The Catholic Church's teaching is not only that abortion is always wrong, but also that Catholics in public office have a grave duty to oppose legalizing it while speaking out clearly against it.
The position Biden took on abortion before an audience of many millions in this nationally televised debate was in direct defiance of an ancient moral teaching of the church that has been emphatically restated by the current pope and his immediate predecessor.
Before explaining why he wants aborting unborn children to be legal, Biden told the nation that he had been “a practicing Catholic” his whole life and that his social views had been formed by the church’s teachings “about taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves.”
“My religion defines who I am, and I have been a practicing Catholic my whole life,” Biden said. “And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.
“With regard to abortion,” he said, “I accept my church’s position on abortion as a, what we call de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christian and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman.
“I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that, women, that they can’t control their body,” said Biden. “It is a decision bet ween them and their doctor, in my view, and the Supreme Court. I am not going to interfere with that.”
The actual position of the Catholic Church is that any law legalizing the killing of an unborn child is an unjust law that violates the natural law and is, therefore, no law at all. Vice President Biden’s church teaches that it is not acceptable even to obey such laws let alone support them as part of a political campaign.
"Laws which authorize and promote abortion and euthanasia are therefore radically opposed not only to the good of the individual but also to the common good; as such they are completely lacking in authentic juridical validity." Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1995 encyclical letter, Evangelium Vitae.
"Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good," the pope said. "Consequently, a civil law authorizing abortion or euthanasia ceases by that very fact to be a true, morally binding civil law.
"Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize," said the pope. "There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection."
"In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it,'" declared the pope.
In 2002, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote a "Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life." The note, approved and published by Pope John Paul II, reiterated that Catholic lawmakers have a "grave and clear obligation" to oppose legalized abortion and other attacks on the right to life. Indeed, here the church said it was "impossible" for a Catholic to promote such laws.
“At the same time, legislative proposals are put forward which, heedless of the consequences for the existence and future of human beings w ith regard to the formation of culture and social behaviour, attack the very inviolability of human life," said this statement of Catholic teaching.
"Catholics, in this difficult situation, have the right and the duty to recall society to a deeper understanding of human life and to the responsibility of everyone in this regard," Cardinal Ratzinger wrote. "John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a «grave and clear obligation to oppose» any law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them."
Cardinal Ratzinger also said in this official Vatican statement that Catholics have a similar inalterable duty to defend the rights of human embryos and the institution of marriage.
“When political activity comes up against moral principles that do not admit of exception, compromise or derogation, the Catholic comm itment becomes more evident and laden with responsibility," said the doctrinal note...
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