29 August 2008


The announcement of Senator Joseph Biden, a practising Catholic, as the running mate of the Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama in the forthcoming US presidential election has re-awakened the debate about the position of Catholic public figures who depart from official church teaching.

Senator Biden has on a number of occasions voted in favour of pro-choice positions in regard to abortion.

It is not my intention to comment on the issue of abortion or indeed on the dilemma of politicians who may find themselves in a position where they feel compelled to support the 'party line' even against their own conscience.

Rather my concern is why a single issue such as abortion seems to be singled out as the measure of a candidate’s Catholic orthodoxy?

What of the Catholic politician who supports involvement in an unjust war? who supports the use of torture? who supports economic policies that condemn millions of people around the world to live in poverty? who supports an immigration policy that violates fundamental human rights?

The Catholic Church has a vast reservoir of important teaching on social justice (sometimes described as its 'best kept secret') and has a proud record of standing up for justice at various times in particular situations.

Unfortunately it sometimes appears that charity and attendance to personal religious devotions are seen to be more important than justice and social action except on selected issues.

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