Video: Two Catholic guys talk about abortion, faith, and religious liberty

posted at 8:41 am on October 12, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Well, maybe the title should be one Catholic guy talks about these issues while the other Catholic guy interrupts, mumbles, mugs for the camera, and manages to worry anyone who recalls that he’s one heartbeat away from the Presidency.  That’s hard to fit into a headline, though, so we’ll just have to make do.  Paul Ryan and Joe Biden got this question from Martha Raddatz on faith and abortion almost at the end of the debate, as she noted that this was the first time two Catholics have squared off in these forums.  Ryan gives a personal defense of his opposition to abortion and ties it explicitly to his faith, while Biden, er … compartmentalizes:

Sorry, but speaking as a Catholic, Biden’s answer was nonsense, as was his attempt to interrupt Ryan with some scolding on “social justice.”  That’s not to say that Catholics have no objections to Ryan on that score — they certainly do, although Ryan’s bishop defended at least Ryan’s intent and spirit on his budget proposals.  But the entire Catholic mission of social justice rests on the sacredness of individual human life, beginning at conception — as Biden himself acknowledges in this debate.

The point of social justice is to recognize the sanctity of each human life and act to protect it, be that through shelter, healing, food, and a number of other ways.  However, the most defenseless of all human life is that of the unborn. Furthermore, while one can argue to what extent government should be involved in charitable efforts, the basic function of government is to protect the lives of its people.  Social justice cannot begin without protecting unborn human life (and it can’t end there, either).  That, as Catholics know, is one of the major aspects of the “seamless garment” of Catholic social teaching.

It’s nonsense to say as a government official that you believe that human life starts at conception but that you can’t act to protect it.   Certainly many people believe that human life does not start at conception, but that’s less science- and reason-based than the Catholic doctrine that opposes it. At least, though, that belief doesn’t have that inherent contradiction that Biden expressed last night.

Kirsten Powers wasn’t impressed with this line of argument, either:

Chuck Woolery broke out a big case of snark on the entirety of Biden’s answer, which was good enough to impress a priest on Twitter:

Overall, I thought the night was more or less a push in the debate sense.  Ryan remained calm and measured, stuck to his agenda, and talked up his running mate all night long in the face of some gale-force headwinds from both Biden and Raddatz, both of whom continually interrupted him.

Biden probably fired up his base, but he gave one of the weirdest debate performances ever — and one of the most inconsistent.  In the first 30 minutes, he was tough, if annoying, and seemed to momentarily push Ryan off his game.  In the second thirty minutes, Biden went totally out of control, yelling at both Ryan and Raddatz, a few times leaning forward, bug-eyed at her, while Ryan scored some points.  In the final thirty minutes, Biden utterly deflated, without any energy left to do more than mutter during Ryan’s responses. It was one of the strangest public performances by a major politician I’ve ever seen.

Furthermore, Biden barely mentioned Barack Obama at all during the debate.  All Biden wanted to talk about was himself, Romney, and “my friend” Ryan, while gesticulated and mugging wildly for the camera whenever Ryan spoke.  That may have played well with his base, but for those in the middle, they have to wonder which man they’d prefer to have one heartbeat away from the Presidency.  Many of them are probably praying this morning for the continued health of President Obama.

Meanwhile, James Lileks and I gave our analysis of the VP debate last night on the Hugh Hewitt show.  Or at least I tried to do so; as it turns out, Hugh’s kind of a Martha Raddatz as a moderator:

Actually, I had a blast — as I tweeted afterward:


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October 12, 2012

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued the following statement, October 12. Full text follows:

Last night, the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:

“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional “accommodation” for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as “non-exempt.” That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation “to pay for contraception” and “to be a vehicle to get contraception.” They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

USCCB continues to urge HHS, in the strongest possible terms, actually to eliminate the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate.

For more details, please see USCCB’s regulatory comments filed on May 15 regarding the proposed “accommodation”: http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/rulemaking/upload/comments-on-advance-notice-of-proposed-rulemaking-on-preventive-services-12-05-15.pdf

cptacek on October 12, 2012 at 1:31 PM

Wonder where devout Catholic Joe Biden learned the phrase “That’s a big f*cking deal”?

From the Pope maybe.

fogw on October 12, 2012 at 9:54 AM

He probably picked it up from Obama. Oh, and Obama smokes too…shrooms too.

timberline on October 12, 2012 at 1:35 PM

Verb – you are right, Obama did win the Catholic vote in ’08. But he is losing them now and while he did not have the strong position with them this year that he had in ’08, it cratered after the HHS mandate on contraception and abortion drugs.

He will lose Catholics, probably by double digits this time. The Church has said that voting for Obama is essentially a mortal sin. You wish to claim this is theology but not politics. But one of the largest, if not the largest, christian church in the US has just very nicely and professionally told their flock that voting for Obama will send them to hell, or at least a longer time in purgatory. That is pretty serious.

Obama will lose this election for many reasons – we are watching him collapse before our eyes – but he didn’t have to make it this easy. Where were single women going to go without the HHS mandate? GOP? Right.

So not only is he leading some of his followers to mortal sin and what that can bring, he is also just plain stupid. I guess anyone who felt they won the first debate when they got absolutely torched has to be pretty detached from reality.

Zomcon JEM on October 12, 2012 at 1:36 PM

What earns you certain salvation is your belief coupled with your personal good works, for the Holy Spirit calls all. And, contrary to some Catholics’ belief, said good works do not consist of ripping money out of the hands of others and giving it to the poor, for that is merely covetousness and stealing wrapped up into one convenient package. It may seem to have good results, but it involves sin.

unclesmrgol on October 12, 2012 at 1:28 PM

That sounds a mite anti Christian on your part. Do you have proof that Catholics believe that robbing from the rich to give to the poor is acceptable? Based on your post, I thought you were talking like an Catholic schooled in the intricacies of it’s Canon Laws. After reading this, I just smirked and filed your post under Biden Fiction. Nice try, liar!

timberline on October 12, 2012 at 1:46 PM

I think Verb’s commments stem from polling suggesting they don’t agree with the church’s teaching on contraception. However, upon realizing the govt would not provide the normal exceptions for religious institutions as broadly defined, while their own contraception views may not have changed, their opinion on HHS’s actions were very negative.

Obama lost the Catholic vote that day.

Zomcon JEM on October 12, 2012 at 1:50 PM

I believe killing Democrats is wrong, but I am not going to force my beliefs on the American public.
/MoralEquivalence

djohnson on October 12, 2012 at 3:32 PM

Last night, the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:

“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional “accommodation” for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as “non-exempt.” That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation “to pay for contraception” and “to be a vehicle to get contraception.” They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

USCCB continues to urge HHS, in the strongest possible terms, actually to eliminate the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate.

J_Crater on October 12, 2012 at 3:59 PM

In this part of the debate I felt Ryan could have called Biden out on his bold-face lies about the contraception mandate a lot more effectively, of course, the moderator moved the discussion along quickly before Ryan could do so, she knew that talking about abortion rather than religious freedom was preferable for Obama/Biden.

neuquenguy on October 12, 2012 at 8:53 AM

Yes, he tried multiple times, but kept getting cut off by the moderator.

cptacek on October 12, 2012 at 4:07 PM

They needed this woman to moderate. Sure would have been a more entertaining debate.

Tennman on October 12, 2012 at 5:31 PM

Sigh! I just spoke to a friend who is basically not interested in politics, but leans Democrat.

After multiple conversations, I had come very close to convincing my friend to vote for Romney.

But Ryan’s pro-life position on abortion described in the debate scared her last night and now she is back to being likely to vote for Obama.

It is so sad to have well educated (Ivy League MBA degree) friends who prioritize the “right” to abortion over other crucial issues like:

- a $16,000,0000,000,000 and growing national debt
- national security
- religious freedom
- Obamacare
- 8% unemployment
- etc., etc., etc.

wren on October 12, 2012 at 5:43 PM

wren,

Ask your friend how much abortion ‘rights’ will matter when:
1) The country goes bankrupt and NO ONE knows where their next meal will come from,
2) Obama’s disaster of a foreign policy results in a nuke going off in NYC, because: Iran having nuclear weapons WILL lead to terrorists having the nuclear bomb.

djohnson on October 12, 2012 at 5:49 PM

wren,

Ask your friend how much abortion ‘rights’ will matter when:
1) The country goes bankrupt and NO ONE knows where their next meal will come from,
2) Obama’s disaster of a foreign policy results in a nuke going off in NYC, because: Iran having nuclear weapons WILL lead to terrorists having the nuclear bomb.

djohnson on October 12, 2012 at 5:49 PM

Thank you, djohnson! I just copied your comment so I can have it handy when I prep for my next conversation with this friend (and other friends who most likely agree with her).

I completely agree with you. And your comment clearly puts the pro-choice position in a proper perspective.

I was so depressed by this conversation today that I probably wasn’t as articulate as I could have been today. But I will be better prepared for our next conversation.

I honestly fear for our country when I talk to my smart, professional, age 40+ friends who are going to vote without understanding how much danger our country (and the world) is currently in.

wren on October 12, 2012 at 6:14 PM

Nonsense

You mean “Nunsense”.

J-Paul00 on October 12, 2012 at 9:17 PM

Mr Biden’s hypocrisy:

He says he personally opposes abortion, but doesn’t want to force others to oppose it.

He only wants to force others to pay for it!

itsnotaboutme on October 12, 2012 at 9:37 PM

Mr Biden’s hypocrisy:

He says he personally opposes abortion, but doesn’t want to force others to oppose it.

He only wants to force others to pay for it!

itsnotaboutme on October 12, 2012 at 9:37 PM

Indeed.

AesopFan on October 12, 2012 at 11:34 PM

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