Concrete reasons why Joe Biden was denied Holy Communion
Last week, Former Vice President Joe Biden was denied Holy Communion at a parish in South Carolina due to his public support for abortion.
This is apparently the policy of the bishop in South Carolina. The incident offers an opportunity to clarify what is required for a person to receive Holy Communion at a Catholic Mass.
For Catholics, Holy Communion is a sign of communion in Jesus Christ, among other things, as well as a cause of strengthening that communion. We believe that in this sacrament, Jesus Christ himself is present.
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The Catholic Church, therefore, with only a few exceptions, does not permit the sacrament to be received by other Christians who are not in full communion. To do otherwise would be to lie about what we believe.
Catholics can present themselves to receive Holy Communion at Mass when they are not conscious of a grave and mortal sin they’ve committed and when they have normally fasted for at least an hour in preparation for this holy act of receiving Christ.
We believe committing a mortal sin separates us from the life of God and communion with Jesus Christ. To receive Holy Communion in such a condition runs the risk, in the words of St. Paul, of eating and drinking judgment on oneself.
When conscious of mortal sin, Catholics have another sacrament available to them: confession. Confessing our sins to a priest with the firm intention of amending our lives and receiving Christ’s forgiveness through the priest’s absolution restores us to grace and makes us worthy once again, despite our weakness, to receive Holy Communion.
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The situation is worsened in the Church’s view when a person is publicly obstinate in grave sin and insists that there’s nothing immoral about what they do. Canon 915 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law requires those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
The reason the Church could bar such people from Holy Communion is precisely because their sin is not only serious, but it is also public and they are obstinate in holding it. Such a person is no longer living in communion with the Church, and it would also be a deception to permit that person to receive Holy Communion.
Abortion is a grave evil. This is not an issue of religion but of the fundamental human right to life. Those who publicly support abortion or enable it (whether by legislation or by cooperation) are complicit in this evil whether they are politicians or a typical parishioner in the pew. Such persons not only need to go to confession before receiving Holy Communion, but they need to show that they are not obstinate in their agenda. This usually means some assertion disavowing their previous waywardness.
While abortion is one of today’s greatest evils, it’s not the only reason somebody could be refused Holy Communion. Holy Communion would be refused to a person who deliberately and obstinately promotes racism, as happened in New Orleans in 1962.
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