Joe Biden, Catholic for Choice

In the words of Vice President Joe Biden, from the transcript of the 10/11/12 Vice Presidential Debate:

My religion defines who I am. And I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who — who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.

With regard to — with regard to abortion, 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 Christians and Muslims and Jews and — I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman.

I — I do not believe that — that we have a right to tell other people that women, they — they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor, in my view. And the Supreme Court — I’m not going to interfere with that.

With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy — any hospital — none has to either refer contraception. None has to pay for contraception. None has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.

Now, with regard to the way in which the — we differ, my friend says that he — well, I guess he accepts Governor Romney’s position now, because in the past he has argued that there was — there’s rape and forcible rape. He’s argued that, in the case of rape or incest, it was still — it would be a crime to engage in having an abortion. I just fundamentally disagree with my friend.

And, despite the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops already taking exception to the statement about religious institutions being exempt from paying for contraception coverage, it remains true.  In addition, like Biden, most Catholics do not agree with the leadership’s ongoing legal battle:

A survey of 1,000 self-identified Catholic voters found that overwhelming majorities feel no obligation to vote the way the bishops tell them to (83 percent) and think Catholic politicians are free to ignore voting instructions from the bishops (76 percent).

More results from that survey can be found here.


About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and also teaches Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • Frank

    In other words…..

    Biden: “I have no integrity!”

    • Florence V Davis

      Biden’s integrity in his personal life does not mean he can force other Americans to submit to Catholic beliefs regarding contraception or abortion. Religious freedom means you can choose your religious belief about reproduction as guided by your own conscience. If you believe otherwise, Frank, perhaps your own integrity is in question.

      • Pseudonym

        Bingo. This is exactly it.

        For a modern Roman Catholic, “integrity” does not imply inquisitions. Compelling others to follow your religion is one of the least Christian things there is.

      • Gilbert Paul

        Pseudonym et al,
        The issue is not whether or not people should be able to follow their own beleifs. The issue is
        that the Obama Administration has violated the First Amendment by ordering the Catholic Church and
        its institutions to comply with federal directives, including the paying of premiums and taxes for
        abortion, ObamaCare which includes so-called mercy killing, sterilization and birth control. In the
        first place, Mr. Biden, during the debate did lie about his being in full accord with the Roman Catholic
        Church–if he were, the Catholic Church, Cardinal Dolin and all would not be conducting a lawsuit
        against the President Obama and Joe Biden.
        Mr. Biden also lied about intimating that if Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan were to be chosen for
        president and vice-president, the freedom to have an abortion would go up in smoke because they
        would appoint Supreme Court justices who would nullify Roe v. Wade. One can tell that is not true
        because we currently have and have had, for some time, enough justices to vote against Roe v. Wade.
        They did not and will not–because there is no case brought before the Supreme Court. The truth is no President of the United States has the power to change our current laws on abortion—which are relegated to each of the 50 states, individually. Joe Biden also, I believe, did not tell the truth about the
        Libya terrorist attack—just as President Obama did not. Mr. Bidden kept saying that they would get to the bottom of the matter in Libya. I kept saying, as I watched the debate, words and thoughts to the effect that you and Mr. Obama should have have been on top of it so as to preclude the killing an torture of our ambassador. It’s a bit late to get to the bottom of it.
        And throwing the State Dept. and the Security agencies under the bus says all too much about the
        character of Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden.

        • Pseudonym

          The issue is not whether or not people should be able to follow their own beleifs.

          That is the issue that concerns me.

          If the Catholic Church pays an employee a salary, they have no right (whether under the First Amendment or any other legal theory) to dictate what that employee spends their money on, even if it’s something that the church believes is inherently immoral. To do so would violate the freedom of religion and freedom of conscience of the employee. Just because the salary is partly paid as a health insurance premium does not change this.

          The Catholic Church is not required to pay for birth control or abortions. They are required to pay for health care, and what form that health care takes is up to the employees and their doctors.

      • pagansister

        Well said, Florence v. Davis, well said!

    • Caryn Riswold

      Which you must also think of the vast majority of other Catholics who share this view?
      Now we know even more about you, “Frank.”

      • Frank

        I wouldn’t call anyone Catholic that does not follow the teachings of the Catholic church.

        I am glad you are doing some learning. Maybe, just maybe…..

        • pagansister

          You might not call anyone Catholic that doesn’t follow the teachings of the Church, Frank, but there are many very good, faithful Catholics ( I taught in a Catholic school with many of them) who believe it is not up to them to tell women what to do with their bodies. They felt that women were smart enough to make up their own minds and do what was best for them. Vice-President Biden is fortunately one of those Catholics.

  • Frank

    Of course you cannot force morality. I am glad you agree that supporting abortion is immoral.

    Integrity is when what you believe, say and do all line up. His inaction on standing up for what he claims to believe is a severe lack of integrity. That does not mean he would be able to pass laws it just means that he has integrity, which clearly he lacks.

    • Elizabeth

      Actually, this shows that he’s prioritized his beliefs. Joe Biden apparently also believes in a government that has guaranteed it’s citizens freedom from a specific religious doctrine. I fail to see how his speech lacks integrity. He is still supporting what he believes and his actions (at least not in this debate) agree with his proposed belief system.

      • Frank

        So politics trumps protecting life for Biden? That’s not any better.

        • Pseudonym

          The job of the US President includes:

          - Commander in Chief of the armed forces, should Congress decide to go to war (and they have abrogated that responsibility in recent decades).
          - Deciding clemency and/or pardons in federal cases where defendants have been sentenced to death.

          Moreover, the President of the United States now has now the responsibility to extra-judicially assassinate US citizens living abroad on whatever pretext seems appropriate.

          So to answer your question: yes, politics trumps protecting life for pretty much everyone who has ever occupied the White House.

  • Chris

    I, personally, wouldn’t shoot the guy next door, but I cannot force my morality on anyone else; therefore shooting the guy next door should not be against the law. In addition, because many think it is not morally reprehensible, you should keep your morals to yourself. Unless of course, I am “the guy next door”. Common sense is no longer very common.

  • Kenny Kamel

    Being a pro-abortion Catholic is equivalent to being a Jew who supports/supported the Holocaust. One can claim to be a Catholic but there are standards any and all Catholics have to follow to be in good standing with the Church. Joe Biden is not in good standing with the Church, Archbishop Charles Chaput has stated that Biden should refrain from receiving Holy Communion.

    Frankly how can anyone trust Joe Biden, a man who does not even know his own voting record? He stated that he voted against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the debate, Joe you voted for both. The USCCB told him he was wrong about his comments regarding HHS and Obamacare in the debate, he can hardly call himself a Catholic let alone a good Catholic who’s faith defines him.

    • Caryn Riswold

      Pro-choice does not equal pro-abortion.
      The equivalency to the Holocaust is false.
      The bishops are out of touch with their own members on this and other issues, as survey after survey makes plain.

      • Rich

        From your comment about the “bishops”, I take it you must believe the majority is always right.
        The last time that I checked, Catholicism was a religion, not a club. I’m not Catholic, but I presume the bishops feel they are accountable to a “higher” authority, not the majority. If they are true to their responsibility to lead (regardless of how flawed many might feel that leadership is), how can they advise their followers to do something other than what they believe is right? You and I know that mankind has a bent toward something called “sin”, and has not always demonstrated a desire to choose rightly. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;” Isaiah 53:6a. Of course, if we’d rather pick and choose what WE believe to be right, there’s always the freedom to start our own religion (or choose to have none). Ultimately, we will all be responsible for our own choices anyway. So with this freedom of choice, isn’t it a legitimate question to ask why someone would associate themselves with a group when they don’t fully promote it’s beliefs. It’s a bit deceiving to say that you ascribe to something and then attempt to reap the benefits of saying its good for me, but may not be good for you. What level of conviction does that project? What does that say about the strength of his values?


      • pagansister

        Amen, Caryn Riswold! I totally agree with you.

    • Frank

      Exactly. But prepare for equivocation and foolishness in defense of an indefensible contrary position.

    • Frank

      Exactly. But prepare for equivocation and foolishness in defense of an indefensible contrary position.

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