NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is distancing himself from a South Carolina priest's decision to refuse former vice president Joe Biden Holy Communion.
On Sunday, Fr. Robert E. Morey of St. Anthony Catholic Church in Florence denied Biden the Eucharist over the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate's public backing for abortion.
"Sadly ... I had to refuse Holy Communion to former Vice President Joe Biden," Fr. Morey said Monday. "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 warned. "As a priest, it is my responsibility to minister to those souls entrusted to my care, and I must do so even in the most difficult situations."
Cardinal Dolan addressed the controversy in a Fox News appearance on Thursday. He suggested that "the preferable way" to address pro-abortion politicians who present themselves for Holy Communion is "to do personal dialogue."
Though conceding that Fr. Morey "had a good point," Dolan insinuated that the priest's decision may have been rash:
Sometimes a public figure will come and talk to me about it. And I would advise them ... you know, you are publicly at odds with an issue of substance, critical substance — we're talking about life and death and 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. If you know you're not, well, integrity would say, "Uh-oh, I'd better not approach Holy Communion." That's always preferable than to make it a split-second decision in denying somebody.
Asked if he'd ever denied anyone the Eucharist, Dolan responded: "I never have. I never have had, what you might call the opportunity — I never said 'Uh-oh, should I give him or her Holy Communion?' It's never come up."
Dolan was pressed on whether, as bishop of New York, pro-abortion celebrities have approached him for Holy Communion. The cardinal responded:
You know that uh, I will often see at St. Patrick's Cathedral somebody there — glad they're there, all are welcome — and I'm thinking "Oh, I wonder if he or she is going to come up to Holy Communion." I admire when they don't. They seem to know, "I shouldn't do that. That could be hypocritical at this moment."
"I personally can never judge the state of a person's soul," Dolan added. "So it's difficult, that's what I'm saying. I'm not there as a tribunal, as a judge in distributing Holy Communion. ... So it's difficult to make a judgment on the state of a person's soul."
Asked if Fr. Morey was right to refuse Biden Holy Communion, Dolan responded: "Uh, 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."
"I wouldn't do it," the cardinal added.
As head of the archdiocese of New York, Dolan has provoked the ire of faithful Catholics over his penchant for compromise.
In 2015, he was slammed for standing aside as gay activists were allowed to march in New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade for the first time.
In January, Dolan was blasted for refusing to excommunicate New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, after he signed into law the nation's most radical abortion bill.
The Reproductive Health Act legalized abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy, removed the requirement that abortionists be licensed doctors (allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform abortions), and did away with protections for babies born alive after botched procedures — essentially green-lighting infanticide for newborn survivors of abortion.
Through a spokesman, Dolan argued that "excommunication should not be used as a weapon. Too often, I fear, those who call for someone's excommunication do so out of anger or frustration," he said.
He added: "[N]otable canon lawyers have said that, under canon law, excommunication is not an appropriate response to a politician who supports or votes for legislation advancing abortion."
Multiple high-profile clergy disagreed with Dolan's assertion, including Bp. Richard Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee; Bp. Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas; Msgr. Charles Pope; Fr. Kevin M. Cusick, a contributor to Catholic journal The Wanderer; Fr. David Palmer of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and others.