Another presidential campaign is upon us, and so it’s time for another round of feisty debate on the time-worn topic: Should Joe Biden be allowed to receive Communion?
That debate, as practiced by American Catholics, was not always about Biden specifically. There was John Kerry before him, and Geraldine Ferraro behind that, and the same question has been asked regarding Nancy Pelosi and the late Ted Kennedy and many other Catholic politicians. But Biden himself has been the main topic at least since 2008.
That year, you may recall, Biden was candidate for the vice-presidency. When he visited Florida on the campaign trail, Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola issued an open letter reminding him that “all must examine their consciences as to their worthiness to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord. This examination includes fidelity to the moral teaching of the Church…” Lest Biden or any other reader fail to grasp the point, Bishop Ricard pointed to the senator’s “profound disconnection from your human and personal obligation to protect the weakest and most innocent among us: the child in the womb.”
Notice that Bishop Ricard did not forbid Biden from receiving the Eucharist, much less instruct priests to turn him away from Communion. He merely asked the candidate—as the Catholic bishops of the US have asked all candidates, and as perennial Church teaching has asked all Catholics—to make an examination of conscience before approaching the Blessed Sacrament.
But a few weeks later, when Biden was the vice-president-elect, another Florida prelate, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, said plainly that pro-abortion politicians should not be barred from Communion. In a revealing blog post, Bishop Lynch said that he took that position because “one keeps open a dialogue with the Joe Bidens of the world.”
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