Opinion | Why Catholic politicians can’t be personally pro-life but publicly pro-choice
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 22:10
I thoroughly enjoyed the vice-presidential debate last Thursday. For one, I liked seeing Paul Ryan, a Miami alumnus, out there holding his own with a senior political figure, the Vice President of the United States. In addition, as a former debate team member in high school, I enjoyed watching the verbal fencing bout that left the candidates virtually at a draw. It’s almost no fun when the debate is completely one-sided, and one candidate is trouncing the other, as was the case in the first presidential debate, but this one kept the sport in it, and I liked that.
However, one element of the debate that puzzled and perturbed me was Vice President Joe Biden’s comment towards the end of the debate about abortion. When asked about his views on abortion, Biden seemed to have a rapid change of character – from his frolicking, borderline-creepy laughing throughout the entire debate, to a somber and pensive attitude. He stated that, “With regard to abortion, I accept my Church’s position on abortion as a de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception. I accept that position in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians, and Muslims and Jews.”
Now first this puzzled me a bit. I thought to myself, “How can he claim that ‘my religion defines who I am,’ but at the same time, not listen to it?” Joe Biden is a Catholic, and the Catholic Church has not been exactly quiet regarding abortion. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority... Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death”(CCC 2273). It also says in the Catechism, “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” ( CCC 2271).
The Catholic Church believes in the inalienable right to life from conception until natural death. It has always stood by this belief, even as early as the second century A.D. This is also a fairly important teaching, as it falls under the commandment, “Thou shall not kill.” I think most of us would agree that killing of human life is a serious subject.
How can Joe Biden, a self-professed Catholic, claim to support something directly contrary to his Church’s teachings, while still professing to believe them? How can he say that he believes human life begins at conception, but still support abortion, which is the destruction of life after conception? He says that he does not wish to impose his beliefs on others, but as a Catholic, the Church teaches that we have a duty to preach the Gospel and spread justice as much as we can throughout the world (CCC 905). If he really believes that what the Catholic Church teaches is true, wouldn’t it be the most charitable thing to do to help others find the truth?
I think Michael Brendan Dougherty said it best back in June when he made the comparison of the name Catholic to the brand name of Coca-Cola. He says, “If I went out and I made a soda, of my own formula, and I called it Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola corporation would send me more than just a stiff letter. And I couldn’t just say, ‘Well, I’m making something in the great Coke tradition.’” If someone says that he or she is Catholic, and then doesn’t live up to the name, it’s the same thing as if a knock-off company made a soda that was almost like Coca-Cola, but not. It’s disappointing to the faithful (or soda-drinker) and it gives scandal to others about what the Church really teaches (or what Coca-Cola really tastes like!).
Now I’m not saying that everyone should be forced to be Catholic. And I’m not trying to reignite the debate over the destruction of the sanctity of human life that is abortion, women’s rights or the supposed “war on women.” All I’m saying is that Joe Biden, if he wishes to continue to profess to be Catholic, should change his political views on the right to life. Mr. Vice President, please don’t be a knock-off brand Catholic. And please, just be honest with the American people, especially American Catholics about what you believe in, above all when it comes to the sanctity of human life.