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    AmP Countdown: Time left to demand that Congress make health care reform pro-life: 2009-11-07 18:00:00 GMT-05:00

    Sunday, September 07, 2008

    Sen. Joe Biden follows in Pelosi's footsteps

    On today's Meet the Press, Barack Obama's Catholic running mate Joe Biden is confronted with the same question asked of Nancy Pelosi two weeks ago.

    His response is not a surprise to those who know Joe Biden's record on abortion and his attempts to reconcile it with his Catholic faith.
    But it is a surprise that he still tries to mount this defense after Pelosi-Gate. You would think he might have paused.
    The video of his response (transcript and commentary below):

    You can find the full transcript here.

    Before we take a look at Biden's defense, I must note this important point:
    This is developing into perfect storm. Rocco reports via the Deleware News-Journal, that tomorrow Joe Biden's new bishop Fran Malooly will be installed, and Joe Biden plans to attend the Mass.
    (Malooly knows it is coming, too:

    Malooly said he won't be surprised if the media ask him about the best-known member of his new diocese -- Sen. Joe Biden, who is running for vice president.

    Biden, a 35-year member of the Senate, has said he believes in Catholic teachings on the sanctity of life but has often voted in favor of abortion rights.

    "I'm anxious to have a chance to speak with him as I would any politician," Malooly said at a farewell reception in Parkville, Md., last Sunday.

    He'll seek to understand Biden's point of view, much as he did with Maryland politicians. And Malooly said that he will share the scope of Catholic pro-life teachings with Biden.

    A sizable number of Catholics hold beliefs that go against church teachings, the bishop said.

    "I have to work on everybody, not just Joe Biden," Malooly said.

    Biden has been invited to the installation, but as of late Friday, Biden's staff still was trying to work out the candidate's schedule so he could attend.

    I see nothing in Malooly's comments which would lead me to believe he intends to use his installation Mass as an opportunity to begin publicly defending the teachings of the Church on this topic.
    Abp. Chaput, it should be remembered, has told the Associated Press that Joe Biden, because of his support for abortion, should refrain from taking Communion.
    Archbishop Sambi, as the apostolic nuncio, would also have an opportunity to say something officially.)
    Now let's take a look at the content of Joe Biden's argument.

    (In answer to the question: "As a Roman Catholic, when does life begin?")

    "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."

    The old mantra: "I personally believe..." Being "prepared to accept" is a reluctant phrasing.

    "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. They believe in God as strongly as I do. They're intensely as religious as I am religious. They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life--I'm prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society."

    Same argument: "I believe one thing. Other people believe another thing." Joe Biden is willing to sacrifice what he believes are human lives because other people believe they are not human lives (or believe they may kill them). That's really his position, in essence. And look at the example he uses to defend it next:

    "And I know you get the push back, "Well, what about fascism?" Everybody, you know, you going to say fascism's all right? Fascism isn't a matter of faith. No decent religious person thinks fascism is a good idea."

    This is the most incredible part of his defense. He claims that "Fascism isn't a matter of faith" but claims that abortion is a matter of faith! But this is the truth: the evil of abortion is not a matter of faith. It is a matter of reason. This is what must be taught him, publicly. (I further expand my commentary on his "fascism argument" below.)

    Tom Brokaw, to his credit, goes for the throat with his next question:

    Brokaw: "But if you, you believe that life begins at conception, and you've also voted for abortion rights..."

    Biden: "No, what a voted against curtailing the right, criminalizing abortion. I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view that it's a moment of conception. There is a debate in our church, as Cardinal Egan would acknowledge, that's existed. Back in "Summa Theologia," when Thomas Aquinas wrote "Summa Theologia," he said there was no--it didn't occur until quickening, 40 days after conception."

    Brokaw is right to point out that Biden has admitted to allowing the killing of lives he believes in faith are human. Biden's Augustine is Aquinas. But both theologians were working with an equally antiquated biology, and both men equally, constantly condemned the evil of abortion. This is a red herring that Biden offers.

    Back to the core of Biden's argument:

    "How am I going out and tell you, if you or anyone else that you must insist upon my view that is based on a matter of faith?"

    Like Pelosi did at this point, Biden now falls back to his talking points. You can stop listening at this point:

    "How am I going out and tell you, if you or anyone else that you must insist upon my view that is based on a matter of faith? And that's the reason I haven't. But then again, I also don't support a lot of other things. I don't support public, public funding. I don't, because that flips the burden. That's then telling me I have to accept a different view. This is a matter between a person's God, however they believe in God, their doctor and themselves in what is always a--and what we're going to be spending our time doing is making sure that we reduce considerably the amount of abortions that take place by providing the care, the assistance and the encouragement for people to be able to carry to term and to raise their children."

    My general observations:

    • Despite the notable differences, it's uncanny how similar are Biden and Pelosi's statements
    • Biden has claimed that the evil of abortion is a matter of faith, not reason (science, logic, biology, etc)
    • Biden has claimed a Catholic can believe life begins at conception and yet allow (and promote) abortion
    • Biden has claimed it is better to respect the opinions of the majority than to prohibit them from killing human life. To avoid violating a conscience, he will take a life. He must be answered.
    • Biden has claimed that "no decent religious person thinks fascism is a good idea." He has arbitrarily created a tautology that claims no decent religious person thought fascism was a good idea, but chooses not to also propose that "no decent religious person thinks abortion is a good idea." Essentially, Biden re-writes the historical record as he sees fit, and the fact that some people may claim to be faithful and pro-abortion means they must be correct, while others who claimed to be faithful and pro-fascism must be wrong. His explanation, with some extraction, is that people could condemn fascism for reasons besides those of faith.

    And I think, perhaps most importantly...

    • Biden has claimed, "There is a debate in our church, as Cardinal Egan would acknowledge, that's existed."

    This is not a true statement, if Biden is referring to a debate about the evil of abortion. There has never been a debate about the serious evil of abortion. Cardinal Egan would not acknowledge Biden's claim in this sense. Besides, debate does not authorize dissent. Nor does debate mean there is any ambiguity in what a faithful Catholic must actually believe and how a faithful Catholic must act. If Pelosi was wrong about this, so is Biden.

    By my count, twenty-seven bishops have now responded up Pelosi's denial of Church teaching.

    How many will come forward and correct Biden's equally-lethal separation of faith from reason and action?

    [Photo Credit: NBC's Meet the Press]
    update - other places to find good commentary on this story:

    update 2 - 9:30pm: Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, WI already devoted today's Sunday homily to this topic. You can hear the audio here (MP3 file) and read Rocco's short intro here. Jeff Miller transcribed a segment of it - truly the flood gates are opening.

    I'll be giving a Theology on Tap talk on the topic of "Faith in the Ballot Box" at the Cathedral parish of Madison, WI on Septebmer 18th. It looks like the Bishop is going to help me with talking points.

    update 3 - 8:30am, Sep. 8th: The New York Times takes note:

    Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee for vice president, departed Sunday from party doctrine on abortion rights, declaring that as a Catholic, he believes life begins at conception. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee for vice president, departed Sunday from party doctrine on abortion rights, declaring that as a Catholic, he believes life begins at conception.

    While Mr. Biden’s views may not be new to Democrats in his circle, his comments, in an interview on “Meet the Press” on NBC, came at a time when his party is confronted with a new face: Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, whose anti-abortion stance and decision to give birth just five months ago to a baby with Down syndrome have revved up the conservative base of her party.

    update 4 - 3:30pm, Sep. 8th: Archbishop Chaput of Denver has responded, learn more here.

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