Vice President Joe Biden, an abortion advocate who calls himself a Catholic, met with Pope Benedict XVI at The Vatican today in an unannounced trip where few details are available.
Vatican officials have been tight-lipped about the visit, which didn’t make the daily press schedule for the Pope. Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told CNA, “I have no comment. It was a totally private meeting, and there will no communiqué.”
In January, the vice president said he thinks Catholics can support abortion. In the interview with the Delaware News Journal, Biden talked about how he can reconcile his pro-abortion views with his Catholic faith.
“It’s very difficult,” Biden says. “I was raised as a Catholic, I’m a practicing Catholic, and I’m totally at home with the Catholicism that I was raised in and this whole culture of social responsibility.”
Biden went on to misrepresent the position of the Catholic Church on abortion in a way that has gotten him in trouble recently.
“But throughout the church’s history, we’ve argued between whether or not it is wrong in every circumstance and the degree of wrong. Catholics have this notion, it’s almost a gradation,” Biden claimed.
In September, a previous mischaracterization of Catholic teaching earned Biden a rebuke from Catholic bishops.
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.
“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.
Last Fall, the nation’s Catholic bishops elected a new president who has excoriated Biden on pro-life issues. Archbishop Timothy Dolan has been a strong friend and ally and has been called a “hero” by leading pro-life advocates in part for speaking out about Catholic politicians who support abortion.
“It bothers me if any politician, Catholic or not, is for abortion,” Dolan has said. “Because in my mind, we’re talking about a civil right, we’re not talking about a matter of Catholic Church discipline. We can’t allow the noble pro-life cause to be reduced to a denominational issue.”
In 2008, Dolan took House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice-President Joe Biden to task for misrepresenting Catholic pro-life teachings.
“Church tradition is equally clear that bishops are the authentic teachers of the faith. So, when prominent Catholics publicly misrepresent timeless Church doctrine – as Biden and Pelosi regrettably did (to say nothing of erring in biology!) – a bishop has the duty to clarify,” he explained.
“Does the baby alive in the womb (a biological, not a doctrinal, fact) deserve the full protection of the law or not? Does one have the right to terminate the life of another at will? Can we consider one form of life – that of the innocent, fragile baby in the womb – inferior and expendable?” Dolan asked.
And, for the new New York Catholic leader, the answer is clearly no.
“We cannot be mute on this premier civil rights issue of our day,” he says.