Catholic Bishop: Joe Biden 'Ought Not to Be Receiving Communion'

Terence P. Jeffrey | October 31, 2012 | 11:58pm EDT
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Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs

( - Roman Catholic Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, who holds a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, says that Vice President Joe Biden should know that he ought not to receive communion.

Bishop Sheridan made the point in an interview he did in October with columnist Daniel Cole of The Colorado Springs Gazette.

Cole asked the bishop: "If Vice President Joe Biden, who is Catholic, were to swing through Colorado Springs on a campaign tour and attend your Mass, would you deny him Communion?"

Bishop Sheridan responded: "He should know, and I would do everything I could do to make sure that he knows, he ought not to be receiving Communion."

A bit earlier in the interview, Bishop Sheridan had explained the circumstances that would cause a Catholic politician to disqualify himself or herself from the sacrament. Columnist Cole had asked the bishop: "In 2004, you made national headlines when you spoke out against Catholic politicians on the wrong side of four non-negotiables: abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. You said that these politicians, and Catholics who vote for them, may not receive Communion until they have recanted and confessed. Is that still your position?"

Vice President Joe Biden (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

"It’s clear to me that the Code of Canon Law, Canon 915, says that a Catholic politician who publicly espouses positions that are contrary, not just to any teachings of the Church, but to serious moral teachings, should not receive Holy Communion until they recant those positions publicly," Bishop Sheridan responded. "Voters needs a little bit more nuance, because there the question is, are we voting for those politicians precisely because of their positions on those non-negotiable issues? Here is what I would say: It would be very difficult for me to understand how, if there are two candidates quite far apart in their positions on these matters, I could vote for the one who consistently opposes these Church teachings, simply because he might be in favor of a few good things."

Cole asked Bishop Sheridan if politicians who support the Obamacare "contraceptives mandate"--which requires that virtually all health-care plans, including those bought or provided by Catholics, must cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients--should be disqualified from communion like politicians who support abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and same-sex marriage.

"I think we do need to add to that list (of non-negotiables) religious liberty," said Bishop Sheridan. "Absolutely, yes. I think a Catholic politician who publicly and consistently defends the mandate, which causes people to violate their conscience--yes, I think that’s right up there with the rest of them."

Cole asked Bishop Sheridan if Catholics must support goverment welfare programs.

"Not that I’m not [sic] aware of," said Sheridan. "I think we recognize that the government can and should do things for people, especially people who are in great need. But really the obligation is for us as individuals, as Catholics, as believers, to be charitable toward our neighbor. I don’t know that that extends to supporting government welfare programs."

During the vice presidential debate on Oct. 11, Vice President Biden said his Catholic faith defines who he is.

“My religion defines who I am, and I have been a practicing Catholic my whole life,” Biden said. “And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.

“With regard to abortion,” Biden said, “I accept my church’s position on abortion as a, what we call de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christian and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman.

“I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that, women, that they can’t control their body,” said Biden. “It is a decision between them and their doctor, in my view, and the Supreme Court. I am not going to interfere with that.”

In addition to supporting legalized abortion, Biden also supports same-sex marriage and the Obamacare contraception mandate.

Bishop Sheridan has been the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs since 2003.

To read columnist Daniel Cole's Colorado Springs Gazette article about his interview with Bishop Michael Sheridan click here.

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