The Catholic archbishop of Denver says that presumptive Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. should not take Communion because of his pro-choice stance.
In an e-mail sent Sunday to an Associated Press reporter, Archbishop Charles Chaput called the Delaware senator’s support for abortion rights “seriously wrong.”
“I certainly presume his good will and integrity,” the archbishop continued, “and I presume that his integrity will lead him to refrain from presenting himself for Communion if he supports a false ‘right’ to abortion.”
The archbishop also told the wire service he’d like to speak privately with the senator.
Sen. Biden did take Communion Sunday at his home parish, St. Joseph on the Brandywine in Greenville, Del.
The debate among Catholics over who should and should not take Communion was a major issue during Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 run for the presidency when more than a dozen bishops publicly asked the senator not to present himself at altars in their dioceses.
Although these men were a minority of the nation’s approximately 270 active bishops, their stance may have been why President Bush increased his share of the Catholic vote from 47 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2004.
All indications are that the bishops’ stances will harden. Archbishop Raymond Burke, who just left his see in Saint Louis to take over the Apostolic Signatura, the highest Vatican court in Rome, said last week that not only should pro-choice politicians abstain from Communion but those in charge of the sacrament have a duty to refuse it.
“If a person who has been admonished persists in public mortal sin and attempts to receive Communion, the minister of the Eucharist has the obligation to deny it to him,” Archbishop Burke told the magazine Radici Christiane. “Why? Above all, for the salvation of that person, preventing him from committing a sacrilege.”
Archbishop Chaput, in an interview a week ago with The Washington Times, said his modus operandi with pro-choice politicians begins with a private conversation.
“I think people have listened closely,” he said. “Whether they have changed or nuanced their positions, I don’t know about that. But they take what I say very seriously.”
He added that a 2004 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops statement saying individual bishops have the right to determine which politicians should or should not take Communion, needs some “refining.” During Pope Benedict XVI’s April visit to the United States, several pro-choice Catholic politicians openly defied canon law by taking Communion at papal Masses.
“The bishops have said together that these politicians should not receive Communion,” Archbishop Chaput said. “Where there has been a disagreement as to how public they should be about it.”