INCIDENTS of CENSURE AND OR EXCOMMUNICATION by The Catholic Church resulting in denial of Communion

The first instance of a pro-abortion rights politician being censured via denial of communion was in 1989.[15] During a special election for the California Senate, Pro-abortion rights Catholic Lucy Killea was barred from communion by Leo Thomas Maher, then bishop of San Diego.[9] She received communion in Sacramento with the consent of Bishop Francis Quinn.[16] The incident brought publicity to Killea’s candidacy and gained her the voters’ sympathy, helping her to win the election.[17][18]

In 1984, Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor, then archbishop of New York, considered excommunicating New York Governor Mario Cuomo.[19][20] He also condemned Cuomo’s statements that support for abortion rights did not contradict Catholic teaching, but did not suggest that Cuomo should stop receiving communion.[21]

In January 2003, Bishop William Weigand of Sacramento said Governor of California Gray Davis, a Catholic who supported abortion rights, should stop receiving communion.[9]

In 2004, then-Archbishop Burke said he would not give communion to 2004 presidential candidate and Senator John Kerry, in part because of his position on abortion. According to religion experts, such a denial of communion would have been unprecedented.[14][22] Kerry’s own Archbishop Sean O’Malley refused to specify the applicability of his earlier statement that such Catholics are in a state of grave sin and cannot properly receive communion.[14] The issue led to comparisons between Kerry’s presidential campaign and that of John F. Kennedy in 1960. While Kennedy had to demonstrate his independence from the Roman Catholic Church due to public fear that a Catholic president would make decisions based on the Holy See agenda, it seemed that Kerry, in contrast, had to show obedience to Catholic authorities in order to win votes.[9][23][24][25] According to Margaret Ross Sammons, Kerry’s campaign was sufficiently damaged by the threat to withhold communion that it may have cost him the election. Sammons argues that President George W. Bush was able to win 53% of the Catholic vote because he appealed to “traditional” Catholics.[26]

In February 2007, as emerged two and a half years later, Bishop Thomas Tobin asked Representative Patrick Kennedy not to take communion because of his position on abortion.[27] Kennedy told the Providence Journal that Tobin also instructed priests in the diocese not to give him communion; Tobin denied this.[27] In 2007, Burke said that he would deny communion to 2008 Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani because of his views on abortion, and that Giuliani should not seek the sacrament.[22] In May 2008, Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph Naumann said that then-Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius should stop receiving communion because of her support for abortion rights, and that she should not again take it unless she publicly stated that she opposed abortion rights.[28][29][30]

After Joe Biden was nominated as a vice presidential candidate in the 2008 presidential election, Bishop Joseph Francis Martino of Biden’s hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, said Biden would be refused communion in that diocese because of his support for abortion.[8] Biden was not refused communion in his then-parish of Wilmington, Delaware.[31] In October 2019, Biden was reportedly refused communion at a church in Florence, South Carolina.[32] On January 21, 2021, one day after his inauguration as president, Biden received communion from the hands of the archbishop of Washington DC, Cardinal Wilton Daniel Gregory. The event was condemned by conservative activist and Donald Trump supporter Austin Ruse, in Crisis magazine.[33]


  1. Jump up to:a b c “The Word from Rome”John L. Allen Jr. in National Catholic Reporter, 28 May 2004
  2. Jump up to:a b c d e Internet, Elemedia S.p.A. – Area. “Obama’s Pick for Vice President Is Catholic. But the Bishops Deny Him Communion” Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  3. ^ Major, Richard (August 27, 2005), “Communion for pro-choice politicians splits Church”The Tablet
  4. Jump up to:a b “Library : It’s a Matter of Honesty: To Receive Communion, We Need to Be in Communion” Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  5. ^ Allen Jr., John L. (Oct 31, 2008). “Antiabortion imperative more complex than acknowledged”National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 2014-05-08.
  6. ^ Michael Sean Winters, “Chaput Cites Disunity Among Bishops on Canon 915” in National Catholic Reporter, 12 April 2011
  7. ^ Henneberger, Melinda (11 May 2009). “Wuerl: Why I Won’t Deny Pelosi Communion”. Politics Daily.
  8. Jump up to:a b Kirkpatrick, David (2008-09-16). “Abortion Issue Again Dividing Catholic Votes”The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
  9. Jump up to:a b c d Ainsworth, Bill (2004-06-09). “Catholics giving governor a pass on abortion”The San-Diego Union-Tribune. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2011-01-26. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
  10. ^ Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, “The Obligations of Catholics and the Rights of Unborn Children” Archived June 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion” Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  12. ^ “Reactions to Sen. Obama’s Selection of Sen. Biden as His Running Mate” Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  13. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 916 Archived February 19, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  14. Jump up to:a b c Hancock, David (2004-04-06). “Kerry’s Communion Controversy”CBS News. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
  15. ^ “A Bishop Says No”Time. November 27, 1989.
  16. ^ Lundstrom, Marjie (February 1, 2003). “Abortion foes cross line with attacks on elected officials”. Sacramento Bee.
  17. ^ “Abortion and Religion Put Focus on Election”New York Times. December 3, 1989.
  18. ^ “Bishop Leo Maher, 75; Led San Diego Diocese”New York Times. February 25, 1991.
  19. ^ Beltramini, Enrico (September 12, 2009). “Il cattolicesimo politico in America”Limes (in Italian). Retrieved 2011-12-26.
  20. ^ West, John G.; MacLean, Iain S. (1999). Encyclopedia of religion in American politics, Volume 2. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 98. ISBN 9781573561303. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
  21. ^ Mike Dorning, “Catholic politicians feel church heat on abortion” in Chicago Tribune, 26 April 2003
  22. Jump up to:a b “Outspoken Catholic Archbishop Raymond Burke Says He’d Deny Rudy Giuliani Communion”Fox News. AP. 2007-10-03. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
  23. ^ McAteer, Michael (June 26, 2004). “Questioning Catholic hierarchy’s priorities”. Toronto Star.
  24. ^ Balz, Dan; Cooperman, Alan (June 4, 2004). “Bush, Pope to Meet Today at the Vatican”Washington Post.
  25. ^ Gibson, David (2007). The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World. HarperCollins. p. 42. ISBN 9780061753367.
  26. ^ Heyer, Kristin E.; Rozell, Mark J.; Genovese, Michael A. (2008). Catholics and politics: the dynamic tension between faith and power. Georgetown University Press. p. 21ISBN 978-1-58901-215-8. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
  27. Jump up to:a b “Bishop bars Patrick Kennedy from Communion over abortion”. CNN. November 22, 2009. Archived from the original on October 1, 2012.
  28. ^ “For Sebelius, More Opposition from KC’s Archbishop”. The Atlantic. 5 March 2009.
  29. ^ “Rigid bishops one-up the popes”National Catholic Reporter. May 30, 2008. Archived from the original on January 28, 2012. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
  30. ^ Burke, Daniel (May 13, 2008). “Kansas Gov. Sebelius told not to take Communion”. Religion News Service.
  31. ^ Memoli, Mike (2008-12-24). “Abortion politics: Biden never refused communion” Archived from the original on January 17, 2012. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
  32. ^ Christian, Matthew (2019-10-28). “Joe Biden denied Holy Communion at Florence church”SCNow. Retrieved 2019-10-28.
  33. ^ “Joe Biden Eats and Drinks His Own Spiritual Death”Crisis Magazine. 2021-01-21. Retrieved 2021-01-22.
  34. ^ “No Sanction for Spanish King Signing Abortion Law”National Catholic Reporter. 2010-02-26. Retrieved 2011-12-23.
  35. ^ Black, Fergus; Cunningham, Grainne (20 May 2013). “Top clerics divided on penalty for pro-choice Catholics”Irish Independent.
  36. ^ Dalby, Douglas (3 May 2013). “Irish Catholic Church Condemns Abortion Legislation”International Herald Tribune.
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. Jump up to:a b “Pope arrives in Brazil with tough abortion stance”USA Today (Associated Press service). 10 May 2007.
  41. ^ Der SpiegelPope Attacks Mexico City Politicians. May 10, 2007.
  42. ^ Israely, Jeff (May 9, 2007). “Pope Rejects Pro-Choice Politicians”Time.
  43. ^ “Pope condemns abortion on Latin America trip”. Associated Press. May 9, 2007.
  44. ^ “Iglesia dice que legisladores que votaron despenalización quedan excomulgados”El Observador. 2012-10-18. Archived from the original on 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
  45. ^ “1er medida de la Iglesia tras la despenalización del aborto” (in Spanish). Urgente24. 2012-10-18.
  46. ^ “Iglesia Católica excomulgó a quienes incentivaron la despenalización del aborto”El País. 2012-10-18. Archived from the original on 2012-10-22.
  47. ^ “Uruguay’s bishops clarify: pro-abortion lawmakers not excommunicated”. Retrieved 27 November 2013.

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About Dr. Ernie Sherretta, D. Min.

Retired Director of Religious Education for the Catholic Church since 2014, granted a B.A. in Philosophy from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Religious Studies from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Immaculata University, and a Doctor of Ministry from the Lutheran Theological Seminary. Spiritual Well-Being Counselor
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