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Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 11, 2012

DebateSo the candidates’ faith did come up tonight, when the moderator, ABC News' Martha Raddatz, asked this:

I want to move on, and I want to return home for these last few questions. This debate is, indeed, historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.

Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And, please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country, please talk personally about this, if you could.

What a lost opportunity! If the moderator planned to discuss faith, and I’m glad she did, why limit the discussion to one issue, however important, when the full spectrum of Catholic social teaching is ripe for an expansive and thought provoking conversation?

A priest friend tweeted me this:

I would say her question was hackneyed. Just ask how your shared faith motivates your positions.


I think Ryan and Biden both gave convincing, sincere answers. But to limit the conversation about their Catholic faith to abortion is shameful. What about poverty? Immigration? Unions? The environment? Believe it or not, these are all “Catholic” issues too.

Tonight’s debate was energizing and revealing. But what a lost opportunity for both candidates to explain how their faith shapes their leadership.

Michael J. O’Loughlin 

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Marie Rehbein
11 years 1 month ago
The reason for the question was not an interest in Catholicism; it was an interest in the politically polarizing issue of abortion, which the Catholic Church has claimed as the paramount life issue.  That's why it wasn't about poverty, immigration, unions, and the environment.
Tom Maher
11 years 1 month ago
As VP candidate Ryan correctly said his opposition to abortion is not limited to his  Catholic faith.  Ryan also aoppossed abortion as a matter science and reason.

Why should a being be considered a fully protected person upon birth but a short while before birth be allowed to be destroyed by law?  The sudden personhood at birth does not make sense to a lot of people.  May people ethically struggle with the humane  treatment of anaimals or even small living things such as insects or bugs.  I have personally taken pains the other day to avoid killing some kind of summer bug that happened to appear in my kitchen by gently removing the bug to the outdoors.

People  scruple about how animals are treated.  Why would it not be expected that many people would also scruple emotionally and ethically about taking the life f a developing human being?   Even without any religious background the wanton destruction of a fetus many would consider wanton, unnecesssary and wrong.  And contrary to Joe Binden's private views  many people do object to even minor mistreatment of animals.  And in fact in most states the mistreatment of animals is a punishable crime.  It is entirely possible that the strongest oppossition to abortion comes from the reasoning and recognition form the hearts and mind of humans that abortion is a very objectionable destructive act. 
Marie Rehbein
11 years 1 month ago
The reason for the question was not an interest in Catholicism; it was an interest in the politically polarizing issue of abortion, which the Catholic Church has claimed as the paramount life issue.  That's why it wasn't about poverty, immigration, unions, and the environment.
JR Cosgrove
11 years 1 month ago
Mr. O'Loughlin,

''But to limit the conversation about their Catholic faith to abortion is shameful. What about poverty? Immigration? Unions? The environment? Believe it or not, these are all “Catholic” issues too.''

 I personally believe the Democratic party loses on all these topics to the Republicans in terms of holding the morrally superior position.  With one exception and that is immigration which I do not find either side willing to take a reasonable position.  I find it ironic that those who support the Democrats believe they hold the morally superior position on all these topics as you do especially on poverty where Democratic party policies have done tremendous hard to the underclass and has actually made in much bigger during our life times.  Maybe in the next few weeks we could discuss each of these separately and see if one can dispassionately understand each other's positions.
Kang Dole
11 years 1 month ago
"I wish they had talked more about religion" is something I do not believe I have ever thought concerning American politics.
Tim O'Leary
11 years 1 month ago
If one looks at humans as part of the animal kingdom alone, then I agree it is possible to make judgments of value based on perceived or imagined sentience. However, that view also nullifies the basis of all human rights, which is where some of the animal rights advocates (like Princeton's Peter Singer) are going. Human rights become at best a special case of animal ''rights''. We should resist this thinking with all our might, as the Gulag and the gas chambers and species ''improvement'' and discarding of the unfit, all follow logically from these premises.

From our science, we are told that a distinct human individual begins at conception. From our faith we are told that as soon as a human is conceived, even as a single cell, it is already a spiritual being with an eternal destiny - that will outlast the whole physical universe. This shows its near infinite value and dignity. It is an amazing and awesome claim, but it is true. This is why the abortion issue is so central to a Catholic understanding of humanity.

Given the sheer innocence and sacredness of each child, born and waiting to be born, and the required perversion of the natural instinct to preserve one's own flesh and blood, it would seem that there is no hope for men and women who knowingly kill their offspring. But God is infinitely merciful, and forgiveness is possible and promised for a contrite heart, and the parents can mourn their child and be reconciled with their Creator. And, after they die, they can meet and love their child again, in heaven.

Amy Ho-Ohn
11 years 1 month ago
I think people who spend a lot of time thinking about a set of issues (e.g., religion) will always be disappointed by the way it gets handled in a ninety minute debate. The foreign policy people say, "There are so many important things happening in the world and all they asked about was the Middle East?" and the environmentalists say "There are so many environmental catastrophes occurring and all they asked about was global warming?" The debates are a summary for the people who only pay attention to politics in the last month of an election. 
People think humane treatment of animals is more important than protection of fetuses because higher animals are ostensibly more human than fetuses are at the stage that most of them get aborted. The animal (a dog, a horse, an octopus, a rabbit) suffers when it is injured, it is afraid of danger, it appears to enjoy life, it interacts socially with its keeper, it seeks out a suitable mate and cares for its progeny. The vast majority of abortions take place when the fetus is incapable of any these things.

This is not a good reason to support abortion. But it is not all that hard to understand.
Bob Hunt
11 years 1 month ago
As far as the media is concerned, there is only one Catholic issue, and that issue is abortion.  The question was asked in hopes that Ryan would expose himself as being TOO Catholic, while Biden could show that, while a sincere Catholic, he isn't about to let the pope tell him how to be VP.

As far as both candidates giving "convincing, sincere answers," Biden basically said that he believes that those in the womb are human, but that they don't merit the protection of civil law because some people don't think they're human, or that their lives are conditional.  Sorry, but that's patently immoral and blasted scary.  I wonder what other humans Biden thinks don't merit the protection of civil law because such would offend the religious, social or political sensibilities of others?
Joe Patrick
11 years 1 month ago
It was a lost opportunity for Rep. Ryan himself when he was forced to state the policy of Gov. Romney, which is to include exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.  It would have been such a glorious example had Mr. Ryan been free to state the entirety of his own belief in that regard.  Politics is an insidious way of life that forces people of good conscience to veer away from their beliefs in order to win an office in which they must further compromise in order to remain viable.  Meanwhile, our unborn children undergo unfathomable suffering and degradation.   
Paul Spengler
11 years 1 month ago
I was disappointed with how both men responded. I would have preferred it if at least one of them had said that, while his religious beliefs were important to everything he did, the Constitution says that there shall be no religious test for office. Therefore, it's inappropriate for a candidate for public office to discuss his religious beliefs.
11 years 1 month ago
I am not certain this is a Catholic website, but if it is, it seems most of you don't understand Catholicism.  Abortion is an intrinsic evil.  Catholics are forbidden (yes, forbidden) to support, encourage, assist or condone abortion.  What does this say about Biden's logical inconsistencies?  To sit there and lie about how important your "faith" is while arguing for public funding for as well as no restrictions on abortion is, well, typical, of the "Catholics" I've met.  Liars, each and every one of them!  The question was a fair one intended to elicit the cognitive dissonance that is dunderhead Joe.  Foot-in-mouth Joe.  Idiot Joe?  That and so much more!  What entertainment. 

If you are a Catholic, be one.  That means opposing abortion.  Take the right path.  Biden is a coward and a liar.  How dishonorable that man is putting his own political ambition and parasitic career of 40 years feeding at the taxpayer trough while demanding we bow down before him.  He has no faith except in his own elevated status.  That 60% of phoney catholics support the most pro-abortion, pro-infanticide, pro-euthanasia, pro-gay marriage abomination of a human being to sit in the White House tells me all I need to know about "Catholics". You're the punchline to a very sad joke.
Michael Barberi
11 years 1 month ago
The issue of abortion is not as black and white as the Church would like Catholics to believe. Direct abortion is never permitted under any intentions, ends or circumstances. However, consider the following.

If life does begin at conception, and we put aside the arguments over ensoulment and personhood, then the Church contradicts its own teaching about abortion. In the case of rape, all that is necessary to administer Plan be to a rape victim is a negative pregnancy test (e.g., note the recent pronouncement from the A/B of Connecticut). However, a pregnancy test (that is usually administered within 72 hours of rape) can only detect pregnancy after implantation which ocurrs about 3 weeks after fertilization.

This accepted practice is in contradiction to the USCCB'S guidelines in rape cases, namely, that Plan B is only morally permitted if no evidence of pregnancy exists. An ovulation test can determine if ovulation has ocurred, but this does not ensure that fertilzation has ocurred. The ovulation test used to be the test given by Catholic hospitals, and if ovulation has ocurred, the rape victim was refused Plan B. Now this practice has been changed to a pregnancy test by several Archbishops.

The USCCB has refused to say anything about this contradiction in principle. In the case of rape, for example, the issue of justice and the ethical context (e.g., the circumstances and intentions) is often put forth by some theologians that Plan B can be jusified by a negative pregnancy test...as bizzaar as this seems. However, this is not the position of the Church because such an argument could be put forth for other moral cases where circumstances and intentions (ethical context) could justify an exception to other definitive teachings.

I am against direct abortion, but not the definition that the Church uses. In other words, I don't believe that the procedure in the infamous Phoenix case was direct abortion. It was clearly indirect abortion, as argued by many traditionalist and revisionist theologians. Therefore, when we talk about "abortion" we need to be specific.

Now, both Biden and Ryan believe that life begins at conception, but that abortion with circumstances is morally acceptable (e.g., to save the life of the mother, and in cases of rape and incest). However, this is not the teaching of the Catholic Church, despite the glaring contradiction mentioned above.

Anne Danielson
11 years 1 month ago
The Catholic Church opposes abortion because it respects the Dignity of every human being, from the moment that human individual has been created and brought into being, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as male or female, not being a human place or a human thing, but a human person, and thus being a human life worthy of being protected.

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