Biden: 'My Religion Defines My Life;' Pope: 'There Is a Grave and Clear Obligation to Oppose' Legalized Abortion

Terence P. Jeffrey | October 12, 2012 | 12:06am EDT
Font Size

Vice President Joe Biden gestures during his debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky., C with Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate. (AP Photo/Rick Wilking)

( - Vice President Joe Biden said in Thursday night’s vice presidential debate that life begins at conception, that he accepts the Catholic Church’s position on abortion, and that he believes abortion must be legal.
The Catholic Church's teaching is not only that abortion is always wrong, but also that Catholics in public office have a grave duty to oppose legalizing it while speaking out clearly against it.
The position Biden took on abortion before an audience of many millions in this nationally televised debate was in direct defiance of an ancient moral teaching of the church that has been emphatically restated by the current pope and his immediate predecessor.
If the player does not load, please check that you are running the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.
Before explaining why he wants aborting unborn children to be legal, Biden told the nation that he had been “a practicing Catholic” his whole life and that his social views had been formed by the church’s teachings “about taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves.”

Vice President Joe Biden making a point at the Oct. 11, 2012, vice presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“My religion defines who I am, and I have been a practicing Catholic my whole life,” Biden said. “And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.
“With regard to abortion,” he said, “I accept my church’s position on abortion as a, what we call de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christian and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman.
“I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that, women, that they can’t control their body,” said Biden. “It is a decision between them and their doctor, in my view, and the Supreme Court. I am not going to interfere with that.”
The actual position of the Catholic Church is that any law legalizing the killing of an unborn child is an unjust law that violates the natural law and is, therefore, no law at all. Vice President Biden’s church teaches that it is not acceptable even to obey such laws let alone support them as part of a political campaign.
"Laws which authorize and promote abortion and euthanasia are therefore radically opposed not only to the good of the individual but also to the common good; as such they are completely lacking in authentic juridical validity." Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1995 encyclical letter, Evangelium Vitae.

Vice President Joe Biden at the Oct. 11, 2012, vice presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

"Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good," the pope said. "Consequently, a civil law authorizing abortion or euthanasia ceases by that very fact to be a true, morally binding civil law.
"Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize," said the pope. "There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection."
"In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it,'" declared the pope.

In 2002, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote a "Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life." The note, approved and published by Pope John Paul II, reiterated that Catholic lawmakers have a "grave and clear obligation" to oppose legalized abortion and other attacks on the right to life. Indeed, here the church said it was "impossible" for a Catholic to promote such laws.

“At the same time, legislative proposals are put forward which, heedless of the consequences for the existence and future of human beings with regard to the formation of culture and social behaviour, attack the very inviolability of human life," said this statement of Catholic teaching.

"Catholics, in this difficult situation, have the right and the duty to recall society to a deeper understanding of human life and to the responsibility of everyone in this regard," Cardinal Ratzinger wrote. "John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a «grave and clear obligation to oppose» any law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them."

Cardinal Ratzinger also said in this official Vatican statement that Catholics have a similar inalterable duty to defend the rights of human embryos and the institution of marriage.

“When political activity comes up against moral principles that do not admit of exception, compromise or derogation, the Catholic commitment becomes more evident and laden with responsibility," said the doctrinal note. "In the face of fundamental and inalienable ethical demands,Christians must recognize that what is at stake is the essence of the moral law, which concerns the integral good of the human person. This is the case with laws concerning abortion and euthanasia (not to be confused with the decision to forgo extraordinary treatments, which is morally legitimate). Such laws must defend the basic right to life from conception to natural death.In the same way, it is necessary to recall the duty to respect and protect the rights of the human embryo.

"Analogously," wrote Cardinal Ratzinger, "the family needs to be safeguarded and promoted, based on monogamous marriage between a man and a woman, and protected in its unity and stability in the face of modern laws on divorce: in no way can other forms of cohabitation be placed on the same level as marriage, nor can they receive legal recognition as such.”

Martha Raddatz of ABC News moderated the vice presidential debate. (AP Photo/Michael Reynolds)

Biden's explanation of why he is pro-abortion came in response to a question from the debate moderator, Martha Raddatz of ABC News, who specifically made an issue of the fact that both Biden and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan are Catholics.

Raddatz then phrased her question on abortion as if the position these candidates took on the question of whether it ought to be legal to take the life of an unborn child was essentially a denominational and emotional matter, rather than one of rationally applying the immutable natural law--which is expressly referenced in the non-denominational Declaration of Independence signed by the Founding Fathers of this nation--to the question of whether an unborn has the same inalienable right to life as a born child.

"This debate is indeed historic," said Raddatz. "We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion. Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that? And please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country, please talk personally about this if you could?"

mrc merch