You Don’t Have to be Catholic to Recognize Joe Biden’s Remarkable Incoherence on Abortion

Here at Patheos, there are many different viewpoints from folks from many different faith traditions.  Timothy Dalrymple isn’t a Catholic, for example.  But one doesn’t need to be a Catholic to recognize cognitive dissonance of the magnitude that was displayed by Vice President Biden during the recent debate with candidate Paul Ryan.

Some of the liberal commentators who recognized that Biden came across as an angry and condescending thought that his finest moments were at the end, when he grew earnest and opined on his faith, abortion and religious freedom.  I thought those were his worst.

Here’s why.  While atheist mega-blogger Hemant Mehta celebrates him for it, Biden’s assertion that he accepts his church’s position that life begins at conception but refuses to “impose” that viewpoint on others is simply incoherent.  It’s like saying “I am firmly convinced that global climate change is near catastrophic levels, but I don’t believe I can impose that viewpoint on others.”  Or “I accept the position that homeless people are human and should not be killed, but I can’t ask others to live according to my beliefs.”

If you believe, as the Catholic church does, that a sacred human life begins at conception, you simply cannot do nothing.  What you are asserting (sacred human life begins at conception) is not a matter of subjective taste.  It’s an assertion of fact.  And if you are truly convinced of that fact, then there is nothing noble or tolerant or praiseworthy, or even remotely thoughtful or ethical, about standing by while those innocent human lives are extinguished.  Yet this is what passes for thoughtful piety on the Obama ticket.

Biden is saying: “I believe what the Catholic Church believes, that preborn children are sacred human lives — but I will simply stand by while anyone who wants to do so kills them.”  If he truly believes what the Catholic Church believes, then he has no right to do nothing in the face of thousands upon thousands upon thousands of abortions.  He has no right.  Either Biden does not really believe what he claims to believe, and he merely claims to believe it in order to draw as much of the Catholic vote as possible — or he is profoundly failing in his moral obligation to care for the children who are being aborted, because he finds it personally or politically convenient to raise no objection.

I don’t know which is worse.

Oh yes he does.  Because a failure like that isn’t a philosophical fragment, but a trip down a philosophical black hole.  How is a line of reasoning like this ever tenable?

“I am personally opposed to (fill in blank with atrocity here), but I would never wish to impose my own beliefs on others committing (fill in blank with atrocity here).”

Because you have to look no further than a couple of pages into the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) to run smack dab into these words,

23     The Catechism emphasizes the exposition of doctrine. It seeks to help deepen understanding of faith. In this way it is oriented towards the maturing of that faith, its putting down roots in personal life, and its shining forth in personal conduct.

But maybe Mr. Biden’s personal views on abortion eclipsing his faith tradition’s view on abortion was just something the Vice President said during a debate. Maybe he didn’t mean that. Maybe what he meant was the exact opposite. Here’s what he said in Wisconsin the day after the debate to clarify things,

Wow! Planned Parenthood, by law, cannot perform abortions. Who knew?! That’s news to them.

Harvey Dent aka “Two Face”

Funny that Mr. Biden should use the word “consequential” there at the end of the clip. Interesting also how contrary to his purported personal beliefs, which he holds are in full alignment with the Catholic Church, it seems that Mr. Biden’s actual personal beliefs are indeed the exact opposite of what he claims they are. How else to explain why he presented the scary future for supporters of abortion if President Obama loses this election?

Shifting gears for the rest of this post, I argue that when judging the candidates it behooves us to look beyond the personalities of the candidates themselves and perhaps look to the underlying beliefs of their political parties. Perhaps looking at the two dominant parties platforms would be worth doing.

I’m aware that this is a lot less fun than taking potshots at candidates, but it’s no less than what we do as Catholics when we say the deeds of those who abused children sexually, for example, are lightyears away from the tenets of our faith, which are spelled out in the Catechism.

It seems I’m not the only one to think of this.

By looking at the platforms, see, we’ll be less susceptible to the cults of personality effect that Rick Wilson of Ricochet reminds us of here,

When edifices – particularly political edifices built around the myth and personality of one man – collapse, they collapse suddenly. The center does not hold. The man dragged from the spider hole isn’t a dictator, he’s a prisoner. The Master of the Universe hedge fund manager who’s really just a Ponzi schemer gets booked at Rikers like the rest of ‘em. The spell cast by power, once broken, is hard to restore.

Getting caught up in cults of personality leads so many of us, from all political persuasions, to plunge into the abyss of election season induced insanity.

Avoiding this quagmire may help prevent many of us from being exploited, as Sam Rocha warns us about here, and nip in the bud any proclivity to become an overly scrupulous voter, one who feels caught like a deer in the headlights between the rock and the hard place on the horns of an electoral moral dilemma.

Remember Joe Six-Pack’s advice: pray, think, vote, move on.

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  • JRTomlin

    Incoherence? OR DECENCY?
    As a Catholic, you do NOT have the right to force your beliefs on me — a non-Catholic.

    • Frank Weathers

      Note: our republic is a representative democracy. It is not the dictatorship of the minority or of the majority. Nor is it the dictatorship of decency. Think it through.

    • Julianne Wiley

      You have not engaged the arguments presented in the article. Let’s look at your phrase “force our beliefs” — considering the word “beliefs” first.

      Although Biden said that life beginning at conception was a *de fide* article of the Catholic faith, he was wrong about that. The initatiation of each person’s human life is something that is scientifically demonstrable: it is simply a fact that each life— yours, mine, and everybody else’s — begans at conception or (even more accurately) fertilization. That ewas Day One. One doesn’t go to “the faith” to determine this: one goes to embryology.
      So the determination of life is not a “de fide” belief nor opinion. One cannot compel belief, but a fact, with its sufficient evidence, can compel acknowledgement.

      The question then becomes, could a law that restricts the killing of the conceived child pass legal scrutiny? What level would be appropriate? Rational purpose, intermediate scrutiny, or strict scrutiny?
      It is reasonable to say that the killing of the young of our species is a matter which has both ethical and practical consequences making it a fit matter for public policy. Certainly if the killing of eagles, condors and snail darters is a matter of civic concern, the killing of tens of millions of our own species has even more significance.

      So the exclusion of our own species from the protection of the law does not exemplify decency. Such protection serves a rational secular purpose. It does not require any “supernatural” or “faith” perspective, and it passes muster as a fit subject for public policy.

    • Joanne

      If you charge that someone is trying to ‘force your beliefs on me’ thereby violating your rights, you ought to be able to state just what kind of unlawful force is being used, what law is being broken, and what right is being violated. To put it another way you should explain why any organization, religious or otherwise, should be barred from proposing laws with which disagree.

  • Jeff Miller

    Besides it is especially dumb to say you can’t impose on others as a legislator in a representative form of government. There might possibly be some act of government that every single person accepts, but otherwise every act of government imposes against somebodies wishes. Though saying you can’t impose and defend the HHS mandate is just purposeful incoherence.

    • Frank Weathers

      Clever as snakes, and innocent as same. O_o.

  • IB Bill

    Look, if you don’t like slavery, don’t own a slave. Is that really that hard to understand? I mean, I personally don’t believe people are property. But I’m not going to impose my values on you.

    Similarly, I personally believe people aren’t property just because they are unborn. But the ethical thing to do is for me to say nothing if you decide that an unborn child is your property and you want to kill him/her. I mean, just because we have a difference of opinion about the competing rights of two people where one wants to kill the other doesn’t mean the community should get involved.

    The source of our natural rights is our mommies, who speak our rights into being by their sovereign and unquestionable declaration of us either as human or property. It says so right in the Declaration of Independence, “and they are endowed by their Creator (read Mommies) with certain unalienable rights …”

    Woman are the Creator. They are gods now. You don’t really think they are going to give up that power, do you?


    • Frank Weathers


  • RoodAwakening

    Likewise, the Democratic party and it current government does NOT have the right to force its pagan beliefs, as evidenced by its rabid adherence to child sacrifice, on me, a Catholic, or force me to comply with it.

  • Jan

    So, does Mr. Biden propose to do away with all laws against murder, robbery, theft, etc. because he doesn’t want to impose his views on others? Don’t all laws have a moral basis? We live in a world where we need laws to co-exist peacefully with one another. Because a child is weak and vulnerable doesn’t make them any less of a person who is deserving of its life. But we all know that in our hearts – God’s law is written on each of our hearts.

  • Nathan

    In other words, Biden is saying that he does not want stand in the way of a woman and a doctor deciding the best way of killing a child. The constitution states “… that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. Notice what “life” is first. How can anybody ever have the right to liberty and pursue happiness when their lives are terminated in the womb? One cannot be against abortion and be pro-choice ; that’s an oxymoron. And no, Joe Biden is NOT Catholic. He may think he is but he is a poor deceived man who is putting his soul in danger. Abortion and homosexual marriages are two of the five non-negotiables of the Catholic Church.