Bishop Malooly Responds to Senator Biden's Comments
Most Rev. W. Francis Malooly, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, responds to statements made by Sen. Joseph Biden published in the October 19, 2008 edition of the News Journal:
October 24, 2008(emphasis added)
In his interview with the News Journal published on October 19, 2008, Senator Biden presents a seriously erroneous picture of Catholic teaching on abortion. He says, “I know that my church has wrestled with this for 2,000 years,” and he goes on to claim repeatedly that the Church has a nuanced view of the subject that leaves a great deal of room for uncertainty and debate.
This is simply incorrect. The teaching of the Church is clear and not open to debate. Abortion is a grave sin because it is the wrongful taking of an innocent human life. And the Church has always opposed abortion. The Church received the tradition opposing abortion from Judaism. In the Greco-Roman world the early Christians were identifiable by their rejection of the common practices of abortion and infanticide. The “Didache,” probably the earliest Christian writing apart from the New Testament, explicitly condemns abortion without exceptions. It tells us that there is a “way of life” and a “way of death” and that abortion is a part of the way of death. This has been the consistent teaching of the Church ever since. It was also the position of Protestant reformers without exception. It was the teaching of Pope John XXIII as well as Pope John Paul II. It is the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI and the bishops of the universal Church, including myself as shepherd of this diocese.
Some ancient and medieval theologians did see a difference between early abortions and ones that occurred later in term because under the limited medical knowledge of the time they did not know then what we scientifically know now—that a fetus is a living human being from the time of conception. Nevertheless, they universally condemned all abortions.
And of course we now know that a fetus is a living human being from the very start. Thus abortions take innocent human lives no matter when they occur. Since there is no “gradation” in the Church’s teaching on abortion, there is no way that the medically obsolete division of pregnancy into three trimesters by Roe v. Wade can have any bearing on the rightness or wrongness of abortion. Taking an innocent life in the womb is equally wrong at any stage of pregnancy.
The Declaration of Independence lists as God-given rights life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Life is listed first and it is the principal function of the state to protect the lives of its citizens. This understanding of the state’s primary obligation to protect human life is also fundamental to the Catholic social doctrine to which the Senator points. Without life all other rights are meaningless.
This Sunday all the parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington will pray the Litany of St. Thomas More, martyr and patron saint of statesmen, politicians and lawyers. In that litany we will ask St. Thomas More to intercede so that all statesmen and politicians may be courageous and effective in their defense and promotion of the sanctity of human life. We hope that Senator Biden will carefully listen to the Church’s 2000 years of testimony on abortion and that he will join in the defense and promotion of the sanctity of life.
Most Rev. W. Francis Malooly
Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington
[cross-posted at Catholics Against Joe Biden]
Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Biden: "I'm Not a Pope John Paul [II] Guy"
American Papist: "Biden Skips Mass Where New Bishop Speak[s] Out Against Him"