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A Merciful Decision to Deny Joe Biden Holy Communion

St. Padre Pio, priest and stigmatist, bled during the consecration of the Mass.

Perhaps the only thing that should be surprising about a Catholic priest’s recent decision to deny Holy Communion to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is that anyone is surprised.

On Sunday, Oct. 27, Fr. Robert E. Morey at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Florence, South Carolina, refused to give Holy Communion to Biden. Fr. Morey cited Biden’s pro-abortion stance as the reason for his action. Naturally, it was a matter of hours before the priest was castigated by public figures and in the media for displaying an un-Christian lack of mercy, and for using the sacraments to play politics.

Joe Biden with Pope Benedict XVI, 2011 – Source: Obama White House photo

Unfortunately, some of this criticism came from within the Church herself. Fr. James Martin, for instance, whose public profile has grown enormously these past few years, took to Twitter to proclaim the priest’s actions a “bad idea.” Fr. Martin disingenuously suggested that if we start denying Holy Communion to politicians who support abortion, we would have to do so for politicians who “don’t help the poor” or who support the death penalty.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, when asked about the case, chose his words somewhat more carefully, saying that the priest had a “good point,” insofar as Biden is “publicly at odds” with the Church. Nevertheless, he said, he himself would not deny Biden Holy Communion. Like Fr. Martin, Cardinal Dolan pointed to Pope Francis’ emphasis on mercy, concluding: “If only saints could receive Holy Communion, we wouldn’t have anybody at Mass, including myself.”

The curious thing about Fr. Martin’s and Cardinal Dolan’s remarks is that they seemed to take it for granted that there exists a dichotomy between being merciful and denying someone Holy Communion. Far from being self-evident, however, this point is eminently debatable. In fact, Church teaching and law, and the whole tradition of Catholic pastoral practice, quite clearly suggest that the exact opposite is true: that in some cases by far the most merciful thing a priest could do would be to deny someone Holy Communion.

Church Teaching and Canon Law are Clear

It is perfectly true, as Pope Francis has repeatedly said (and as Fr. Martin tweeted), that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” However, if this were the whole story, the Church would give the Eucharist to absolutely anyone and everyone. Instead, however, the Church has always taught (and still teaches) that if certain basic requirements are not met, then a person may seriously harm themselves by receiving Holy Communion.

St. John dispensing the Eucharist to the Blessed Virgin. Painter: John Gasparro

The most basic of these requirements is that a person be a baptized Catholic. However, even in the case of someone who meets this essential requirement, the Church has always taken deadly seriously St. Paul’s stern warning: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27). Such a person, says St. Paul, “drinks judgment to himself.” For this reason, the Church urges every Catholic to examine their consciences before receiving the Eucharist, to see if they are guilty of mortal sin. If they are, then the Church teaches they must first go to Confession, and that if they knowingly receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin, they commit the further grave sin of sacrilege. In most cases this process of discernment is personal and private. However, the Church also recognizes that there are circumstances in which a minister of the Eucharist must refuse a person Holy Communion, for his own good, and for the good of the whole Church. The circumstances when this is necessary are clearly spelled out in Canon Law. Indeed, Canon 915 could not be any clearer: “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

Those who are so quick to condemn Fr. Morey’s actions must realize that he was doing nothing more than humbly obeying the law of the Church. Clearly (and quite reasonably, it seems to me) Fr. Morey believes that persistently supporting the murder of innocent children over a period of decades amounts to “manifest grave sin” and thus is covered by this canon. As it turns out, a policy in the diocese of Charleston, South Carolina (where Fr. Morey’s church is located), removes all doubt in the matter. That policy states:

“Catholic public officials who consistently support abortion on demand are cooperating with evil in a public manner. By supporting pro-abortion legislation, they participate in manifest grave sin, a condition which excludes them from admission to Holy Communion as long as they persist in the pro-abortion stance.”

Cardinal Ratzinger – later Pope Benedict XVI – himself strongly urged the application of Canon 915 in the case of politicians who support grave evils in a 2004 letter to the U.S. bishops. Cardinal Burke, then the head of the Catholic Church’s highest court, himself expressed wonderment that anyone was even debating the issue. “I don’t understand the continual debate that goes on about it [denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians],” he stated. “There’s not a question that a Catholic who publicly, and after admonition, supports pro-abortion legislation is not to receive Holy Communion and is not to be given Holy Communion.”

It seems to me, then, that Fr. Morey is perfectly correct in the reasoning he gave for his actions. He noted that “Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church,” and added, “Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.”

Biden’s Extremism

Now, there are some people who persistently try to paint Joe Biden as a “moderate.” Such as these will claim that the application of Canon 915 to Biden is thus misguided.

In 2016 Joe Biden officiated at a same-sex “marriage.” Marriage in the Church is a sacrament reserved for man and wife. Acting on homosexual actions is not permitted.

It is true that, amidst a crowd of 2020 Democratic candidates who are continually striving to outdo one another in their pro-abortion and anti-family extremism, Biden can sometimes appear in shades of grey. But this is merely by comparison. In most of the ways that count, Biden is a true extremist whose views are so radically opposed to Catholic teaching that it is difficult to see how anyone can possibly maintain that Canon 915 does not apply to him.

Let us take a moment to count some of the ways.

Though it is true that Biden has been marginally slower than some of his Democratic colleagues to embrace and promote the most radical positions advocated by the abortion industry, it is fair to say that at this point it is difficult to think of ways he could be more extreme. For instance, earlier this year he announced that he is no longer opposed to taxpayer funding of abortion. In announcing his opposition to the Hyde Amendment – the annual amendment that prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion – Biden described abortion as women’s “constitutionally protected right.” So not only does Biden think the U.S. Constitution contains a “right” for women to have their babies murdered, he also believes that the government should use your taxpayer dollars to pay for the killing.

But that’s not all. In 2015, during a visit to China, then Vice President Biden told a Chinese audience that he “fully understands” and “is not second-guessing” that country’s so-called one-child policy. In case you need a reminder, that policy, which has only been slightly relaxed in recent years, has been brutally enforced through forced abortions – including up to the ninth month of pregnancy – forced sterilizations, and massive fines. And yet, Vice President Biden couldn’t bring himself to suggest that there just might be something wrong with that.

But enough about Biden’s enthusiasm for the slaughter of innocent unborn babies. Let’s take a brief look at his extremist position on so-called “LGBT” issues. The Catholic Church, of course, teaches that while homosexuals must be treated with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” the homosexual orientation itself is “intrinsically disordered” and homosexual acts are themselves acts of “grave depravity.” Unsurprisingly, the Church also insists upon the right for the Church, its institutions, and individual Christians, to follow Christian teaching on this matter.

To say that Biden does not agree with the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality would be a gross understatement. Under the Obama administration, Catholic adoption agencies were forced to close shop after the administration introduced regulations requiring all adoption agencies to adopt children out to same-sex couples (the Trump administration suspended these draconian regulations just this past week). Biden himself had nothing to say as charitable institutions run by the Church to which he professes to belong that had brought joy to countless children over the decades, were crushed by his administration’s rules.

Indeed, Biden is so enthusiastic about same-sex “marriage,” that he even beat Obama and Hilary Clinton – hardly social moderates – to the punch in endorsing gay marriage in 2012. The very first “wedding” at which Biden himself officiated was between two men. Biden has also been quick to throw his full weight behind the issue of transgenderism – an issue that is being used right now to bully Christians and people of common sense.

Earlier this year, speaking at a gala for the extremist pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign, Biden stated that passing the radical and dangerous Equality Act would be the “first thing” he would ask to be done if he became president. The Equality Act would change the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include “sex,” “sexual orientation,” and “gender identity” as recognized “non-discrimination” categories. Conservatives have warned that, contrary to its benign name, the bill would sanction discrimination against Christians and conservatives. And this is Biden’s top priority.

I could go on like this for a long time. On the issues of abortion and homosexuality, Biden is not only not in line with Catholic teaching, he is virulently, steadfastly, consistently and unambiguously an enemy of the Church’s teachings.

Fr. Morey’s Decision: True Mercy

Biden’s errors are so grave, so public, and so persistent, that it seems quite clear that, far from being “unmerciful,” Fr. Morey’s decision to deny Biden Holy Communion was the most merciful thing he could do. In the first place, it is an act of mercy for those who might mistakenly think that, because the Church has taken no formal steps to sanction Biden, it has no problem with, or even supports his erroneous positions on things like abortion and same-sex “marriage.” The scandal that is created when prominent pro-abortion and pro-LGBT Catholic figures go unchallenged, or are even lauded and feted in Catholic churches, imperils souls. This scandal risks confusing other Catholics, emboldening them to flout Church teaching on crucial moral matters due to the impression that the Church simply doesn’t take those issues seriously, or is even in the process of “changing” its teachings. A truly merciful pastor is he who protects his sheep by warning them back from the cliff towards which they are hurtling.

St. Padre Pio, priest and stigmatist, bled during the consecration of the Mass. We must never receive Our Lord unworthily.

But in the second place, it is merciful towards Biden himself. Biden will one day have to answer for the innocent unborn babies whose violent deaths he could have prevented, for the degradation of the family and our culture caused by his advocacy for sexual libertinism, and for the public scandal he has created by claiming to be a faithful Catholic while so publicly advocating the exact opposite of Church teaching. Fr. Morey’s decision to hold the line not only prevented Biden from committing sacrilege by receiving the Eucharist unworthily, he also gave Biden a rare opportunity to search his soul, and to ask himself whether he is living as he ought. To telegraph to Biden that he is doing nothing wrong by giving him Holy Communion is a false mercy. To call him back to truth – now that is true mercy.

Those who continue to argue that Fr. Morey erred in his decision have to contend with St. Paul, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the clear policy of Fr. Morey’s own diocese, Canon Law, and the clear instructions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which Cardinal Ratzinger lead when he sent his 2004 letter to the U.S. bishops). Thus far, I haven’t seen any of Fr. Morey’s critics seriously deal with any of these. Vague appeals to “mercy” simply don’t cut it.


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  1. levee on December 6, 2019 at 1:55 AM

    Fr. Morey is right showing God’s mercy to Joe Biden!

  2. Jeff Reimers on November 26, 2019 at 4:02 PM

    In response to Mr. Kenneth D’Souza: In today’s world it is difficult for anyone, let alone a Catholic politician, to plead ignorance to the Church’s long held teaching with regard to abortion and contraception. I am afraid that the Catholic Church in the United States, and the entire world for that matter, is much smaller than we would like to admit. Jesus Christ has never abandoned Mr. Biden. Mr. Biden has made his choice. And as someone who is in real need of God’s mercy, I ask the same for Mr. Biden.

  3. Jane on November 21, 2019 at 1:12 PM

    Is it perhaps that a priest never really ever knows for sure if a person is in actual mortal sin or not? That for a person to be in mortal sin and thereby not able to receive Communion, three things are necessary: 1. the sin must be objectively mortal, 2. the person has to be fully aware that it’s mortal and 3. the person gives full consent.
    Since we can never know the exact state of a person’s soul, ever, and only God can know, should we not assume that the merciful thing would be to talk with the person first behind closed doors, have the person say to you that he is certain that what he is doing is mortal and that he gives his full consent, and then to say to him, “I’m sorry son, but from now on I will not be able to give you Communion.” ?
    It seems to me that too many assumptions are made as to Joe Biden’s guilt. I know for myself that I have done wrong things for years sometimes before I get the light in the attic going off saying, “Whoa that is a sin and I need to confess it!”

  4. HLI Staff on November 19, 2019 at 9:16 AM

    Dear Kenneth, actually, the facts are stated right in the Catholic Catechism. Please see paragraph 2272, link attached. You will see that Church law is very clear, both in regard to the crime and how mercy relates to the crime.
    All our mission reports may be seen here and almost every one contains reports from Africans on Africa:

  5. Kenneth D'Souza on November 13, 2019 at 5:36 AM

    Fr Boquet glibly gives the impression that Mr Biden has been ‘admonished’ for his stance on Abortion rights without providing any details of when, where and by whom. I think he has a responsibility to do so while levelling severe penalties, tantamount to ex-Communication!

    In the absence of such supporting detail, I fear the author, in spite of being a Priest, is indulging in calumny and character assassination and false witness.

    By the way, I am a peoud, practicing Catholic who fully supports the Church teaching on contraception and abortion. However, I also believe that the merciful shall receive mercy, in Jesus’ own words. Else these words of His are empty and meaningless as any words can be!

  6. F. Babineck on November 11, 2019 at 4:31 PM

    A wonderful poignant set of statements that is demonstrative of the true Catholic position on a matter of grave moral concern.

  7. Anne Marie Liebhaber on November 11, 2019 at 3:37 PM

    Thank u dear faithful Fr Boquet for another fearless defense of our Holy Catholic Faith, and the expose of certain false shepherds who dare to support the profaning of the Most Blessed Sacrament by allowing albeit promoting His Profanation by self serving, hypocritical politicians who in their utter arrogance and evil presume to partake of the Gift of The Eucharist, all the while desecrating His Sacred Law. May God bless you.

  8. David P. Martinez on November 11, 2019 at 2:43 PM

    Excellent article FR. Boquet! Cardinal Dolan by the way is in a bit of a pickle because he has already been in a similar situation with Governor Cuomo of New York. Gov. Cuomo also publicly endorses abortion and LGBTQ issues. In fact he signed one of the most radical abortion bills in the world allowing for abortion all the way through nine months of pregnancy even as the mother is in the process of giving birth! Yet Cardinal Dolan has not publicly chastised him nor denied him Holy Communion.Therefore how is he going to support the decision of Fr. Morey? Prelates like Cardinal Dolan seem to be completely wedded to things of this world and have forgotten those of the supernatural including the salvation of souls.

  9. Mrs. Donna Brown on November 11, 2019 at 11:13 AM

    Beautifully written, Father Boquet, thank you. Thank you also to Father Morey for teaching and demonstrating the TRUTH to the “little ones”. We are very grateful for your witness. God bless you.

  10. Mary Brewer on November 11, 2019 at 10:44 AM

    Instead of criticizing Father Morey, we should thank him and pray for Joe Biden and other public politicians past and present who have scandalously persisted in grave sin.

  11. Jane Rathbun on November 11, 2019 at 10:31 AM

    Thank you Father Boquet for standing with the teachings of the Catholic Church. May God bless you and your ministry.

  12. c arias on November 11, 2019 at 9:11 AM

    I personally appreciate Father Morey’s decision to deny Mr. Biden, the holy Communion. Priests and bishops in our Church must stop playing politics and presenting themselves as politically correct. This is not what Christ asked them to become His ministers.
    We, all Christians, especially Christian Catholics must defend our brave priests and fellow Catholics that are willing to give up success, popularity and social positions in order to defend the Church of Jesus Christ. Please priests and bishops, do not be afraid, defend our Church, you are our pastors, you are supposed to defend your lambs.

    • Trf on November 12, 2019 at 5:07 PM

      Excellent article. I support any priest who refused Holy Communion to unrepentant slnners. I think priests should preach on sacrilege so that people can know about it. I think some may not know especially since this scripture from St. Paul is never on the epistle readings.

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