Biden, Pelosi Stir Controversy by Taking Communion

Pro-choice pols should not be given communion, some Catholics say.

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Pope Francis meets U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his sister Valerie Biden, after the papal installation Mass at the Vatican on March 19, 2013.

Vice President Joe Biden and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi received communion during a Mass marking the installation of Pope Francis in Rome Tuesday, setting off a storm of controversy about whether they should have been denied communion because of their pro-choice stand on abortion.

Some Catholic leaders say Catholic politicians who break with the church on abortion should be denied the sacrament. The Rev. Frank Pavone, founder of Priests for Life, a Catholic anti-abortion group based in the U.S., says, "Vice President Biden and Nancy Pelosi should certainly not receive communion, either at the papal installation or anywhere else.

"Communion means 'union,' and they are not in union with the church on the most fundamental moral issue of the right to life."

[READ: Pope Francis 'Kissed Me!' Says Argentina's Kirchner]

Pope Francis, when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2007, opposed giving communion to politicians who supported abortion rights.

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Pope Francis meets U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his sister Valerie Biden, after the papal installation Mass at the Vatican on March 19, 2013.

During a vice presidential debate last year, Biden said he personally accepted the church's teaching that life begins at conception and as a personal matter he opposes abortion. But he added that he would not impose his belief on others and believes every women should have the right to make that choice.

[PHOTOS: Thousands Attend Pope Francis Installation Mass]

In a torrent of comments on the web, Catholics and others began a fiery debate on the issue and related themes. Some said anti-abortion Catholics are being hypocritical if they do not also favor denying communion to Catholic leaders who support the death penalty; capital punishment also goes against church teaching.

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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com, and followed on Facebook and Twitter.