Archbishop of Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut William E. Lori, writing in a Tuesday statement, have responded to Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joseph Biden’s comments that the point at which human life begins is a “religiously based view,” by saying that his remarks “do not reflect the truth on the matter.”
Criticizing the senator’s claim that views on abortion should not be imposed on others, the bishops emphasized that basic justice, not just private religious belief, shows that every human being has a right not to be killed.
Sen. Biden had made his remarks in a Sunday interview with Tom Brokaw on NBC’s Meet the Press, where he said that the beginning of human life is a “personal and private” matter of religious faith and cannot be “imposed” on others.
Cardinal Rigali, who chairs the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop Lori, who chairs the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, said Biden’s remarks “do not reflect the truth on the matter.”
While noting that Biden had rightly said that human life begins at the moment of conception, the two bishops explained that the Catholic Church recognizes the obligation to protect the unborn rests upon both a biological question and a moral question, “neither of which is private or specifically religious.”
The biological question concerning when a new human life begins is addressed in embryology textbooks, which, according to the bishops, “confirm that a new human life begins at conception.”
“The Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact,” the bishops insisted, adding “modern science leaves no excuse for anyone to deny the humanity of the unborn child.”
The bishops explained the moral question has legal and political consequences, characterizing the moral question as:
“Which living members of the human species should be seen as having fundamental human rights, such as a right not to be killed?”
“The Catholic Church’s answer is: Everybody,” the bishops answered, saying, “we have no business dividing humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not.”
The bishops wrote that this is not solely a Catholic teaching but also “a principle of natural law accessible to all people of good will.”
They also noted that the U.S. Declaration of Independence also points to the same truth.
“Those who hold a narrower and more exclusionary view,” the bishops charged, “have the burden of explaining why we should divide humanity into those who have moral value and those who do not and why their particular choice of where to draw that line can be sustained in a pluralistic society. Such views pose a serious threat to the dignity and rights of other poor and vulnerable members of the human family who need and deserve our respect and protection.”
“Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice,” the bishops concluded.
Father Thomas D. Williams, LC, a Vatican analyst for CBS News, wrote in a Wednesday essay on National Review Online that Biden’s comments also threaten his reputation for being a person of conscience.
“When you say on national television that you agree with your Church that abortion is murder, but that you intend to support legislation that keeps abortion fully available, you leave voters wondering why you would support a right to what you consider to be murder,” Father Williams claimed.
“How many other convictions of conscience is Biden prepared to sell out on if they happen to conflict with those of his major donors or the prevailing political winds? And if he could commit a diplomatic blunder like this during his campaign, what would he be capable of in office?”