Originally posted 10/15/12 at The New York Times
During last week’s vice-presidential debate — the first time two Catholics have shared such a stage — a question about abortion was inevitable. To some viewers, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s stance — that he personally opposes abortion but does not believe in imposing those beliefs on others — came across as a wishy-washy mélange of moral intuitions. In contrast, Representative Paul D. Ryan, who laid out his ticket’s policy to “oppose abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother,” appeared to represent the principled, Catholic anti-abortion position.
But while Mr. Ryan’s vision for abortion policy is far more restrictive than current law, it is not the one advocated by the Catholic hierarchy. Along with Mr. Biden, he has joined the ranks of dissenting Catholic politicians, those who preserve a distance between nonnegotiable Catholic moral teaching and civil law.