By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, DC, September 8, 2008 ( – Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama back-pedaled on Sunday when asked about his statement that it was “above my pay grade” to determine when a baby is eligible for human rights, and admitted that the remark was “too flip.”

Obama had made the comment during a nationally-televised presidential forum at Saddleback Church of Orange County, where pastor Rick Warren invited both presidential nominees to answer questions impromptu before a Christian audience.  When Warren asked Obama when a baby gets human rights, Obama answered, “I think that, whether you’re looking at it from the theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.”

Obama’s statement has been the source of much derision from social conservatives, who have characterized it as a cowardly and sophistical dodge of a vital issue.

When George Stephanopoulos asked Obama on ABC’s This Week about the answer, Obama said agreed with Stephanopoulos’ suggestion that the answer was too flippant. 

“Probably,” Obama said. “Yes. I mean, what I intended to say is that, as a Christian, I have a lot of humility about understanding when does the soul enter into…”

“It goes back to Augustine,” Stephanopoulos interjected, recalling Nancy Pelosi’s defense of Obama’s statement by claiming that, as a Catholic, she was able to find support for her pro-abortion views in the writings of St. Augustine.

“It does,” Obama said. “It’s a pretty tough question.”  Obama went on to explain that his “pay grade” comment was meant to highlight the religious nature of the issue: “All I meant to communicate was that I don’t presume to be able to answer these kinds of theological questions.”  He admitted that “abortion is a moral issue,” but said he does not think that the government should “criminalize” the choice to abort as the correct way to reduce abortions.

Joe Biden also faced the question of abortion this past weekend on NBC’s Meet the Press, the same venue where Nancy Pelosi made the remarks that earned her the rebuke of a score of US bishops. Biden followed directly in Pelosi’s footsteps, saying that he believes, as a Catholic, that life begins with conception, but that his strong pro-abortion record can nevertheless be squared with his Catholic faith.

However, Biden later contradicted his supposed adherence to the Church’s teaching that life begins at conception, instead invoking the medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas, who lived in the 13th century, to argue that there is “debate” within the Church about the question of when life begins. (See coverage here:

See related coverage:

“Catholic” Speaker Pelosi Denies that Catholicism Condemns Abortion

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

USCCB Delivers One Last Blow to “Catholic” Pelosi on Abortion Remarks


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