Joe Biden: The Biggest on Abortion
President Joe Biden is invoking his self-professed Catholic faith in addressing abortion, an issue on which the Catholic Church holds unequivocally clear teachings. At a fundraiser Tuesday, Biden stated, “I’m a practicing Catholic. I’m not big on abortion, but guess what? Roe v. Wade got it right.” The president’s statements are incorrect on several counts.
First of all, the Catholic Church has been clear that support for abortion is gravely immoral. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church clarifies, “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 …” That last line is one self-described Catholics who support abortion often miss: merely willing an abortion constitutes a grave sin.
Before continuing with Biden’s misrepresentation of Catholic teaching on abortion, let’s briefly address his claim, “I’m not big on abortion …” Coming from anyone else, such a statement may simply be a preamble to a poorly-reasoned rationalization of legalized child-killing, but coming from Biden it’s laughable — or would be if the subject matter weren’t so tragic.
Biden has consistently proven himself the most rabid abortion advocate to ever sit in the Oval Office. He has called for Roe to be enshrined as federal law and demanded the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, he has labeled pro-life laws and regulations “extreme” and used taxpayer dollars to fund abortions even after Roe’s undoing, and he has packed his cabinet with like-minded pro-abortion activists, including Vice President Kamala Harris, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who argued last year that abortion is good for the economy. In short, Biden is big on abortion, and Americans would be hard-pressed to find anyone bigger.
But being big on abortion, of course, brings the self-described Catholic into direct conflict with the Catholic Church’s moral teachings. From antiquity, great thinkers of the Church — like Tertullian, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Basil the Great, and St. John Chrysostom, and intellectual giants like St. Jerome and St. Augustine — have held unequivocally that abortion is “gravely wrong.” Furthermore, the Church has always held that life begins at the moment of conception. The Catechism again states, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”
In ancient times and even in the first few centuries after Christ’s death and resurrection, it was not uncommon to determine the morality or legality of abortion by “quickening,” that is, when an unborn baby first begins to move in the womb. For centuries afterward (as Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito noted in his opinion undoing Roe v. Wade), it was definitively illegal to commit an abortion after quickening but sometimes legal before. The Church, however, has always held that human life begins at conception and has always taught that abortion is murder.
So grave, in fact, does the Church consider abortion that procuring or assisting in an abortion automatically incurs the most serious penalty in the Church’s authority: excommunication. In Catholic terms, excommunication means one is cut off from the Church (literally “out of communion”) and barred from the sacraments. But excommunication is not a punitive measure, it is a remedial one; it is meant in the first instance to warn Catholics that particular offenses are of an especially grave nature and are especially damaging to the soul, and in the second instance to call those who are excommunicated to consider and repent of their sins. Traditionally, only a bishop could, through the Catholic sacrament of confession, forgive sins carrying a penalty of excommunication. But in an effort to make forgiveness through the Church more readily available, Pope Francis in 2016 authorized any Catholic priest to lift the excommunication incurred by abortion.
Nor, indeed, have Catholics failed to proclaim this moral teaching in either recent times or in the U.S. One hundred years before the Roe decision was handed down, Catholic priests were preaching that the “destruction of the embryo at any period from the first instant of conception is a crime equal in guilt to that of murder” and “that to admit its practice [the practice of abortion] is to open the way for the most unbridled licentiousness, and to take away the responsibility of maternity is to destroy one of the strongest bulwarks of female virtue.”
Once the Supreme Court issued its Roe ruling in 1973, Catholics mobilized against abortion. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) founded and funded the National Right to Life Committee and lobbied Congress to not only invalidate Roe but to ban abortions altogether at both the state and federal levels. The USCCB has spoken more on abortion than on any other single subject since its inception. It would be impossible for Biden not to know what the Catholic Church teaches on the subject of abortion.
Unfortunately, Biden isn’t the only self-described Catholic who flouts the Church’s moral teachings on abortion. Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is also an adamant pro-abortion activist and has drawn sharp criticism from Catholic leaders for her persistent backing of that grave evil. Her home bishop, San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone banned her last year from receiving Holy Communion “until such time as you publically [sic] repudiate your advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance.”
Similarly, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has been banned from Communion in his home diocese of Springfield for his adamant abortion advocacy. A coalition of 30 self-described Catholic Democrats in the House of Representatives recently penned a letter reiterating their support for abortion and attempting to justify abortion with Catholic social teaching. Catholic bishops struck back, writing:
“Members of Congress who recently invoked teachings of the Catholic faith itself as justifying abortion or supporting a supposed right to abortion grievously distort the faith. It is wrong and incoherent to claim that the taking of innocent human life at its most vulnerable stage can ever be consistent with the values of supporting the dignity and wellbeing of those in need. … Abortion violates this with respect to preborn children and brings untold suffering to countless women.”
The USCCB drafted a document in 2021 to ban Biden from receiving Communion due to his abortion advocacy. Would that they had gone through with it: perhaps then he would finally realize he can’t be both Catholic and pro-abortion.
S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.