By Jonquil Frankham

WILMINGTON, October 27, 2008 ( – Senator Joseph Biden’s bishop, Bishop W. Francis Malooley of Wilmington, Delaware, has publicly corrected the Democratic VP candidate on the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion in a letter published in The News Journal.

In Biden’s interview with The News Journal published October 19, the Catholic politician referred to what he claimed was the Catholic Church’s long-standing internal “debate” over the morality of abortion. “[T]hroughout the church’s history, we’ve argued between whether or not it is wrong in every circumstance and the degree of wrong. Catholics have this notion, it’s almost a gradation.” According to Biden, abortion wasn’t finally condemned by the Church until the 1860’s, under Pius IX.

The bishop tells his readers, however, that Biden is “simply incorrect.” The Judeo-Christian tradition has always held abortion a grave evil, and the Didache, a Christian document dating from the end of the first century, “explicitly condemns abortion without exception.”

Some ancient and medieval theologians did question when life in the womb could be considered human, or endowed with a soul, observes the bishop. Aquinas concluded that a baby was human when it looked human: that is, when its sex could be determined. “Nevertheless”, the bishop points out, “they (theologians) universally condemned all abortions.”

Biden said that he finds his “comfort zone” as a pro-abortion Catholic in Roe v. Wade, which is, he proposes, a “sort of a civil remedyâEUR¦ for a theological dilemma.”

The VP candidate also referred to the Trimester division of Roe v. Wade, which is now obsolete. Roe v. Wade originally differentiated between the first, second, and third trimesters. It said that life in the first trimester is entirely expendable because not recognizably human, but that the state becomes increasingly interested in the life of the baby in the second and third trimesters, as he or she becomes more and more obviously human. The Supreme Court no longer makes any distinction between the first and second trimesters.

Bishop Malooley insists: “Since there is no gradation in the Church’s teaching on abortion, there is no way the medically obsolete division of pregnancy into three trimesters by Roe v. Wade can have any bearing on the rightness or wrongness of abortion. Taking an innocent life in the womb is wrong at any stage of pregnancy.”

Joe Biden claims that his Catholic upbringing formed him in a “culture of social responsibility,” and implies that his position on abortion devolves naturally from this culture. His bishop tells him, however, that the American Constitution holds life as the most fundamental right of man and that “[t]his understanding of the state’s primary obligation to protect human life is also fundamental to Catholic social doctrine to which the senator points. Without life all other rights are meaningless.”

Bishop Malooley concludes his letter, saying, “This Sunday, all the parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington will pray the Litany of St. Thomas More, martyr and patron saint of statesmen, politicians and lawyers. We will ask St. Thomas More to intercede so all statesmen and politicians may be courageous and effective in their defense and promotion of the sanctity of human life. We hope Sen. Biden will carefully listen to the Church’s 2,000 years of testimony on abortion and that he will join in the defense and promotion of the sanctity of life.”