Monday, August 25, 2008

Catholics Against Joe Biden

By now, you probably heard the big news about how the Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama has selected Senator Joe Biden as his Vice President candidate. Joe Biden is a "Catholic" in support of intrinsic evils such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research and thus goes against his faith in such matters.

A new blog has been established to provide ongoing analysis and commentary on the positions of Senator Biden at variance with clear and authoritative Catholic moral teaching. It is hoped that as a community, we will move Senator Biden and other "pro-choice Catholics" of all political parties to self-examination and greater obedience to the teachings of Christ and His Church.

The following information from the Catholics Against Joe Biden blog provides the foundation for our concern:

Why should Catholics oppose Senator Joe Biden?

Catholic Teaching on Abortion and the Obligation of Catholics in Public Life

In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae ("The Gospel of Life"), Pope John Paul II stated that

Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an "unspeakable crime."
Regarding laws which seek to legitimize abortion, the Pope asserted that Catholics have a "grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection."

Speaking on the topic of Catholics in Political Life, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops affirm an "unequivocal commitment to the legal protection of human life from the moment of conception until natural death," stated that "the killing of an unborn child is always intrinsically evil and can never be justified," and emphasize the duty of Catholic legislators:

To make such intrinsically evil actions legal is itself wrong. This is the point most recently highlighted in official Catholic teaching. The legal system as such can be said to cooperate in evil when it fails to protect the lives of those who have no protection except the law. In the United States of America, abortion on demand has been made a constitutional right by a decision of the Supreme Court. Failing to protect the lives of innocent and defenseless members of the human race is to sin against justice. Those who formulate law therefore have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws, lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good.

Senator Joe Biden: At Odds with the Church

On August 23, 2008, it was announced that Illinois Senator Barack Obama -- a Christian politician with his own lamentable record on the "life issues" -- had selected DE Senator Joe Biden to be his running mate in the 2008 U.S. Presidential elections.

As with Senator John Kerry in 2004, Biden's prominent role as a Catholic in public service, together with his deplorable record on abortion and embryonic stem cell research (in addition to other issues), has placed the matter of the responsibilities of Catholic legislators and the reception of the Eucharist by those unworthy before the public eye.

According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Biden "strongly support[s] Roe v. Wade":

He said he is "prepared to accept" the Catholic Church's teaching that life begins at conception but said Roe v. Wade "is as close to we're going to be able to get as a society" to incorporating diverging religious views on the issue. Although he voted in favor of the bill to ban late-term abortions, Biden said the Supreme Court's April 2007 decision to uphold the ban was "intellectually dishonest," saying its language undermined Roe v. Wade.

Biden voted in favor of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, which was vetoed by President Bush. The bill would have allowed federal funding for research on stem cell lines obtained from discarded human embryos originally created for fertility treatments.
A summary of Joe Biden's recognizably mixed record on abortion and Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR) can be obtained from; a list has also been provided by the Family Research Council.

On a positive note, Biden opposes public funding of abortion, stating on Meet The Press in 2007 that "It goes to the question of whether or not you're going to impose a view to support something that is not a guaranteed right but an affirmative action to promote."

Voted for the Partial Birth Abortion Ban: S. 1692, Partial Birth Abortion Ban, Roll Call 99-340, October 21, 1999 -- but, as the FRC points out, "He did not vote on the one that became law in the 108th Congress."

That said, Biden's general support of Roe v. Wade and a number of his specific votes on abortion and life-related issues merit the concern of Catholics:
  • He voted against a ban on transporting minors across state lines for an abortion (S.403, Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, Roll Call 06-216, July 25, 2006.

  • He voted against parental notification of minors who get out-of-state abortions: S.403, Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, Roll Call 06-216, July 25, 2006.

  • He voted against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which made it a criminal offense to harm or kill a fetus during the commission of a violent crime. S.1019/H.R. 1997, Unborn Victims of Violence Act, Roll Call 04-63, March 25, 2004.

  • He voted for increasing taxpayer funding for destructive embryonic stem cell experimentation: S.5/H.R. 3, Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, Roll Call 07-127, April 11, 2007.

  • He voted for increasing funding to Planned Parenthood and similar clinics by $100 million: S.Amdt. 244 to S.Con.Res 18, Appropriation to expand access to preventive health care services, Roll Call 05-75, March 17, 2005.

  • Voted against a ban on abortions on military bases: S. 2549, Roll Call 00-134, June 20, 2000.

  • Voted against a ban on human cloning: Motion to proceed for S. 1601, Roll Call 98-10, February 11, 1998.
The FRC also points out that Senator Biden co-sponsored the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) in the 102nd and 103rd Congresses but -- in fairness -- has not done so since. FOCA would overturn hundreds of state laws on the books that limit abortion.

In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Senator Biden disputed the notion that disobedience to Catholic moral teaching placed one at odds with the Church:
"My views are totally consistent with Catholic social doctrine ... There are elements within the church who say that if you are at odds with any of the teachings of the church, you are at odds with the church. I think the church is bigger than that."
In 2007, he boasted on MSNBC: "I strongly support Roe v. Wade... That's why I led the fight to defeat Bork, Roberts Alito, and Thomas."

On the Profanation of the Eucharist by "Pro-Choice" Catholic Politicians

On the matter of dispensing communion to admittedly "pro-choice" Catholics, one can appeal to no greater an authority than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. In a 2004 memorandum -- Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles -- sent to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Bishop Wilton Gregory:

5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

6. When "these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible," and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, "the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it" (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration "Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics" [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.
The issue was explored at greater length by Archbishop Raymond Burke, who in 2007 published an article in the prestigious canon law journal Periodica de re Canonica, entitled: The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin.

In June 2008, Archbishop Burke was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to the office of Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the highest tribunal of the Vatican). In a recent interview, Archbishop Burke reiterated his position that Catholics, especially politicians who publicly defend abortion, should not receive Communion:

“Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily is a sacrilege,” he warned. “If it is done deliberately in mortal sin it is a sacrilege.”

To illustrate his point, he referred to “public officials who, with knowledge and consent, uphold actions that are against the Divine and Eternal moral law. For example, if they support abortion, which entails the taking of innocent and defenseless human lives. A person who commits sin in this way should be publicly admonished in such a way as to not receive Communion until he or she has reformed his life,” the archbishop said.

“If a person who has been admonished persists in public mortal sin and attempts to receive Communion, the minister of the Eucharist has the obligation to deny it to him. Why? Above all, for the salvation of that person, preventing him from committing a sacrilege,” he added.(Source: Catholics who support abortion should not receive Communion, says Archbishop Burke Catholic News Agency. August 19, 2008).

The Catholic advocacy group Fidelis points out, Biden's former bishop, Michael Saltarelli of Wilmington has said that the issues pertaining to the sanctity of human life are the "great civil rights issues of this generation" and warned against the profanation of the Eucharist by unworthy reception:

Bishop Saltarelli denounced the notion that politicians can 'personally oppose' abortion, but refuse to pass laws protecting the unborn.

"No one today would accept this statement from any public servant: 'I am personally opposed to human slavery and racism but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena.' Likewise, none of us should accept this statement from any public servant: "I am personally opposed to abortion but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena,” said Bishop Saltarelli.

In fact, Bishop Saltarelli made clear that pro-abortion Catholic politicians should refrain from receiving the Eucharist.

"The promotion of abortion by any Catholic is a grave and serious matter. Objectively, according to the constant teaching of the Scriptures and the Church, it would be more spiritually beneficial for such a person to refrain from receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. I ask Catholics in this position to have the integrity to respect the Eucharist, Catholic teaching and the Catholic faithful.”
Bishop Saltarelli reached the age of retirement on January 17, 2008. The Diocese of Wilmington’s new bishop, W. Francis Malooly, will be installed September 8th.

Further Reading

Vote for Real Hope and Change, by Charles J. Chaput. First Things' "On The Square" August 19, 2008. Excerpt:

"Obviously, we have other important issues facing us this fall: the economy, the war in Iraq, immigration justice. But we can’t build a healthy society while ignoring the routine and very profitable legalized homicide that goes on every day against America’s unborn children. The right to life is foundational. Every other right depends on it. Efforts to reduce abortions, or to create alternatives to abortion, or to foster an environment where more women will choose to keep their unborn child, can have great merit—but not if they serve to cover over or distract from the brutality and fundamental injustice of abortion itself. We should remember that one of the crucial things that set early Christians apart from the pagan culture around them was their rejection of abortion and infanticide. Yet for thirty-five years I’ve watched prominent “pro-choice” Catholics justify themselves with the kind of moral and verbal gymnastics that should qualify as an Olympic event. All they’ve really done is capitulate to Roe v. Wade."

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