Catholic Bishops Criticize Joe Biden on Comments on Abortion, Human Life

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 10, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Bishops Criticize Joe Biden on Comments on Abortion, Human Life

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 10
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — After Nancy Pelosi caught their attention with her misrepresentation of the Catholic Church’s position on abortion and the beginning of human life, the nation’s Catholic bishops are turning their attention to Joe Biden. In a weekend interview, Biden took his turn answering the questions.

The pro-abortion Delaware senator wouldn’t give an answer for society — saying he would only say when he thought life begins for his own political views.

“I’d say, ‘Look, I know when it begins for me,’” he said. “It’s a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I’m prepared to accept the teachings of my church.”

However, Biden said he would have no problem departing from Catholic teaching that human life begins at conception and abortion is morally wrong.

“But let me tell you. There are an awful lot of people of great confessional faiths – Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others – who have a different view,” he told the program.

In a statement sent to, Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman, U.S. Bishops Committee on Doctrine, took Biden to task.

While Senator Biden did not go as far as Pelosi in saying that human life begins at some other point or that Catholic teaching allows abortion, the bishops still had a problem with his comments.

"The senator’s claim that the beginning of human life is a ‘personal and private’ matter of religious faith, one which cannot be ‘imposed’ on others, does not reflect Catholic teaching," they said.

They said the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion and human life rests on two questions — "neither of which is private or specifically religious."

The first is a biological question: When does a new human life begin? The second, is a moral question, with legal and political consequences: Which living members of the human species should be seen as having fundamental human rights, such as a right not to be killed?

On the first point, the bishops say that the Catholic faith believes human life begins at conception, which is scientifically verifiable.

"The Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact," the bishops say.

On the second point, they say, "No human being should be treated as lacking human rights, and we have no business dividing humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not."

"The framers of the Declaration of Independence pointed to the same basic truth by speaking of inalienable rights, bestowed on all members of the human race not by any human power, but by their Creator," they said.

They concluded, "Those who hold a narrower and more exclusionary view have the burden of explaining why we should divide humanity into the moral ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.”


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