two other high-profile Catholics who were nominated for the presidency and vice presidency, respectively, by the Democratic Party. Each of those men also faced questions about their eligibility for Communion.

Some Catholics have said the priest was correct in denying Mr. Biden Communion. Edward Peters, a professor of canon law at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, invoked church law to explain that Mr. Biden’s private views on abortion do not outweigh his public position. He wrote in The Hill that the priest was correct to deny Communion.

"To confuse the private examination of one’s conscience as envisioned by Canon 916 with the recognition that some public acts warrant public consequences under Canon 915 is to show either ignorance of or indifference to well-established Catholic pastoral and sacramental practice,” he wrote.

But Charles Camosy, a theologian at Fordham University and author of Beyond the Abortion Wars, took to Twitter to say that the cardinal’s view was correct.

“Biden has moved away a nuanced position [on abortion], and thus created a plausible case for his being denied communion. The same case, however, if applied apolitically, would be made for lots and LOTS of other people being denied,” Mr. Camosy wrote. “Dolan was correct to resist the false choice between either artificially giving preference to one part of the Gospel or going to war with virtually all public Catholic figures in NYC.”

Material from Catholic News Service and the Associated Press was used in this report.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Maria Alderson
2 weeks 5 days ago

The voice of reason, in communion with Pope Francis AND with that weird priest's bishop in South Carolina. Seriously, that priest should be put in Time Out for this.

Tim O'Leary
2 weeks 4 days ago

Maria - did you actually read what Cardinal Dolan said? Your reaction is the weird one. Here is a quote from Cardinal Dolan above “I think that priest had a good point,” Cardinal Dolan told Fox News on Oct. 31. “You are publicly at odds with an issue of substance, critical substance. We’re talking about life and death in the church. You personally, out of integrity, should not approach Holy Communion, because that implies that you’re in union with all the church beliefs.”

Denis Stewart
2 weeks 3 days ago

Wow!

Ryder Charles
2 weeks 3 days ago

I remember reading years ago about a priest denying a parishioner the Eucharist because he was selling the conservative Catholic newspaper, "The Wanderer", outside of the church. And in more recent times people have been denied the Eucharist because they were kneeling (there is a video of one of these incidents.) These are sins so grave, graver than abortion, that these pastorally sensitive priests had no other option than to deny the Medicine of Immortality to these lost souls.

Bill Niermeyer
2 weeks 2 days ago

I think you should read the article and if you approve of abortion then you are placing yourself outside of Church teaching and thus not in communion. For that you need to abstain.

Charles Monsen
2 weeks 1 day ago

There is a significant difference between personally approving of abortion, and the pragmatic weighing of multiple competing very Catholic principals as they apply to doing ones secular duty. It is as rare as a unicorn for there to be a perfect Catholic candidate. Voting and being Catholic is always a compromise. One candidate will be pro life, but also pro death penalty and for harsh treatment of refugees and the poor. A second candidate is the opposite. We, as Catholics rarely get clear choices, we have to discern how best to use our vote to maximize our objectives. Your comment portrays choices like these as dichotomous, and that is just not the case. The reality is as Catholics the norm is a choice between sub optimal alternatives, and we do our best.

I don't know Mr. Biden's heart in this. But certainly with charity there is enough information in his past to make a case for he is conflicted between his personal and professional choices.

It is just too simplistic to say one is opposed to Catholic teaching personally simply based on these choices between imperfect real world options.

Rhett Segall
2 weeks 5 days ago

Are there no standards set for denying someone the Eucharist? Suppose a Catholic politician set up an abortion clinic, would that be an exclusionary action? Suppose a Catholic politician publicly and vigorously advocated for the legalization of torture. Would that be justification for exclusion from the Eucharist? Suppose a Catholic politician advocated publicly and vigorously antisemitism. Would that qualify as a reason for denying said politician the Eucharist? Suppose a Catholic politician advocated for pornography, would that be a reason for denying the politician the Sacrament? Are there no lines to be drawn on whether a person may be denied the Eucharist?

Michael Bindner
2 weeks 4 days ago

Doing abortion would make him Communion. Taking the position that porn cannot be prohibited under 1st Amendment Would not be. You cannot excommunicated someone for telling the truth, even if the bishops don't like it.

rose-ellen caminer
2 weeks 5 days ago

I don't get the logic of someone willfully abstaining from receiving communion , if they really believe that their position is correct. Why would they punish themselves over a belief they hold as valid for a Catholic to hold? I don't get it.

Abortion is not only a political issue; for us Christians it's an ethical issue.As are most political issues. Pope Francis excommunicated the mafia. Not for having sinned in the past but for their BUSINESS MODEL being one of of murdering and threatening and cheating people.Politicians who promote, aid and abet state validation of killing of the unborn, are likewise excommunicating themselves over a government model.

Michael Barberi
2 weeks 4 days ago

There is a moral difference between voting for a political candidate that supports pro-choice (abortion), which is one position among many positions on other important issues, and performing an abortion, electing an abortion, or funding and building an abortion clinic, etc.

Most Catholic politicians will say they are against abortion personally, but will not force by rule of law their religious beliefs on Americans who have different religious beliefs. Of course, many will argue that this is hypocritiical because Catholics should never encourage abortion in any sense of the word. However, abortion is a legal or constitutional issue. When Roe v. Wade was passed, it was not based on when human life becomes a human persion with rights under the Constitution. It was not based on any conception of when human life begins. Think about how complex such an issue would be in a pluarialistic society.
IMO, a Catholic politicial should 'abstain' from a vote on legality of abortion. On the other hand, if they believe their pro-choice position from a constitutional perspective is right based on their informed conscience, then they should vote accordingly.

This raises another issue:
Aquinas said, in paraphrase, that one must never go against their informed conscience. This is what Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, said as well. The problem is ensuring one has an 'informed conscience' through a thorough education of the issues and teachings under consideration, prayer and appropriate theological and spiritual counselling.

Keep in mind that an informed conscience be wrong, but if the person follows a prudent process of discernment and informed conscience formation and believes they are making the right decision, then there is no culpability for an erroneous conscience. Under such circumstances the person does not believe his/her informed conscience is erroneous.
In conclusion, the Eucharist should never be denied to a politician that believes they are right to vote for the legality of abortion under the U.S. Constitution, when they are personally against abortion as a Catholic. The Eucharist is real spiritual medicine for all of us who are sinful and wounded, even those who have an erroneous informed conscience.

Rhett Segall
2 weeks 4 days ago

I appreciate your analysis, Michael. I agree that a person who in good faith comes to a view point different than the Church is free from sin; "in good conscience" as we say. But what if the Catholic politician publicly encourages women with unwanted pregnancies, single women e.g., and does so "in good conscience", would that be a disqualify-er for reception of the Eucharist? I think it would.

Michael Bindner
2 weeks 4 days ago

Has he or has he said that they should have same insurance as all others? Or that investigating first trimester pregnancies should remain unconstitutional?

Michael Barberi
2 weeks 2 days ago

Rhett,
No it would not. Keep in mind that few Catholic politicians publicly encourages women with an unwanted pregnancy to seek an abortion. That is a very personal decision, left to the conscience of the woman and her God. Also, remember that most Catholic politicians who agree with Roe v. Wade do not "personally" believe in abortion at any time for any reason. Their viewpoint or position on this subject is a legal one, namely, whether a politician's personal beliefs on abortion should be legally binding on people of different faiths? Some may believe their personal faith and legal decisions should be the same, but many others see it differently. It is a very complex issue. In other words, a person with a properly formed and informed conscience can make different decisions regarding abortion from a legal or Constitutional perspective. They may be against it personally but do not believe a law should force others with a different faith to be denied an abortion. More importantly, a person who makes a decision of their informed conscience do not believe their decision is erroneous. Therefore, one must never go against their informed conscience, whether it is right of erroneous before God. They are not culpable for a decision of an informed conscience as long as they have properly formed and informed their conscience. That is what the Catholic Church teaches. Once a person has done this, their decision does not disqualify themselves from the Eucharist.

Rhett Segall
2 weeks 1 day ago

"They may be against it personally but do not believe a law should force others with a different faith to be denied an abortion." Isn't this the same as saying I'm personally against slavery or beating children or wife beating, but I don't think that I should force my decision on others? The most vulnerable (the unborn) need the full protection of society, not so?

Michael Barberi
2 weeks 1 day ago

Rhett,
You analogy is specious and inappropriate. I believe your emotions are clouding your judgment. Slavery or wife beating is egregious and against the law. You are failing to differentiate between an "existing law" based on the Constitution and a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the morality of abortion based on your faith. It is perfectly appropriate to say that Roe v. Wade is wrong. However, to overturn Roe v. Wade the U.S. Supreme Court has to do it OR the Congress and President must pass a law making abortion illegal.. I believe the unborn need the full protection of society. However, the pathway to a solution is twofold: (1) individuals can personally refuse an abortion for any reason at any time with some exceptions such as terminating a pregnancy to save the life of the mother; (2) Roe v. Wade can be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court or significantly modified based on appropriate legal challenges. The problem most of us are struggling with is that we all live in a pluralistic society where only 20% of Americans are Catholic and about 65% are Christian (inclusive of Catholics). Even if 65% of Americans are against abortion for any reason at any time with exceptions to save the life of the mother (an unlikely event), also may mean that 35% may believe abortion should be legal and left to the decision of the parents and their God and physician. I may be mistaken but I remember that some poll showed that Catholics are split on the issue of abortion. I believe Roe v. Wade should be significantly challenged and overturned. However, I don't believe abortion should be completely illegal for every American regardless of the circumstances.
I enjoyed our interchanges but I think we should end our discussion as it is likely becoming unproductive. Thanks for your comments.

Esperanza Y Paz
2 weeks 4 days ago

Just as Joe Biden is entitled to his convictions so is Father Robert Morey. And Cardinal Dolan may be do as he wishes.
In the end there will only be one judge.

Michael Bindner
2 weeks 4 days ago

Peters is wrong. So is Dolan. The Ratzinger memo to staff only applies when abortion is legislated, not constitutional. Biden's fault is mot exlpaining this to an errant Church.

Michael Bindner
2 weeks 4 days ago

Real question. Kamala Harris proposed increasing child tax credit to $3000 but believes that state government power over abortion is not constitutional nor is selective enforcement of D&C procedures, nor any 1st trimester investigation. Her GOP opponent says he is pro-life but as no idea how Roe works or pretends not to and claims that he will appoint a pro-life justice, even though the last 4 GOP appointees understand Roe and will leave it in place. The GOP nominee will not make the existing child credit refundable. Harris position is sure to decrease abortion more than GOP position, which is status quo. Your choice is between loyalty to Catholic view or actually reducing abortion. How do you vote? If you found out that this argument is true and vote GOP anyway, do you avoid Communion under Canon 916? If you don't, how do you have the gall to insist Biden avoid Communion?

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 weeks 4 days ago

Michael
As usual you make a word salad out of multiple “ingredients” none of which have any stated or justifiable connection to each other.....the result= Indigestible salad with a splash of “ balderdash “!

Maria Alderson
2 weeks 4 days ago

Tim O'Leary: Yes, I read the article a couple of times. Dolan says that presenting oneself for Holy Communion is the person of faith's decision and that he admires those who stay in their pew in good conscience. It is not the priest's decision because he "can never decide the state of a person's soul," and that's why he's never denied Holy Communion to anyone. Like I said, the voice of reason.

Vincent Gaglione
2 weeks 3 days ago

The Cardinal’s double-speak is Trumpian. The Cardinal tips his hat to what Father Morey did and then removes himself from endorsing it. The days of Henry IV at Canossa are long over!

What I would like to hear from the Cardinal (and his fellow prelates) is a strong letter read in all their parishes about the outrage of separating Catholic children from their parents on the southern border. That would be a Canossa moment that I would relish seeing
for all the Catholics in the Trump administration and those who support him.

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 weeks 3 days ago

Vince
First you do a double knife slip to Trump and the Cardinal and then try to change the topic the article addresses. ....cute!
First you are “cherry picking” the social justice issues the Church should address. More importantly I think perhaps you are just avoiding the inevitable problem posed by the broad support for abortion by your fellow Democrats and the thundering condemnation of abortion as “ an abominable crime” by the normally non judgemental Francis. Now in reconciling that Catholic divide there is a potential modern day Canossa moment.

Vincent Gaglione
2 weeks 2 days ago

Hey Stuart,

I don't think that my comment about the Cardinal and Trump was off-target at all. And guess what, in a box offering the opportunity to make comments, I added something that I think is more important than hedging commentary about denying communion to a Catholic. I suggest to you that the abuse of children, of any human being, is an abomination of equal proportions to abortion.

Vinny

Vinny

Ryder Charles
2 weeks 3 days ago

Did it trouble you when President Obama built the cages that house immigrant children? If not, shame on you. If so, did you speak out against his actions? This is not an Urban Legend or Republican propaganda -- it is fact. Even Snopes deems it true. Look at it his way -- you not only supported the Democrat's support for abortion rights but you supported their building of cages for children as well. Unless, of course, you were unaware of the cages -- just like you're obviously unaware of the intrinsic evil of abortion.

Vincent Gaglione
2 weeks 2 days ago

Unfortunately I was unawares of your facts, but I am no less condemnatory of those behaviors by Obama. I feel no shame about that ignorance. I am ignorant of lots of facts in this world. That's why I read as much as I can.

I am not unawares of the intrinsic evils of abortion. I am, however, sensitive to the fact that there are Christians and others of various and no religious beliefs who do not share our position about the ensoulment of idividuals at conception. Since we live in an alleged democracy, you would have me belive that every politician needs to submit to our position on legislation restricting abortion from conception. I would suggest to you that there is no Catholic tenet requiring me to promote that. And I feel secure enough in my Faith to realize that I must make difficult choices in elections in a democracy. I am NOT a one issue voter. That is a dangerous prescription for a democracy.

Mike Macrie
2 weeks 3 days ago

Every time the Catholic Church brings in politics it splits it’s Parishioners. It’s does not surprise me this Priest did this in South Carolina in expressing his Catholic Conservative View. It wouldn’t surprise me that his Parish lost some Parishioners from the incident. EWTN out of Alabama is also guilty of supporting Southern Politics and Conservative views through their programs.

John Graham
2 weeks 3 days ago

More confusion from Cardinal Dolan, I'm afraid. He says one cannot give Communion only to saints, but that is not quite right. We are saints (however temporarilly) after having received the sacrament of reconcilitoin (confession). May of those who insist everyone should aways be able to receive Communion because it is "medicine" are confusing Confession with Communion. The whole point of reason and language is that we are not able to look into each others' hearts. When we confess we use human language. We do not expect the priest to read our minds. To deny that we have any capacity to understand a person's heart through his words is not plausible.

Kevin Murphy
2 weeks 3 days ago

More spineless "leadership" from Dolan. Gotta keep that government funding flowing.

Crystal Watson
2 weeks 3 days ago

My earlier comment was deleted, but my point was simply that while Dolan seems to have a reasonable stance on communion, his opinion and his character are questionable. The New York Times editorial board wrote this of him in 2013 ...
"Tragic as the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church has been, it is shocking to discover that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, while archbishop of Milwaukee, moved $57 million off the archdiocesan books into a cemetery trust fund six years ago in order to protect the money from damage suits by victims of abuse by priests.

Cardinal Dolan, now the archbishop of New York, has denied shielding the funds as an “old and discredited” allegation and “malarkey.” But newly released court documents make it clear that he sought and received fast approval from the Vatican to transfer the money just as the Wisconsin Supreme Court was about to open the door to damage suits by victims raped and abused as children by Roman Catholic clergy ..."
www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/opinion/cardinal-dolan-and-the-sex-abuse-scandal.html

Nancy D.
2 weeks 2 days ago

“Holy Communion is not a tool for punishing political opponents. We have seen this despicable behavior before, used by right-wing clergy to attack John Kerry and Tim Kaine,“

Respect for the Sanctity of human life from the moment of conception, and respect for the Sanctity of The Sacrament Of Holy Matrimony are not “political issues”, for those who recognize it Is God, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Through The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, Who Is The Author Of Love, Of Life, And Of Marriage.

“It is not possible to have Sacramental Communion without Ecclesial Communion”, due to The Unity Of The Holy Ghost; “It Is Through Christ, With Christ, And In Christ, In The Unity Of The Holy Ghost”, that Holy Mother Church exists.

“ All Salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is His Body”, Through The Unity Of The Holy Ghost.

Richard Neagle
2 weeks 2 days ago

Friends we are probably in the end times or heading for a major major chastisement from God . There can be no tolerence of pro abort politicians. No voting for them. No communion for them. Dolan needs to get into the fight for salvation of souls and that includes the soul of Biden and co.

Nancy D.
2 weeks 2 days ago

True, for Christ Has Revealed, Through His Life, His Passion, And His Death On The Cross, That No Greater Love Is There Than This, To Desire Salvation For One’s Beloved.

“Love one another as I Have Loved You.” - Jesus The Christ

Bill Niermeyer
2 weeks 2 days ago

If a proclamation was made that all Catholics who believe in the practice of abortion and contraception were no longer allowed to receive communion until they asked for forgiveness of their sin all our Churches would have to close for lack of financial support. But on the other hand that might prove good and thin the flock of the black sheep.

Crystal Watson
2 weeks 2 days ago

About 98% of Catholic women use contraception.

Advertisement

The latest from america

The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Maryland (SSBN 738), Blue crew, returns to homeport at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., following a strategic deterrence patrol. Maryland is one of five ballistic-missile submarines stationed at the base and is capable of carrying up to 20 submarine-launched ballistic missiles with multiple warheads. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ashley Berumen/Released)
The obvious religious motivation of the Plowshares activists did not insulate them from criminal prosecution. The First Amendment prohibits the government from applying different rules to religious believers, but the Plowshares defendants were treated the same as any other intruder on government
Ellen K. BoegelNovember 20, 2019
Alexandra DeSanctis: We are called to defend the least among us, and there is no more weak and defenseless population than unborn human beings.
Alexandra DeSanctisNovember 20, 2019
In death, what we thought was lost is, wondrously, restored to us. What we feared could never be accomplished is achieved.
Terrance KleinNovember 20, 2019
Before my illness I frequently thought of life from the perspective of what I had accomplished. Throughout my illness, God has reminded me that what is most important is what we do for other people and that he is really in charge.
Shawn SextonNovember 20, 2019