Joe Biden’s Religion: Catholicism or Leftism?

In the vice presidential debate, the two candidates, both Roman Catholics, were asked about their religious beliefs, how they impact the candidates’ political positions and specifically about abortion. This was the response of Vice President Joe Biden:

“My religion defines who I am. And I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who — who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.

“With regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a — what we call de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.

“But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and — I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman.

“I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that women, they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor, in my view. And the Supreme Court — I’m not going to interfere with that.”

Let’s analyze this response.

1. “My religion defines who I am.”

If a conservative, evangelical Christian candidate for national office said that he defined himself by his religious beliefs, liberals would be screaming that the wall between church and state was in danger of being taken down.

Here is the rule in American politics: When the left uses religion to promote liberal policies, it is a beautiful thing. When the right uses religion to promote conservative policies, it threatens the separation of church and state and may lead to the creation of a theocracy.

2. “It has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.”

This illustrates my previous point. Biden’s Catholicism leads him to promote liberal social policies, specifically an ever-expanding state to take care of “people who need help.” What else could his statement mean? After all, what religion doesn’t expect its adherents to take “care of those who can’t take care of themselves”? Protestant Christianity? Judaism? Islam? Buddhism? Mitt Romney’s Mormonism?

Since all religions do, what is the difference between Romney’s religious call to help the less fortunate and Biden’s religious call to help these people?

The difference, as seen in the enormous difference between Biden’s charitable donations and Romney’s, is the difference between conservatism and liberalism: Conservatism holds that we all have to take care of ourselves and our fellow citizens; liberalism holds that the state — funded by some of us — has to.

3. “I accept my church’s position on abortion … I just refuse to impose that on others.”

This sounds beautiful to liberals. But it is as un-thought-through as it is un-Catholic.

Why is Mr. Biden completely comfortable with policies that “impose on others” what he understands as Catholic “social doctrine”? He will use the government to forcefully take people’s money away and impose whatever policies he thinks Catholic social doctrine favors. Why, then, will he not impose on others his church’s definition of the worth of human life from conception?

There are three possible answers. One is that he doesn’t really believe in his church’s position on abortion. A second is that he does believe in it but would have to leave the Democratic Party if he tried to implement that policy. The third is that he believes that the Church’s views on abortion only pertain to Catholics — and even then, only on a “personal” basis.

If we are to take him at his word, that latter is what he believes: that his church’s view on abortion only applies to him personally: “Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.” But if that is his opinion, his religiosity is not morally meaningful. If an act is moral or immoral only for him, then it is not moral or immoral. Either something is immoral for everyone (in the same circumstance) or it is not immoral.

Which is why the Church’s teaching is that abortion is morally wrong for everyone, just as neglecting the needy is morally wrong for everyone.

But Joe Biden would never say that the Catholic Church’s social doctrine is only valid “in my personal life.” So, what does Joe Biden, the Catholic, believe about abortion?

These statements by the vice-president of the United States provide one more example of the fact that leftism — not Christianity, not Catholicism, and not Islam — has been the most influential religion in the world for the last century.

Only when Catholicism agrees with leftism is Joe Biden prepared to impose it. When his Catholicism does not agree with leftism, it is reduced to being a matter of personal matter of faith, no more binding on non-Catholics than receiving the Eucharist.

And in this regard he is no different from many Jews and Protestant Christians. Their religious expression may be Judaism or Christianity, but their religion, like Biden’s, is leftism. Which is why liberal Jews and liberal Christians have much more in common than liberal Jews have with conservative Jews or liberal Christians have with conservative Christians. They share what they deem truly important — leftism.

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  • R.C.

    Joe Biden's "leftism" is cultural and economic Marxism–and these go hand in hand with the Roman Catholic church!

    It was so long ago the Pope was calling for global redistribution of wealth–the current pope is a Marxist!

    • R.C.

      wasn't so long ago

    • WildJew

      The Bishops got in bed with Obama and Pelosi on Obamacare from the outset; sadly. Obama is pro-abortion / pro-death. Obama is furthering the most anti-life, extreme interpretation of Islam in the Middle East and North Africa. Obama is anti-Israel, pro-Islam. Apparently "Catholic social doctrine" trumps life? To his credit, Paul Ryan has pushed back against the Bishops on their "social justice" doctrine. This is what faithful Christians should do when their leaders are furthering a doctrine that is contrary to God's teaching found in the law of Moses and the prophets. Look at the ancient prophets in the Bible. At the risk of their lives, they went against the priests and the judges who perverted the word of God in their day.

  • Robert Johnson

    It does not seem that Mr. Prager is acquainted with the scope of Catholic Social Teaching. He correctly identifies the Catholic position on abortion and birth control that comes from the encyclical Humanae Vitae and its following encyclicals. What he does not go on to cite are the mass of encyclicals from the last 125 years that are clearly "liberal" (as Prager would no doubt call it) in attitude. Have a look at Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno, Centesimus Annus and Caritas in Veritate to see how the Catholic position on issues of poverty and wealth differs so substantially from anything Paul Ryan has suggested. Go on and see Octogesima Adveniens, Laborem Exercens, Deus Caritas Est, Caritas in Veritate to see how the church rejects the individualism and economic Darwinism that seem to permeate conservative positions. Biden may well be outside Catholic view on abortion, but many other positions are well in line with the magisterium. I am not sure Ryan's adherence on abortion makes him a better Catholic than Biden, when, in almost every other area of Catholic Social Teaching, he could care less what the church explicitly says.

    • WildJew

      Biden (and Obama) might be well in line with the magisterium on issues of poverty and wealth. Is the magisterium in line with God and His law? Should a good Catholic be in line with the magisterium or in line with God and His law?

      • Robert Johnson

        @Wildjew – that wasn’t Prager’s question, was it? He seemed to question Biden’s religious sincerity based on his lack of adherence to the Catholic Social teaching on abortion. My question, in return, is if we can equally question Ryan’s sincerity if he does not toe the magisterium’s line in other, significant areas. And, as I suspect you know, whether Catholic social teaching is in line with “God’s Law” or not is a very complex question, somewhat dependent on what you think that law contains. Some of the best theological minds of the age worked on those documents, and filled them with references. Have a look at them before you draw a line between them and God’s intention for humanity. Or at least reveal your reasons and evidence for questioning them.

        • zsqpwxxeh

          Neither the Republican platform nor Ryan's policy views are inimical to Catholic social teaching. But throwing in Ryan is just deflection from the issue–Biden's hypocrisy in using the old "I'm personally opposed to abortion" dodge, the Kennedy Two-Step. All Catholic politicians who publically support or vote for pro-abortion legislation are automatically excommunicated–did you know that? That's Biden, Pelosi, Sebelius, etc. They are, all of them Democrats, a source of shame and scandal to the Church.

          Implicit in Catholic Leftism is the false notion that the Church teaches socialism or government redistribution of wealth. It doesn't. It calls on all the faithful to help the poor, and it calls on society to do so. Read the Catechism again, Robert.

          • WilliamJamesWard


        • WildJew

          Robert a few years back, I was fairly active here in our local pro-life movement. I gave up a few hours a week standing peacefully in front of our abortion mill with other pro-lifers. There is a women's "crisis pregnancy" center next to the abortion mill where pregnant mothers are offered assistance so they don't have to kill their unborn child. As you might imagine, many of the peaceful protesters were and are Catholic because of the pro-life teaching of the church and the powerful example of the priest; he was down there at the mill as well as preaching life from the pulpit. The president of our county's right to life, a Catholic, expressed irritation to no end toward church leaders (Bishops) and Catholic politicians like Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, etc., who put this social "gospel" (using tax-payer dollars to help the needy or the moochers, as the case may be) before or even on an equal basis with innocent human life itself. To say she and other pro-life Catholic activists were and are irritated by this ruse is to put it mildly.

          • WilliamJamesWard

            Political activism promoting anti-Christian positions Biblically pronounced by so called
            Church leaders who by definition are false leaders makes for great theatre but
            sadly undermines the Saviour's ministry………………….Death is the enemy,
            pro-life is the only way that can enter the afterlife and be with the author of life.

    • guest

      “individualism and economic Darwinism that seem to permeate conservative positions.”
      This straw man argument distorts the issues greatly. Conservatism does not support big government mandating wealth equality due to it’s inefficiency, it’s corruption, the over $2 trillion already dedicated to it yearly, and the tendency for government leaders to increasingly violate personal property.

      I read through the documents you site and primarily see a condemnation of communism. The selfish greed also includes Obama’s corporate welfare for GE, Westinghouse, Fannie Mae, Warren Buffet, and the UAW who not only pay zero taxes but also receive billions in taxpayer money. Barak Obama is worth over $100 million dollars and routinely flies to Vegas. He has done nothing on Fannie Mae bailouts or GSA million dollar clown shows. Sane efforts at social justice, like requiring sobriety for welfare, are opposed by Democrats. They are not aesthetic populists.

      This article and Biden’s response views abortion as something venial like not going to church on Sundays. It is extremely grave matter. Jesus mourned the children the agrarian cults burnt alive to Molech and Baal and Asherah in his time. I can see no way Obama’s extreme position of even children who survive abortions are not entitled to life can be considered moral. Trying to spin it as imposition or oppression for political gain is awful and reminiscent of how slavers viewed abolition as a violation of their rights.

  • John C. Davidson

    Everything now days is all about retaining the money acquired using various devious methods that empowered individuals with suspect moral values.

  • Schlomotion

    Mr. Prager's article is one big Foxmanism: a Jewish guy trying to tell a Catholic how to observe and practice his own religion. The nerve. Reading the article again, (these articles take about four seconds to read, sometimes seven), the writing drips with entitlement, with besserwissen. Mr. Prager knows your religion better than you. He knows your religious ethics better than you. He will dictate your prescribed customs and comportment to you. He is unlike Joe Biden. Mr. Prager does want to inflict his religious beliefs on you.

    • zsqpwxxeh

      On the other hand, you don't know beans about it. Hardly a qualification to comment, eh?

    • guest

      Joe Biden's equivalent, 2,000 years ago:

      "As a Christian, I believe crucifying people for crimes against Caesar is wrong, but in no way would I impose it on the Romans, Carthaginians, Gauls and Germanic tribes I represent."

      You either believe it's murder or you don't.

      Personally I feel the "my body, my choice" argument brings out some of the worst stereotypes of parents in regards to children like selfishness and controlling. It completely disregards all rights of children, and in regards to Obama's polices, even if children survive an abortion.

      • Robert Johnson

        Again, this is not Prager's argument. He tries to say that Biden is insincere because he ignores plain Catholic social teaching in his public policy on abortion, and thus denigrates Biden's personal faith as well. If the standard is the plain statements of the Catholic church on social issues, then is not Ryan as poor a Catholic as Biden for not upholding these other Catholic Social teachings, not to mention believing in these positions in his private life as well as public policy? The issue is not actually Ryan, of course, but Prager's argument.

        • guest

          I would agree if the issue was trivial. But in this case Biden states he is willing to stand by while children are murdered. You have to question his sincerity, especially considering Barak Obama's extreme position that children who survive abortion are not entitled to life.

          How is supporting the big government advocates' million dollar Vegas clown shows, the trillion dollars of welfare payments which a substantial amount goes to the drug trade, the taxpayer money going to fraudulent scams at GE's green energy trading, the UAW and their million dollar luxury hotels, Warren Buffet's social security check and the billions of dollars to bailout Fannie Mae's housing fraud which ruined many people's lives being a good Catholic?

          Joe Biden charges the Secret Service $20,000 for rent at his own house, paid by the taxpayer, for his own protection. Remove the plank.

    • Western Canadian

      If it only takes shmuckmotion 4-7 seconds to read the articles, that is probably due to his skipping over the words he doesn’t understand, which would be most of them.

      Reading the article again, (these articles take about four seconds to read, sometimes seven), the writing drips with entitlement, with besserwissen. Mr. Prager knows your religion better than you. He knows your religious ethics better than you. He will dictate your prescribed customs and comportment to you. He is unlike Joe Biden. Mr. Prager does want to inflict his religious beliefs on you.

      Proof that he didn’t read the column?? The last sentence. The lie that biden does not force his ‘beliefs’ down peoples throats is demolished in the column, and shmuckmotion REALLY must hate MLK, Wilberforce, etc for forcing their ‘religious beliefs’ down racists throats….

    • Ghostwriter

      I've never read Mr. Prager saying that he wants to inflict his religious beliefs on me. On the other hand,you inflict your anti-Jewish bigotry on the rest of us,and that's just plain annoying.

    • gray man

      maybe if you would read more than 4-7 seconds you might actually understand the article, in stead of sounding like an idiot.

  • Another Guest

    Biden's statement about his faith means that he believes abortion is murder, but that he sees it as an unjust imposition to outlaw this form of murder, because some people believe otherwise. That's equivalent to saying "I personally believe this is a living human being, but I won't protect this person's right to life if someone disagrees."

    How can anyone trust a man who supports taxpayer funded killing of innocent human life?
    By his actions, Biden reveals that his religion is actually radical leftism.

  • BLJ

    Why are we talking about Joe Biden? Really? The guy is a bad joke.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    It's not a left/right issue. If you love America you will vote for Romney and to kick out the pretenders.

    • WilliamJamesWard

      Where you been?………………William

  • cynthiacurran

    Well,Mr Prager has an advantage being jewish your religious practices count more than your theology,so to mr prager a good mormon is better than a bad catholic.

    • gray man

      I believe if you will actually read the article before commenting, you would find it was about two catholics and nothing about mormons. Please – try to keep up.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Joe Biden is a bone head and dangerous to the Nation…….and his own soul………..William

  • Judahlevi

    Dennis Prager has been writing and speaking about moral issues for decades. His article, for those who don't get it, is about morality, not Catholicism. He is also absolutely correct about liberals putting their politics above their religion (assuming they really have one). The Democratic party platform is their Torah.

    If you believe murder is wrong, you don't say that it only applies to you personally, it applies to everyone. Liberals also have their own black and white universal moral truths – such as global warming (you have to believe) or that abortion is about a woman's right to choose – not a baby's right to live. They apply their own moral template to society, albeit on different issues, but they are just as absolute.

    Prager is always a good read and is always spot on in his analysis.

  • LoachDriver

    As is Pelosi, Biden's a cafeteria Catholic who stands militantly in opposition to the Chuch's position on abortion, for one thing.

  • amused

    On the issue , you're all UNINFORMED . According to Roman Catholic Doctrine , the ONLY method of contraception [which really isn't contraception at all ] is the Rythum Method , meaning you must time your wifes menstrual cycle and engage in intercourse only in the times there is no egg to be fertilized , which limits intercourse for most around 7 days of the month , and NO PULLING OUT EITHER , for that would be wasting one's seed on the ground . The same notion if followed would preclude oral sex , at least for the male .
    So please cut out all the Pontification of this issue because NO ONE FOLLOWS THE RULES , and that means especially YOU Wildjew , stick to your own doctrine .

    • amused

      That is practice the rythum method or risk getting your wife pregnant …..again , and again , and again….

  • amused

    …..Unless of course you know any catholics who play by the rules . Judging Biden OR Ryan in this respect is highly hypocritical . Better get on another issue . None of you "alleged christians " know the Everlasting Gospel …if you did you wouldn't be making some the ignorant statements that you spew out .

    • gray man

      Of course another idiotic anti-catholic comment. The point is about abortion being murder, not contraception or soiling your sheets.

    • gray man

      Of course, another moronic anti-catholic comment. The article was about abortion / murder and catholic doctrine., and about helping the poor. Not about sex techniques or spoiling your sheets.

  • amused

    grayman replies in double-barreled ignorance and stupidity :

    "Of course another idiotic anti-catholic comment. The point is about abortion being murder, not contraception or soiling your sheets " /
    "Of course, another moronic anti-catholic comment. The article was about abortion / murder and catholic doctrine., and about helping the poor. Not about sex techniques or spoiling your sheets "

    Spoken like the true hypocrite that you are gray man . In the eyes of Roman Catholic Doctrine , contraception / is tantamount to abortion . I am not anti-Catholic , I just studied their Dogma . The "sex techniques " that you mention in your ignorance is the actual proscribed practice in Roman Catholicism and my point was NOBODY does it . There are both Democrats AND Republican -Left and Right to people like you who are personally against abortion , would not recomend it or approve , but would not legislate against those who would . So this article about Biden is just another right wing partisan steaming pile of crap .

  • Estase

    I find it disturbing as a Catholic that Dennis Prager's Judiasm has become an issue here. I also find fault with the claims that contraception is equally bad as abortion. Lastly, I take issue with papal social justice talk being held as more central to Catholicism than the Fifth Commandment. In short, I have infinitely more respect for a pro-life Jew than I have for a pro-choice Catholic. Anti-semitism is a popular viewpoint on the left, and apparently it is popular with social justice Catholics.

  • Drew Watkins

    I'm sorry writer, but you are foolish. Biden didn't use his religion to promote liberal policies. He said in spite of his personal beliefs, he couldn't impose his ideas on believers of other religions. That's why it's a beautiful thing. Because he's not taking people's rights away with his religious opinions. He stands up for personal freedom above anything else. I greatly respect it.