Wisconsin bishop joins critics of Biden, Pelosi

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An irate Bishop Robert C. Morlino joined a growing number of Catholic prelates bent on criticizing pro-choice politicians when he charged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Sunday with “violating the separation of church and state” and “trampling on the pope’s turf.”

Just before the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Madison, Wis., Bishop Morlino happened to watch Mr. Biden being interviewed on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The bishop then announced during his sermon that he was tossing his prepared notes to preach against “confusion” caused by the two politicians.

“This [sermon] is not because they are Democrats,” he told congregants, “it’s because they claim to be Catholic.”

The two politicians “are stepping on the pope’s turf and mine,” he continued, “and they are violating the separation of church and state … confusing God’s good people.”

Both politicians, he said, were schooled in pre-Vatican II Catholic churches, where “abortion was always wrong. There was nothing else available in Catholic religious education in those days.”

The Vatican II council in the early 1960s modernized the church by changing some of the ceremonies and relaxing its message.

Today, “Speaker Pelosi and Senator Biden are Catholics and they are on television and they are giving their ideas to Catholic people and they are causing confusion,” he said. He would be equally critical, he added, if pro-choice Republican Catholic politicians made similar remarks.

Mr. Biden told NBC’s Tom Brokaw that even though he believes life begins at conception, he does not think abortion should be criminalized.

“I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view that it’s a moment of conception,” the Delaware senator said.

Referring to a theological treatise by 13th century theologian Thomas Aquinas, “There is a debate in our church, as [New York] Cardinal [Edward] Egan would acknowledge, that’s existed,” the senator continued. “When Thomas Aquinas wrote ‘Summa Theologia,’ he said there was no - it didn’t occur until quickening, 40 days after conception.”

In an Aug. 24 interview with Mr. Brokaw, Mrs. Pelosi said that St. Augustine, a third-century theologian, did not believe life started at conception. The Catholic Church only decided on conception as the starting point about 50 years ago, she added.

For the next two weeks, she was chastised by 11 bishops, including her own pastor, San Francisco Archbishop George H. Niederauer, for bad theology. Relying on the scanty biological information available at the time, Augustine was wondering when the soul entered the body, not whether life had begun, they said.

“Although NBC probably didn’t intend it, ‘Meet the Press’ has become a national window on the flawed moral reasoning of some Catholic public servants,” said a letter issued Monday by Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput and Auxiliary Denver Bishop James D. Conley.

About the Author
Julia Duin

Julia Duin

Julia Duin is the Times’ religion editor. She has a master’s degree in religion from Trinity School for Ministry (an Episcopal seminary) and has covered the beat for three decades. Before coming to The Washington Times, she worked for five newspapers, including a stint as a religion writer for the Houston Chronicle and a year as city editor at the ...

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