By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

September 8, 2008 ( – Senator Joseph Biden, the Democratic nominee for vice president, strayed from party ideology on abortion rights yesterday, declaring that as a Catholic, he believes life begins at conception, but then went on to say he would not “impose” his personal views on others. Later in the interview he also seemed to suggest that life may not begin at conception after all.

Tom Brokaw of NBC’s Meet The Press asked, “As a Roman Catholic, when does life begin?”

Biden replied, “I’d say, look, I know when it begins for me. It’s a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I’m prepared to accept the teachings of my church.” Biden then added, “I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society.”

Brokaw challenged Biden further: “But if you, you believe that life begins at conception, and you’ve also voted for abortion rightsâEUR¦”

Biden responded that he believed he did not vote for abortion, but simply against removing the “right” to abortion.

“No,” he said, “what I voted against, curtailing the right, criminalizing abortion. I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view that it’s a moment of conception.”

Moments later, however, Biden appeared to contradict himself by indicating that there is “doubt” on the same Church teaching he had just said he believed – that life begins at conception. “There is a debate in our church, as Cardinal Egan would acknowledge, that’s existed,” he said. “Back in Summa Theologia, when Thomas Aquinas wrote Summa Theologia, he said there was no – it didn’t occur until quickening, 40 days after conception.”

The “it” referred to by Biden, is the question of when the human soul is infused into the fetus. Some ancient and medieval Christian philosophers speculated, prior to the advent of modern embryology, that the human soul may not have been infused into the embryo until some time into gestation. These same philosophers, however, also unanimously condemned abortion.

In invoking a medieval philosopher to justify his support for abortion, Biden followed the same route as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who only recently, on the same show, invoked St. Augustine to support her abortion stance.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops in their recently published fact sheet on the issue, meant as a response to Pelosi’s erroneous statements, directly challenged “those who say this (Catholic) teaching (on abortion) has changed or is of recent origin.”

The document quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states, “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” (No. 2271).

The fact sheet explains the church’s consistent teaching on abortion as an intrinsically evil act that can never be morally right, and provides scientific evidence that “conception produces a new living being” and that “this individual is, at the outset, distinctively human, with the inherent and active potential to mature into a human fetus, infant, child and adult.”

“Given the scientific fact that a human life begins at conception, the only moral norm needed to understand the Church’s opposition to abortion is the principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with the respect due to a human person,” the document concludes.

More than two dozen bishops ( and 19 congressmen have already condemned Nancy Pelosi’s “pro-abortion Catholic” political posturing.

The text of “Respect for Unborn Human Life: The Church’s Constant Teaching” is available here:

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Pelosi’s Theologizing on Abortion is a Repeat of Biden’s Own Quotes on Meet the Press

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