Bishops Criticize Biden's Abortion Comments

Two prominent U.S. Catholic bishops said Tuesday that Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden contradicted church teaching by saying in a weekend interview that determining when human life begins is a "personal and private" matter of religious faith he would not impose on others.

The statement from Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop William Lori said Biden, who appeared Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," is the latest case of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy correcting a Catholic politician.

Asked on the program about when life begins, Biden said: "Look, I know when it begins for me. It's a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I am prepared to accept the teachings in my church."

He added that while he believes life begins "at the moment of conception," it would inappropriate to impose that view on others in a pluralistic society.

The bishops said Biden was right to say human life begins at conception. But the church "does not teach this as matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact," they said.

"Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice," they added.

A spokesman for Biden did not immediately respond Tuesday to requests for comment.

Rigali, of Philadelphia, is chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Lori, of Bridgeport, Conn., is chairman of the bishops' Committee on Doctrine.

Last month, a chorus of bishops issued statements scolding Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for misstating Catholic teaching about when life begins in defense of her support for abortion rights. She accepted an invitation to meet privately with San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer, the bishop of her home diocese, to discuss the matter.