Joe Biden denied communion at church in South Carolina

Joe Biden will be making a stop in downtown Davenport following the 4th Democratic debate. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0.)
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(CNN) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden was put in an awkward position at a South Carolina Catholic Church, when he was denied communion.

The reason, according to the pastor, was Biden's stance on abortion rights.

Father Robert Morey at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Florence, South Carolina, told the Florence Morning News, "Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching."

"Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that," Morey said in an email to the newspaper. He said that "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. I will keep Mr. Biden in my prayers."

Biden declined to address what happened Tuesday on MSNBC.

"I am not going to discuss that. That is just my personal life," he said.

Biden has said he would seek to systemize Roe v. Wade, which could protect women's abortion rights from legal challenges from Republican-led states.

He has also said we wants to eliminate the Hyde Amendment, the federal law that bars federal dollars from being used to pay for abortions, except in the cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in jeopardy.

In the 2012 vice presidential debate, Biden said he is personally against abortion.

This is not the first time Catholic Democrats have been denied communion over their support for abortion rights. It's happened to several Democratic presidential and vice-presidential candidates in recent decades, at times exposing deep cultural rifts between conservative and moderate Catholics in the church's hierarchy.

In 2004, Cardinal Raymond Burke, the former St. Louis archbishop, said he would not give communion to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. He said his view, which was controversial at the time, was that the sacrament must be protected from someone "who knows that he or she is unworthy and yet presumes to come forward and to take the Holy Eucharist."

In 2008, Bishop Joseph Francis Martino of Biden's hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, said Biden would be denied communion in the Scranton diocese over his support for abortion rights.

In 2016, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, then the Democratic vice presidential nominee, faced criticism from individual priests over his positions on abortion, same-sex marriage and gender equality.