Top Vatican official says Biden shouldn't be denied communion over abortion

President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden attend services at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle with congressional leaders prior to the 59th Presidential Inauguration ceremony on January 20, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden attend services at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle with congressional leaders prior to the 59th Presidential Inauguration ceremony on January 20, 2021, in Washington, D.C. | Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

A prominent Vatican official has stated that President Joe Biden should not be denied communion over his pro-choice views and public policy stances in support of legal abortion.

While there's been much debate this year in the Roman Catholic Church over whether politicians who support legal access to abortion should be denied communion, the head of the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development told AXIOS on HBO that Biden's policy stance on abortion shouldn't prevent him from receiving the Eucharist.

"The Eucharist should not in any way become a weapon," Cardinal Peter Turkson said in an interview that aired on Sunday. "If you say somebody cannot receive communion, you are basically doing a judgment that you are in a state of sin."

Turkson was asked directly if a judgment of being in a "state of sin" applied to Biden. He said "no."

Biden is the second Catholic to become president of the United States, drawing ire from some within the church who feel his policies and support for codifying abortion rights into federal contradict the Catholic Church's teaching against abortion. 

Turkson, a native of Ghana who has led the dicastery since its creation in 2017 and has been a close aide to Pope Francis, explained that communion should be denied only under "extreme cases." As an example, he said it would be acceptable deny communion to a known murderer.

In October 2019, then-Democratic presidential candidate Biden was denied communion while on the campaign trail in South Carolina by a Catholic priest named Father Robert E. Morey.

"Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church," Morey told S.C. Now.

"Our actions should reflect that. Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching."

Since then, other Catholic Church officials in the U.S. have supported denying the sacrament to Biden and any other pro-choice Catholic politicians.

"This whole matter is not a question of politics — it is a question of the moral law," stated Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke in an interview with The Wanderer in January 2020, calling Morey's actions "right and just."

"If one is ignorant of the truth and promotes abortion legislation, that is one thing. But if one is a professed Roman Catholic who has been admonished that he (or she) cannot support legislation against the natural moral law, he (or she) is bound to be obedient to that law."

Others, including Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, have stated that they object to refusing to administer the sacrament to pro-choice Catholic politicians.

"I do not see how depriving the President or other political leaders of Eucharist based on their public policy stance can be interpreted in our society as anything other than the weaponization of Eucharist," stated McElroy in February, as reported by CRUX Now.

Reports earlier this year indicated that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was considering a draft document during its meeting in June that would have advised Catholic politicians who support abortion not to receive communion. 

A week after voting to approve a "Document on the Meaning of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church," the USCCB clarified that the vote would not lead to a blanket ban on pro-choice politicians receiving communion.

In July, however, a Democrat state lawmaker in New Mexico was denied communion for voting in favor of a bill to codify abortion rights into state law.  

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