Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday called his denial of communion by a priest in South Carolina a “private matter,” but expressed regret that the priest had taken the issue to the press.
“That’s a private matter,” Biden told PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff, when asked he if had been offended by the move.
“He went to the press about it. And it’s not a position that I’ve found anywhere else, including from the Holy Father, who gives me communion,” Biden said.
On Sunday, Rev. Robert Morey refused to serve communion to Biden while he attended services in Florence, South Carolina. The priest explained his decision to the local paper Morning News via email.
“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,” he wrote.
“I will keep Mr. Biden in my prayers,” Morey added.
Biden is a life-long Catholic who generally declines to discuss any conflict between his support for abortion rights and church teachings. He has said that while he is personally opposed to abortion, he supports a woman’s right to choose.
While the decision to offer communion is made by an individual priest, the choice to deny an official communion on the basis of their public positions is controversial.
Pope Francis has asserted church opposition to abortion, but has also suggested that communion should not be withheld from practicing Catholics based on their specific beliefs.
“The Eucharist … is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak,” Francis wrote in 2013.