.- Bishop of Madison Robert C. Morlino and Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput have responded to Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joseph Bidenâs characterization that the point when life begins is a religious belief, criticizing him for âflawed moral reasoning,â confusing the Catholic faithful and confusing the differences between faith and natural law.
In a Sunday interview on NBCâs Meet the Press, Sen. Biden had said that he is âprepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conceptionâ but would not impose that belief on anyone through law. He claimed that to do so would be âinappropriate in a pluralistic society.â
Bishop Morlino made impromptu remarks in his Sunday homily, saying he had thrown away his prepared homily âfor other considerations.â
Explaining that his point was not âto speak against Democrats,â but to address people who âclaim to be Catholic,â he discussed Sen. Joseph Biden and Rep. Nancy Pelosiâs remarks about abortion.
âThey are roughly my ageâ¦ so that means that Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Biden were educated just about the same time I was,â he noted.
Stating he could not speak to the exact details of Pelosiâs Catholic education, Bishop Morlino said âI have to believe that she was taught that abortion was always wrong.â
After the Second Vatican Council, Bishop Morlino said, âcertain theologians and some priests and some bishopsâ started to allow the kind of teaching Rep. Pelosi received, and âallowed her to be confused.â
âShe doesnât know church history, doesnât know the theology of the Church Fathers about abortion at this moment,â he said.
If she knew it at one time, Bishop Morlino asserted, âshe doesnât know it now.â
Turning his remarks to Sen. Biden, Bishop Morlino said he and the senator shared as their hometown Scranton, Pennsylvania.
âI am positive of what Sen. Biden was taught in Scranton. And itâs the same thing that I was taught,â he declared.
While Rep. Pelosi may be confused, he said, he claimed Sen. Biden doesnât understand the difference between âreligious faith and natural law.â
âAny human being -- regardless of his faith, his religious practice or having no faith -- any human being can reason to the fact that human life from conception unto natural death is sacred,â he argued. âBiology -- not faith, not philosophy, not any kind of theology -- Biology tells us, science [says], that at the moment of conception there exists a unique individual of the human species.â
âIt's not a matter of what I might believe. What my faith might teach me,â he said.
âSen. Biden has an obligation to know that. And he doesnât know it.â
Charging that some theologians, priests, and bishops also allowed Biden to become confused, Bishop Morlino then criticized politicians for confusing the Catholic faithful.
âThey're supposed to believe in separation of church and state. They're violating the separation of church and state by confusing people about what I have an obligation to teach,â he charged, though he did not hold them culpable.
âThey themselves were confused after the Council and I don't blame them for that. Bishops allowed it, theologians did it, some priests did it, and in Canada even some bishops did it.â
Again insisting he wasnât speaking about Democrats or even pro-life issues, he said his focus was upon the âawareness of faith, the catechesis that every Catholic should have.â He asked his listeners to make sure they themselves really understand what the Catholic faith teaches, through the Pope and the bishops.
âProminent Catholics should not be violating the separation of church and stateâ by âteaching the wrong thing.â Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Biden, he said, are âdoing precisely that.â
âIf Republican candidates were doing precisely that, I would speak out with exactly the same determination,â he countered.
Nearing the end of his homily, Bishop Morlino said Catholics must tell people who need to be corrected âwith love,â because otherwise âwe will be lost too.â
Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput and Denverâs auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley voiced their own criticisms of Sen. Biden in a Monday statement, saying that Catholics who serve on the national stage open themselves to âlegitimate scrutinyâ by local Catholics and local bishops concerning Catholic belief.
âIn 2008, although NBC probably didnât intend it, Meet the Press has become a national window on the flawed moral reasoning of some Catholic public servants,â their letter said.
Referencing Bidenâs statement that when life begins is a âpersonal and private issue,â the bishops replied: âin reality, modern biology knows exactly when human life begins: at the moment of conception. Religion has nothing to do with it.â
While granting that there is a âdangerousâ argument over when âpersonhoodâ begins, they continued: âno one can any longer claim that the beginning of life is a matter of religious opinion.â
Against Bidenâs remarks that pluralism prevented him from advocating abortion restrictions, the bishops said: âReal pluralism thrives on healthy, non-violent disagreement; it requires an environment where people of conviction will struggle respectfully but vigorously to advance their beliefs.â
While saying views of other people should be acknowledged and compromises made âwhenever possible,â the bishops insisted this should not come âat the expense of a developing childâs right to life.â
âAbortion is a foundational issue,â they wrote, emphasizing âit is always, grievously wrong.â
âIf, as Sen. Biden said, âIâm prepared as a matter of faith [emphasis added] to accept that life begins at the moment of conception,â then he is not merely wrong about the science of new life; he also fails to defend the innocent life he already knows is there,â the bishops said.
While praising Bidenâs opposition to public funding for abortions and his opposition to partial-birth abortion, they explained that his support for the 1973 Supreme Court pro-abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade âcanât be excused by any serious Catholic.â
âResistance to abortion is a matter of human rights, not religious opinion,â they added, arguing that law by nature involves imposing âsome peopleâs convictions on everyone else.â
âAmerican Catholics have allowed themselves to be bullied into accepting the destruction of more than a million developing unborn children a year,â they wrote.
âWe need to put an end to Roe and the industry of permissive abortion it enables,â the bishops concluded. âOtherwise all of us â from senators and members of Congress, to Catholic laypeople in the pews â fail not only as believers and disciples, but also as citizens.â