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NEW YORK CITY, October 31, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan said he would not deny Holy Communion to Democrat Joseph Biden, despite the latter’s support for abortion in contradiction to Catholic teachings.

Appearing on Fox & Friends on Thursday, Cardinal Dolan was asked for his reaction to news that a priest in South Carolina had denied the Eucharist to Biden, who was accompanying Mrs. Biden to Mass at St. Anthony Parish in Florence during a campaign stop on Sunday.

“Did the South Carolina priest do the right thing?” interviewer Steve Doocy asked. At length and after some cross-talk, Dolan finally responded, “I wouldn’t do it.”

Saying the South Carolina priest might have considered another way to admonish the pro-abortion Democratic presidential candidate, Dolan admitted that he has never denied the Eucharist to anyone. “I never have,” Dolan said. “I’ve never had what you might call the opportunity or never said, ‘Uh-oh. Should I give him or her Holy Communion?’ It’s never come up. It sure could.”

However, Dolan took pains to defend the priest’s decision before admitting that he would not have taken the same action. “I think that priest had a good point,” he said early in the interview. “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 believes and stands for.”

When news circulated about the denial of the Eucharist to Biden, the pastor of St. Anthony parish in Florence, South Carolina, Fr. Robert E. Morey, released a statement to CNA, saying,  “Sadly, this past Sunday, I had to refuse Holy Communion to former Vice President Joe Biden. Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that. Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.” 

Later in the interview, pressed to make a judgment on Fr. Morey’s decision, Dolan demurred again: “I think what he said was very to the point. I thought that was a good teaching moment. But whether that prudential judgment was wise? I don’t want to judge him, either.” Then he said, “I wouldn’t do it.”

Dolan told Doocy he prefers to take people aside and offer them counsel about Catholic teachings. A potential communicant, he said, who realizes he is not in union with those teachings should reflect interiorly and refrain from approaching the altar. “That’s always preferable to making a split-second decision and denying somebody.”

Dolan said that when celebrating Mass, he has seen famous pro-abortion people in the congregation. “Glad they’re there. All are welcome,” he said, adding that they usually do not approach the altar. He surmised that they understand that presenting themselves for the Eucharist while retaining pro-abortion views would be “hypocritical.” “I admire it when they don’t” present themselves, he said.

Dolan recalled the words of the present pontiff, saying, “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. I’m there as a pastor, as a doctor of souls. So it’s difficult to make a judgment on the state of a person’s soul. My job is to help people, with clear Church teaching, make a decision on the state of their soul and the repercussions of that.”

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

Canon 915 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law says those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Other bishops have implemented this canon against high-profile Catholics who publicly dissent against Church teaching, making their positions widely known. For example, in 2018, Bishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kans. barred pro-abortion Kansas governor and later Obama-era Cabinet official Kathleen Sebelius from receiving Communion because of her public and vigorous support of abortion.

In 2014, Cardinal Dolan dismissed the debate over whether to deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians as “an inflammatory issue” that is now “in the past.” In 2010, a local Albany news outlet reported Dolan saying he “preferr[ed] to follow the lead of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who said it was better to try to persuade them than to impose sanctions.”

Fr. Morely was apparently following a diocesan directive regarding the reception of Holy Communion by pro-abortion politicians. The policy, issued in 2004 by the Diocese of Charleston, requires priests to withhold the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ from politicos who support abortion. Signed jointly by the bishops of Atlanta, Charleston, and Charlotte, the 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.”

The statement went on: “We declare that Catholics serving in public life espousing positions contrary to the teaching of the Church on the sanctity and inviolability of human life, especially those running for or elected to public office, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in any Catholic church within our jurisdictions: the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the Dioceses of Charleston and Charlotte.”

“We undertake this action to safeguard the sacred dignity of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, to reassure the faithful, and to save sinners,” the decree added. Titled “Worthy to Receive the Lamb: Catholics in Political Life and the Reception of Holy Communion,” the policy states: “Catholics in political life have the responsibility to exemplify in their public service this teaching of the Church, and to work for the protection of all innocent life. There can be no contradiction between the values bestowed by Baptism and the Catholic Faith, and the public expression of those values.”

“A manifest lack of proper disposition for Holy Communion is found to be present in those who consistently support pro-abortion legislation. Because support for pro-abortion legislation is gravely sinful, such persons should not be admitted to Holy Communion,” the decree continues.

On Tuesday, the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, Biden’s home diocese, issued a statement saying it “has consistently refrained from politicizing the Eucharist, and will continue to do so.”

“The Church’s teachings on the protection of human life from the moment of conception is clear and well-known,” the statement said, adding that Bishop W. Francis Malooly’s “preference” is “to interact with politicians individually who disagree with significant church teachings.” The statement underscored Malooly’s position of 2008, laid out in an article in the diocesan newspaper: he would not “politicize the Eucharist as a way of communicat[ing] Catholic Church teachings,” adding that he prefers to change the “mind and heart” of politicians through “conversation.”

Biden is currently a leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. A lifelong Catholic, he was a U.S. senator for Delaware (1973–2009) and served under Barack Obama as vice president (2009–2017).

As a politician, Biden has long supported abortion. More recently, Biden has announced that he favors public funding of Planned Parenthood, public funding of abortion, and repeal of the Hyde Amendment and the Mexico City Policy. His campaign calls for the codification of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that allowed abortion nationwide.

Fox News reported that Biden reacted to the denial of Holy Communion: “I’m not going to discuss that. That’s just my personal life. I’m a practicing Catholic. I practice my faith, but I’ve never let my religious beliefs…to impose that view on other people.”

Some Democrats have suggested that by denying the Eucharist to Biden, the Catholic Church should be stripped of its nonprofit status.