Paul Ryan had better check in with his parish priest for some penance assignments. No less an expert in the exercise of Catholicism in public policy than Joe Biden has pronounced the House Budget Committee chair a heretic, or something. Speaking today at a rabbinical assembly in Atlanta, Biden scolded Ryan for his budget, which Biden pronounced “contrary to the social doctrine you teach and the social doctrine my church teaches”:
Few parts of Catholic doctrine are as misunderstood as the Catholic teachings on social justice, which is Biden’s reference here. Tina Korbe wrote about this very topic in connection with the Ryan budget a month ago, when Ryan defended his budget approach in relation to his faith. But even apart from Ryan’s defense — which as a fellow Catholic I find compelling — let’s take a look at Pastor Biden and his own adherence to Catholic doctrine related to public policy. In 2008, when Biden joined Barack Obama on the ticket, NBC’s Tom Brokaw asked him about his support for abortion rights after Edward Cardinal Egan ripped pro-abortion politicians as unworthy leadership in a self-respecting democracy. Brokaw asked how Biden would answer Obama if asked about when life begins:
BIDEN: I’d say, Look I know when it begins for me. It’s a personally and private issue. For me as a Roman Catholic, I’m prepared to accept the teachings of my church. But let me tell you, there are an awful lot of people of great confessional faiths — Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and others — who have a different view. They believe in God as strongly as I do, intensely as religious as I am religious. They believe in their faith and they believe in human life. And they have differing views as to when life — I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am, seems to me isn’t appropriate in a pluralistic society. …
BROKAW: But if you believe that life begins at conception, and you’ve also voted for abortion rights —
BIDEN: No, what I’ve voted against was curtailing the right, criminalizing abortion. I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they had to accept my religiously based view that it’s a moment of conception. …. How am I going to out and tell you or anyone else that you must insist upon my view that is based on a matter of faith?
So when it comes to protecting defenseless human life, Biden subordinates his faith to his politics, but when it comes to budgets in a time of huge deficits, Biden wants a religious proclamation from the House Budget Committee? Er … riiiiiiiight. That goes right in hand with the Obama administration telling Catholic hospitals, charities, and schools that they have to pay for contraception and sterilization because their work in the community isn’t really a practice of their religion. And let’s not forget that Biden won’t even stand by his moral principles when it comes to challenging China on its horrendous one-child policy, in which abortions are not chosen but forced on women who violate that law:
What we ended up doing is setting up a system whereby we did cut by $1.2 trillion upfront, the deficit over the next 10 years. And we set up a group of senators that have to come up with another $1.2 to $1.7 trillion in savings or automatically there will be cuts that go into effect in January to get those savings. So the savings will be accomplished. But as I was talking to some of your leaders, you share a similar concern here in China. You have no safety net. Your policy has been one which I fully understand — I’m not second-guessing — of one child per family. The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.
So hopefully we can act in a way on a problem that’s much less severe than yours, and maybe we can learn together from how we can do that.
I wrote about the incident in a column for The Week, reminding readers of more of the context of this cheerleading for forced abortions:
Culturally, the imposition of this policy has pushed China’s women to abort girls, as sons have the traditional duty of caring for elderly parents. This has created an ugly gender imbalance in Chinese society to the extent that some call it a “gendercide.” The report, completed by the Congressional Executive Committee on China (CECC), links that to skyrocketing suicide rates for Chinese women, which run “three to four times” higher than that of men in the rural areas where these policies get enforced most brutally.
The one-child policy has created the need for massive government intervention into the most private of marital transactions, requiring women to have IUDs inserted and only removed with permission from the state. Children born “out of plan” get no “benefits” from the government, and their parents are barred from employment and have their papers seized. And “out of plan” doesn’t just refer to second pregnancies, as the report makes clear, but any pregnancy that occurs without express permission of the Chinese government.
Biden apparently didn’t read the recommendation of the CECC in confronting China over its murderous policies:
Urge Chinese officials to cease coercive methods of enforcing birth control quotas. Urge the Chinese government to dismantle coercive population controls and provide greater reproductive freedom and privacy for women.
Bear in mind that the CECC isn’t a panel dominated by conservatives. The Obama administration has five of its own representatives on the commission; five of the other eight members are Senate Democrats, led by liberal co-chair Sherrod Brown of Ohio. This policy recommendation maintains the credibility of the U.S., even for administrations that back abortion rights at home — when an administration bothers to listen to the counsel of its own advisers.
If anyone has less standing in American public life to lecture Paul Ryan or anyone else on social justice than Joe Biden, it’d be quite an accomplishment.