Bishops v. Biden

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The Catholic Bishops are cheesed with Joe Biden for, as they see it, claiming that abortion is just a “personal and private issue.” Here’s the relevant quote, from Biden’s response on Meet the Press last Sunday:

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

According to the bishops, “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.”
Of course, Biden did not say that the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is a private matter. His position is that it is a confessional matter. The bishops can assert until they are blue in the face that what they profess is universally applicable because it’s built into the nature of things; but at the end of the day they remain religious leaders asserting the doctrine of their church. And most American Catholics, like Biden, understand them as such.

  • Loved the last paragraph Mark. The line between religious freedom and imposition is sooooo thin…

  • If you had bothered to read what the Catholic bishops actually said, you would know that their argument is not theological, it is scientific. Here I’ll quote them for you:
    “While ancient thinkers had little verifiable knowledge to help them answer this question, today embryology textbooks confirm that a new human life begins at conception (see The Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact.”
    I’ve got the entire statement on my website:
    The “doctrine” they are asserting – that human life ought not to be killed – is one I hope reaches beyond confessional lines.

  • Brian E Walden

    Mr. Silk, did you actually read the bishops’ response? Abortion is not merely a personal matter as Biden claims nor merely a confessional matter as you claim. The Catholic Church, in fact, makes no confession about when human life begins – it defers to science for that answer. It’s a simple scientific fact, which given our modern understanding of biology no one can deny, that unborn babies are living human beings. The only philosophical question involved is whether or not all humans are deserving of basic human rights? One does not need a religious creed to recognize the painfully obvious answer that human rights belong to all humans.

  • SDG

    You twice misrepresent the bishops as viewing Biden’s position as “Abortion is a personal and private issue,” once in the course of knocking down your own straw man: “Of course, Biden did not say that the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is a private matter.” No, and the bishops didn’t say he did either. What both Biden and the bishops were talking about as “personal and private” (Biden affirming, the bishops negating) was not abortion, but the beginning of human life. Apparently you missed that.
    In this, very clearly, the bishops are objectively right and Biden is objectively wrong: It is a biological fact, not a matter of faith, that human life begins at conception. There is nothing “confessional” about it (a word you strangely supply for Biden, though he didn’t use it himself).
    What the bishops do affirm as the Church’s teaching, and what they themselves are very clear is the Church’s teaching, is in answering the moral question “Which human lives deserve protection?” Here they affirm unambiguously: “The Catholic Church’s answer is: Everybody.” Given their clarity on this point, what exactly do you mean to get at regarding their “going on till they’re blue in the face,” etc.? Would you say the same to faith-informed opposition to slavery or segregation?
    Your confusion on the point the bishops clearly distinguish is common: Probably Biden himself is confused on this point, and you may well be right in predicating a similar confusion of the majority of American Catholics (and other Americans for that matter). That’s precisely why we need clear coverage that doesn’t perpetuate the confusion.
    Readers interested in an informed and accurate discussion of the subject are referred to the American Papist blog for more information.