Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

The Bishops Respond to Biden

This strikes me as a very fair-minded response to Biden from the Catholic Bishops:

WASHINGTON–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, issued the following statement:
Recently we had a duty to clarify the Catholic Church’s constant teaching against abortion, to correct misrepresentations of that teaching by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “Meet the Press” (see On September 7, again on “Meet the Press,” Senator Joseph Biden made some statements about that teaching that also deserve a response.
Senator Biden did not claim that Catholic teaching allows or has ever allowed abortion. He said rightly that human life begins “at the moment of conception,” and that Catholics and others who recognize this should not be required by others to pay for abortions with their taxes.
However, 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. The Church teaches that the obligation to protect unborn human life rests on the answer to two questions, neither of which is private or specifically religious.
The first is a biological question: When does a new human life begin? When is there a new living organism of the human species, distinct from mother and father and ready to develop and mature if given a nurturing environment? 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.
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? The Catholic Church’s answer is: Everybody. 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. Even this is not solely a Catholic teaching, but a principle of natural law accessible to all people of good will. 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. 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,” and why their particular choice of where to draw that line can be sustained in a pluralistic society. Such views pose a serious threat to the dignity and rights of other poor and vulnerable members of the human family who need and deserve our respect and protection.
While in past centuries biological knowledge was often inaccurate, modern science leaves no excuse for anyone to deny the humanity of the unborn child. Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice.

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Proud LIBERAL American

posted September 9, 2008 at 6:34 pm

I wonder. Are these bishops going to release a similar statement regarding Catholic candidates who support the war, cutting social programs, or other portions of their teachings? Or do they save their moralizing only for Democratic candidates?
I wonder what these bishops would say the Church’s teaching on bankruptcy is?

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posted September 9, 2008 at 10:27 pm

Would anyone expect a different statement from the RCC? Of course not. Biden just happens to feel it is not his job to push his belief of life beginning at conception (the Catholic belief) on women. I admire him for that. He is following the separation of church and state rule in this country. There should never be the retraction of Roe V. Wade. Government should stay out of a woman’s right to choose.

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Kevin Rahe

posted September 10, 2008 at 1:00 pm

I’m glad to see the bishops finally taking the right stand against this nonsense.
While religious faith motivates many pro-life advocates, it isn’t a prerequisite. There are, after all, pro-life atheists. And while religion may impel many to oppose abortion, it is not the source of their best reasoning – that abortion takes the life of a complete, distinct, living, unconditionally viable and fully human being – which is firmly grounded in observable biology.
Faith plays a decidedly different role in the pro-choice position. While the reasoning that enables pro-choice advocates to accept abortion is seldom if ever articulated, it implicitly and necessarily contradicts the pro-life position that abortion kills a person. Absent any obvious or stated scientific rationale, one can only conclude that this reasoning is based on a (non-religious) form of faith, which Webster’s defines as “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.”
While pro-choice advocates love to pit “my beliefs” against “your beliefs,” in reality, it is only they who depend on faith for their very understanding of what abortion is.

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posted September 10, 2008 at 1:43 pm

Congratulations to the bishops. Will they now come out and take a similar stand on religious leaders having sex with underage teens?
Oops…that might hit too close to home for them. Better to pick on someone else’s speck than to remove the log from your own eye.

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Don M

posted September 11, 2008 at 4:00 pm

It’s a shame that neither pagansister nor proud liberal american can figure out the simple statement by the Bishops. Allow me to recast it. The Bishops said it is not a matter of faith (Roman Catholic or otherwise) that a separate human organism begins life at the moment of conception. It is a matter of scientific fact.
Proud liberal tries, unsuccessfully, to argue that social programs, war and other “portions of their teachings” (whatever that means) are, likewise, scientific facts and not matters of discussion, evaluation and debate. How does PLA come to that weighty conclusion? Beats me, but I bet PLA is a product of the public school system.
Pagansister is similarly unable to evalute the Bishop’s statement, to wit: “Would anyone expect a different statement from the RCC? Of course not. Biden just happens to feel it is not his job to push his belief of life beginning at conception (the Catholic belief) on women. I admire him for that.”
The Bishops are not making a statement of RCC beliefs. It is not a belief, it is a statement of scientific fact.
The fact that pagansister denies a scientific fact, and admires that a United States Senator knows and accepts the scientific fact but doesn’t want to impose a fact on others is not logical. What other known facts is Senator Biden going to overlook in his position?
How does one explain anything to folks like PLA and pagansister? It’s not dissimilar to having a conversation wherein you speak Swahili and I speak English. Neither one of us knows what the other is saying because we can’t evaluate it. And that, sadly, is the face of the DNC. Vacuous and nonsensical. And they’re allowed to vote! Be very afrais of these people.

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