Catholic Bishops and Joe Biden are at loggerheads on abortion rights. Photo: (REUTERS)
For many years, Catholic bishops have used their religious liberty to guide and monitor citizens and domestic policy. Owing to their roles in society, religious leaders have a right and duty to speak on important societal matters with their constitutionally protected free exercise of religion.
It may come as no surprise, therefore, that the top leaders of America’s Catholic Church have spoken and rejected Joe Biden’s religious liberty to worship in the same way they do. Catholic bishops and Catholic politicians are at loggerheads on the issue of religious liberty.
Joe Biden feels women should have exclusive rights over their bodies and have the right to choose abortion. But the Catholic bishops take a different stance. The bishops feel that giving women legal rights to have full control over their bodies is a grave sin.
So, who is right, you may wonder?
Biden and Catholic Bishops at Loggerheads on Free Exercise of Religion
From the latest war of words between the two opposing sides, it seems like both Catholic bishops and Biden are not ready to change their stance. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee (USCCB) is appalled by President Joe Biden’s stance on abortion rights.
Joe Biden has criticized states who give limited access to women for abortion procedures. He has also started withdrawing restrictions imposed on health organizations and abortion providers imposed by Trump’s administration. Health organizations and abortion providers do not receive public funding from the US on abortion related issues.
From the Catholic bishops’ point of view, Joe Biden is a Catholic and a public figure. How can he make decisions that go against the teachings of the Catholic Church? Why is he committing such a grave sin? He should be rebuked on a public platform for revoking restrictions on abortion procedures.
On the other hand, Joe Biden’s supporters have a different opinion. They feel that USCCB is only interested in controlling women and the Republican domestic policy. His supporters also believe women should have the legal right to decide how they want to handle their reproductive health.
Furthermore, Joe Biden and his supporters say that the President is using his executive power to follow the law of the land. He is the man who heads the Executive Branch, representing democracy. He doesn’t lead a Catholic theocracy.
Catholic Doctrine on Abortion and Birth Control
The 14th point of the Human Vitae, an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI and issued at a Vatican press conference on 29 July 1968, which sustained church teaching banning the use of artificial means of contraception and ended the speculation over oral contraceptives, birth control and abortion once and for all, has this to say about "unlawful" birth control methods and abortion:
“Therefore, We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. (14)
Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary. (15)
Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (18)—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general.
Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong."
The above excerpt explains why Catholic bishops have opposed Biden on the abortion issue.
The Defense for Biden’s Support for Abortion Rights
It is argued that it's wrong to attack the President Biden for his stance. The people did not elect him to impose his religious beliefs. People voted for him because they wanted a leader to protect their rights. Many of them had lost faith in Trump’s presidency and wanted someone else to lead the country.
While a controversial political issue, abortion is legal in all U.S. states. Every state has at least one abortion clinic providing the service, subject to balancing tests tying state regulation of abortion to the three trimesters of pregnancy, via the landmark 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, the first abortion case to be taken to the Supreme Court.
It’s uncertain what kind of resolution this debate will come to. Both Joe Biden and Catholic bishops receive the same First Amendment protections to ‘freely exercise’ religion.
Some have, however, claimed that if Biden refuses to change his stance, he cannot receive communion. But this has not exactly materialized. Catholic bishops where Joe Biden worships have said that he can receive communion. They’ve accepted that America is not a Catholic theocracy.
As a leader, the US President is the executive head of the state. He can freely exercise religion and execute the laws of the land simultaneously. There should be a clear appreciation and respect from both sides for the established concept of separation of Church and State.
Both Joe Biden and Catholic bishops have a profound belief in and case for standing behind their stance. We may not be in a position to pass judgment on this sensitive issue, but we can only hope for an amicable solution to this problem. Let justice prevail for women and society as well.