It's official: Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has announced that his choice for vice president is a Catholic, Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden.
On the April 29, 2007, episode of NBC's Meet the Press, Senator Biden described himself as a "practicing Catholic" who is "prepared to accept my church's view" that life begins at conception. (Fr. John Zuhlsdorf has the relevant portion of the transcript in a post on his indispensable blog, "What Does the Prayer Really Say?".)
Unfortunately for Catholics considering voting for the Democratic ticket, Senator Biden believes that his "political responsibility" outweighs his "religious and cultural views."
It wasn't always so. In November 1972, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, Biden, like most Catholic Democrats at the time, was opposed to abortion. After U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade (January 22, 1973), Biden stated that the case "was not correctly decided" and that "the right of abortion was not secured by the Constitution" (according to Meet the Press).
By the time of his first run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988, Senator Biden had become a staunch supporter of abortion rights. Asked by Meet the Press host Tim Russert (himself a Catholic) why he had changed his position, Biden offered a rather unsatisfying answer:
"Well, I was 29 years old when I came to the US Senate, and I have learned a lot."It's hard to imagine what he could mean by that, especially since he says that he still believes that life begins at conception. During Biden's entire career in the Senate, the Catholic Church has consistently taught (in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church) that "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception" (para. 2270; emphasis mine) and that "The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation" (para. 2273; emphasis in original).
That is why the Church teaches that a Catholic politician cannot vote for legislation that enables abortion, yet Senator Biden, in "learn[ing] a lot," has done just that.
If Barack Obama hoped to attract the Catholic vote by choosing Joe Biden, he might have done better to pick Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA), a true pro-life Catholic. Casey's father, a former governor of Pennsylvania, was denied the chance to speak at the 1992 Democratic National Convention because of his pro-life views.