Thomas Griffin 12/2/22
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As abortion laws continue to drive headlines across America, Bishop Robert Barron (a renowned Catholic speaker, writer, founder of Word on Fire Ministries and recently installed bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester in southern Minnesota) published one of the few written critiques by a Catholic bishop of President Biden’s stance on abortion.
His article, Our Catholic President and the Most Pressing Moral Issue of Our Time, notes that Biden is among many Catholic politicians who state that they are not willing to “impose” their beliefs on other people. Barron states that the way politicians use the word “impose” is erroneous. Truth always imposes itself on us. “Laws don’t suggest;” Barron says, “they impose. And behind every truly just law, there is some moral principle.”
Bishop Barron also notes that Catholics are not anti-abortion because the Church says so, but it is, “rather, a conclusion drawn from moral reasoning and from the findings of objective science.” It is indisputable that the life in the womb is an innocent human life. Simple moral reasoning states that it is true and good to protect innocent life from being murdered. Following scientitific fact and objective morality brings one to conclude that abortion is wrong. Catholics do not solely lean on what the Church tells them about abortion, but on what is true.
The newly installed bishop states that “it is utterly incoherent to claim that one can hold to the position privately but not defend it publicly.” To say that one is against abortion privately, but not publicly is like stating that a person is privately against slavery but is for Jim Crow laws, says Barron.
Catholics do not need a dogma of the Church to tell them that slavery is wrong, we simply know that it is immoral and harmful from moral reasoning. Imagine if a politician was to say that they are privately against slavery, but publicly they will defend the right of Americans to own other individuals. This is part of the reason why the bishop finds “the President’s statements and actions in regard to abortion policy so repellent.”
To sum up his position, Barron ends with these words: “President Biden speaks often of his Catholic faith, attends Mass regularly, and prays the Rosary. I have absolutely no reason to doubt the sincerity of his Catholicism. But I am sorry to say that, in regard to the most pressing moral issue of our time, he stands athwart both right reason and the explicit teaching of his Church.”
These words are tough from Bishop Barron. Often Catholics are told to not take a stance in politics. Church and state should be held separate. As we can see from the bishop’s words, abortion is not a matter of religion, but of truth and morality. Barron is one of the very few bishops in the United States to make such a bold and public statement against the president’s views.
Many Catholics are wondering what the bishops think about Biden’s position which champions abortion rights in the context of his staunch stance as a practicing Catholic. Are they in agreement? Can one live in such a manner and be virtuous? When an individual has such power and influence over the lives of millions of innocent children can such a stance be seen as Christ-driven and truth-bearing?
Some might argue that Barron should not judge Biden’s soul in public. However, this is not what the bishop is doing. Barron is simply showing the immorality of abortion and how the president’s view is incompatible with science, fact, simple morality and Church teaching.
Jesus said, “I have come to set fire on the earth,” because that is what happens when we take his word as Truth. For this reason, Bishop Barron’s media company is called Word on Fire. The empty tomb impels disciples to stand up for the truth and to defend the innocent, in love even when that can make us unpopular. Bishop Barron has done just that.
May we be enlivened to do the same in our families, at work and in our communities because following Jesus is tough, but standing with him brings holiness, true fulfillment and a light that scatters the darkness.
Thomas Griffin is the chairperson of the religion department at a Catholic high school on Long Island where he lives with his wife and son. He has a masters degree in theology and is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Empty Tomb Project: The Magazine. He writes for several media outlets.
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