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Friday, October 12, 2012

Fact-checking Joe Biden on Abortion

Fact-checking has become yet another tool of political spin and mere honest errors have become outright lies in the process. Was Joe Biden merely wrong about the Catholic Church's doctrine on abortion, or was he lying? Well, first we have to determine whether he was right or wrong. I will not judge his honesty -- although I have my doubts. In this case, I believe "Uncle Joe" is simply clueless.

He said that the Catholic doctrine that life begins at conception is "de Fide." This is a technical term when used of the Catholic faith with a specific meaning. It refers to those doctrines that the Catholic Church holds by faith because they have been revealed and cannot be known by human reason alone. The notions that God is a Trinity, that He became Incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ, that bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ -- these are articles of faith that cannot be determined by natural human reason alone but do not contradict reason, and that have been revealed by God. It is possible that God be a Trinity; it is possible that He became Incarnate; it is possible that He transubstantiates bread and wine. They are possible; they are revealed; they are held by Catholics "de Fide." 

The beginning of human life, however, as Congressman Ryan noted, can be known by reason and scientific evidence. It is clear that a pregnancy in a human woman occurs as a result the reproductive act. What is conceived is clearly, and in some sense, human, alive, a unique and unrepeatable individual, and on a developmental trajectory toward adulthood. If any of these things are not true, then a woman is not pregnant. Science bears up these statements; there is nothing in science to contradict them; they are not articles of faith. It is only politics that doubts them. It is only politics, seeking the right to terminate a living, human individual, that wonders if an embryo or fetus is legally a "person" and protected by law. Politics contorts the definition of "person" and "life" and "human" and "individual" and wraps it up in scientific-sounding jargon, so that killing of "non-persons" can be legally protected.

And it is only politics that says, "it's not right to force my beliefs on others." (Yes. Well. All laws are an imposition of someone's morality precisely on those who believe the opposite.)

Let me repeat that the beginning of human life it is not a matter of "belief." The Catholic Church holds its position on abortion not because of revelation or religious opinion, but because of the facts listed above, which are knowable through human reason and empirical science. There is an objective reality here, which the Church recognizes, namely, the unborn living, human, individual. 

Also, it is not being "imposed" on people, any more than it is imposed on people that the sun is hot or that water is necessary for life on earth or that in transubstantiation the Body and Blood of Christ retain all the external properties of bread and wine. The Church does not impose but merely recognizes objective realities. What is mere opinion, what is imposed on everyone, is the notion that "person" and "life" and "human" and "individual" are determined by their definitions, definitions that can be changed on a whim, rather than the other way around. Reality up until now worked by having definitions reflect objective reality rather than attempt to make reality to be a certain way.

This is not the first time Biden has misrepresented the Catholic Church on this issue. In the last presidential election, he completely misrepresented St. Thomas Aquinas on the issue of ensoulment

Neither the Church's doctrine on the beginning of human life and on grave moral wrong of abortion are "de fide" in the technical sense. It is not heresy to deny that human life begins at conception; it is merely a denial of objective reality. It is not heresy to claim that abortion is sometimes permissible; it is merely defective moral reasoning (as opposed to doctrinal reasoning). However, for a Catholic to publicly doubt either thing, or to reduce these things merely to personally held beliefs that are impolite to impose on others, does foment scandal. And that is something our illustrious Catholic Vice President does.

But, is Biden a liar? I leave that for others to determine. But a quick fact-check of this statement shows him to be wrong.

Oh. And one more thing. Catholic politicians do have a duty as Catholics to oppose laws that permit abortion, as being unjust to the unborn. Biden also misrepresents his duty as a Catholic when he talks about his hands-off attitude toward legalized abortion.

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