Biden Rebuked by Bishops: Life at Conception Not Faith But Fact

Barack Obama's running mate could use a bit of remedial education on both biology and Catholic teaching. Biden joins House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in being publicly corrected by Catholic clergy for misrepresenting the teachings of the Catholic Church on human life before the media.

The Associated Press has the story (excerpted below via The AP also covered the Pelosi row as well as Fox News, the Washington Post, and Reuters. Some outlets, such as CNN, presented a virtual blackout on the Pelosi story, as my colleague Matthew Balan noted on August 27.

In its September 10 story, the AP news wire noted that Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop William Lori corrected Biden's September 7 statement on "Meet the Press" that he could not impose his personal conviction that life begins at conception upon others via his role as a legislator (emphasis mine):

Asked on the program about when life begins, Biden said: "Look, I know when it begins for me. It's a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I am prepared to accept the teachings in my church."

He added that while he believes life begins "at the moment of conception," it would inappropriate to impose that view on others in a pluralistic society.

The bishops said Biden was right to say human life begins at conception. But the church "does not teach this as matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact," they said.

"Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice," they added.

A spokesman for Biden did not immediately respond Tuesday to requests for comment.

Rigali, of Philadelphia, is chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Lori, of Bridgeport, Conn., is chairman of the bishops' Committee on Doctrine.

Beyond the abortion issue, this incident illustrates both the battle between objective and subjective morality and the violence that subjective morality does to intellectual honesty, in this case Biden's changing a matter of objective scientific fact -- conception being the origin of a new life -- into an open question to be answered subjectively.

Something tells me, however, that this will earn much coverage in the media beyond the occasional wire service report.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.