Biden experiencing troubled conscience over abortion, says Bishop Aquila

Vice-president elect Joe Biden
Vice-president elect Joe Biden


Following the Fall meeting of the U.S. Catholic bishops in Baltimore, where they pledged not to yield ground to the incoming Obama administration on the issue of abortion, Bishop Samuel Aquila has revealed that vice president-elect Joe Biden is struggling with his conscience over his support for abortion.

Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston, Minnesota and Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota are just two of the bishops who have increased their efforts to speak more forcefully and clearly on the issue of abortion over the last year.

In an interview with the Grand Forks Herald on Friday, Bishop Hoeppner explained the situation, saying, “We bishops are united in our teaching and our belief in the sanctity of all life. That’s not new, and it’s across the board, and some politicians have missed that.”

One particular threat to the unborn that the bishops are worried about is the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which President-elect Obama said he would sign into law as his first act as president.

Bishop Aquila criticized Obama’s willingness to sign the Act in his most recent column for the Diocese of Fargo newspaper, writing that Obama “directly opposes the divine law of God concerning the dignity of each human life, and so he strongly disagrees with the position of the Catholic Church.”

Given the serious threats posed by FOCA and by Catholics with poorly formed consciences who vote in favor of keeping abortion legal, the U.S. bishops are redoubling their efforts to explain the Church’s teaching.  

In interviews with the Herald, both Aquila and Hoeppner pointed to vice president-elect Joe Biden, as an example of how some Catholics have become compromised on abortion.

During the recent presidential campaign, Joe Biden said that while he believes as a matter of faith that life begins at conception, he cannot impose his belief on others through law, and therefore can vote in favor of abortion.

Biden’s comments on NBC’s Meet the Press elicited reactionss from several bishops, one of whom was Charles Chaput of Denver.

“If, as Sen. Biden said, ‘I’m prepared as a matter of faith [emphasis added] to accept that life begins at the moment of conception,’ 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,” the archbishop said.

“Resistance to abortion is a matter of human rights, not religious opinion,” he added, arguing that law by nature involves imposing “some people’s convictions on everyone else.”

In his interview with the Grand Forks Herald on Friday, Bishop Aquila revealed that the soon-to-be vice president is experiencing pangs of conscience for his compromise.

“The nice thing about Biden, at least he says his conscience bothers him, which is good,” Aquila said.

Bishop Aquila argues that this stirring in their conscience needs to go further. “But they really should not be presenting themselves for Holy Communion because it is a scandal. And by us giving them Holy Communion, essentially what is communicated to them is that their position is fine.”

The Bishop of Tallahassee-Pensacola agrees with this as well. After a visit to his diocese by Biden during the presidential campaign, Bishop John Richard wrote to the politician and told him to examine his conscience about his support for laws that “fail to protect the unborn” before going to Communion.