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Cardinal Gregory: Biden ‘not demonstrating Catholic teaching’ on when life begins

Matt Hadro   By Matt Hadro for CNA

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta. (Credit: Georgia Bulletin/Michael Alexander)

Washington D.C., Sep 8, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The Archbishop of Washington on Wednesday clarified the Church’s teaching on when life begins, after Catholic President Joe Biden last week said life does not begin at conception.

“The Catholic Church teaches, and has taught, that life – human life – begins at conception,” said Cardinal Wilton Gregory at a Wednesday luncheon of the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C.

“So, the president is not demonstrating Catholic teaching,” he added.

Last Friday, Sept. 3, President Joe Biden said he did not “agree” that life begins at conception.

“I have been and continue to be a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade,” he said at the White House, answering a reporter’s question on abortion. “I respect them – those who believe life begins at the moment of conception and all – I respect that. Don’t agree, but I respect that,” he said.

Biden’s comments were a departure from previous statements of his on when life begins. In a 2008 interview as a vice presidential candidate, and again at a 2012 vice presidential debate, Biden said he believed life begins at conception.

Gregory addressed reporters and members of the public at a National Press Club Headliners Luncheon on Sept. 8.

After delivering remarks on journalism, Gregory took questions on various issues including abortion, COVID-19 vaccines, race and the Catholic Church, the clergy sex abuse crisis, the death penalty, and workers’ rights.

When asked if the Church has recently “softened” its teaching on abortion, Cardinal Gregory said the Church’s teaching has not changed.

“Our Church has not changed its position on the immorality of abortion, and I don’t see how we could, because we believe that every human life is sacred. Every human life is sacred,” he said.

Gregory was then asked about the death penalty. The execution of Texas death row inmate John Henry Ramirez is scheduled for Wednesday evening, Sept. 8.

Ramirez has appealed to the Supreme Court to have his Baptist pastor pray aloud and lay hands on him in the execution chamber. Texas officials, while allowing his pastor inside the chamber, have denied Ramirez’s request for vocal prayer and physical contact.

“Should he be allowed to meet his creator, having the support of a pastor? I say yes,” Gregory stated.

While noting he did not know all the details of the case, the cardinal added that “if this man wants to pray with his minister, and his minister pray with him, it might very well be a sign that there is some reconciliation, conversion, going on within him.”

He went on to comment on the broader issue of the death penalty, saying it “has also been proven flawed.”

“There’s too many cases where people have been sentenced and, unfortunately, I think, put to death. And then with the development of scientific research, it’s been proven – or least raised to a serious doubt – that maybe the trial itself was flawed,” Gregory said.

He then explained the “consistent life ethic” of his mentor, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago. Gregory served as auxiliary bishop of Chicago from 1983-1994.

“Life issues are linked,” he said. “They’re not at the same level. There are life issues that are predominant.”

“The conception of a child is the first life concern,” he said, adding that “those life issues have to extend to all the other moments of human existence as well,” such as to prisoners, immigrants, the elderly, and people with handicaps.

“Is he [Bernardin] saying that a prisoner that has been found guilty of multiple criminal behavior – is he to be equated with an infant in the womb who is just trying to live or to be born, literally? Oh no, he’s not saying that,” Gregory noted. “He’s saying they are linked, not because they are the same, but they are linked because they are all human.

As archbishop of Washington, Gregory has been at the center of discussion in recent months over whether pro-abortion Catholic politicians should be admitted to Communion. He told a reporter last year that he would not deny Communion in such cases.

In January, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference issued a lengthy statement on the day of Biden’s inauguration as president, noting some of his positive policies but also warning that some of his proposed policies would “advance moral evils.” Gregory thought the statement “ill-timed,” according to NBC’s Al Roker, who reported in February that Gregory had emphasized “dialogue” with the new administration.

During the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting in June, Gregory cautioned against drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist that would include language on worthiness to receive Communion, especially among Catholic public figures. Some bishops critical of the motion warned that it would be interpreted as a partisan denunciation of pro-abortion Catholic politicians, especially President Biden.

Gregory pointed to the “unusual” circumstances of bishops meeting remotely and not in-person, due to the pandemic. He warned that drafting the document at the time could “well further damage” unity.

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  1. Very good comments from His Eminence, worthy of two supporting details:

    FIRST, in addition to Church teaching, more could be said about the actual science involved.

    Even Emperor Biden pontificates, “follow the science!” Advances in elementary embryology…in 1983 (City of Akron case) Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had an early clue in her dissenting opinion, “As medical science becomes better able to provide for the separate existence of the fetus, the point of viability is moved further back toward conception.”

    SECOND, regarding a discourse on Eucharistic coherence, other timing probably has been better.

    Take the time of Christ, for example: “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27). This astounding fact probably should be repeated every century or so, whether needed or not (!), and surely in 1973 (Roe v Wade), or at least prior to the recent presidential election, rather than after. So, yes, bad timing. Long overdue.

  2. The Cardinal needs to restudy our Code of Canon Law, specifically Canon Law #1398 and #1329.2  Biden is no longer a member of the Body of Christ [the Church] and a priest has as much right to refuse Biden communion as he would a Jew if one came up to receive. Life is not cradle to grave. Life is from womb to tomb! And always has been. Whats wrong with our so called apostolic bishops. Many embarrass me and make me ashamed that they are my leaders. Very sad 🙁 Lets renew our prayers for their leadership in and with Christ.

  3. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a woman convicted of a capital crime could claim a delay in her execution if she were pregnant; a woman who did so was said to “plead the belly”. In Ireland, on 16 March 1831 Baron Pennefather in Limerick stated that pregnancy was not alone sufficient for a delay but there had to be quickening. (To be able to feel the movement of the fetus)

    The plea (Pleading the belly) was available at least as early as 1387 and was eventually rendered obsolete by the Sentence of Death (Expectant Mothers) Act 1931, which stated that an expecting mother would automatically have her death sentence commuted to life imprisonment with hard labor.

    The Catholic Church points us to ultrasound and to the irrelevance of quickening while nowadays many of us will have seen the fertilization of the female egg by sperm on TV and subsequently, the cells dividing at a quickening pace to form the basis of a new life (conception). It seems in bygone times a quickening was confirmed by the midwives been able to feel movement in the womb but now we can now actually see a quickening (Movement) taking place at conception.

    From my perspective there is no need to take this any further our Catechism teaches the beginning of life as hominization (ensoulment) upon conception.

    I have made this comment on many sites, directed at both sexes, which goes to the heart of the matter, as it is ‘innately’ known within all honest hearts.

    “I wonder if anyone who reads this has the honesty and courage to serve the Truth by acknowledging that at some time in their life, they have felt the natural inclination of a tinge of sadness or/and been aware that they have participated in the possible loss of a new life through an act of using a method of contraception”
    No one ever responds I wonder why.

    kevin Your brother
    In Christ

  4. The beauty of parenthood (Marriage) and its unifying bound the creation of a new life.

    “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh”

    The TRUTH of this statement can be seen in any offspring they may be blest with, and this statement is truly life-giving. As the greatest gift we have received is the gift of life, given by God through the action of our parents, refusing to fully partake in His creation by deliberately denying another the opportunity of life, is sinful, and this sin is known ‘innately’ by all of mankind.

    From HV.20. “The teaching of the Church regarding the proper regulation of birth is a promulgation of the law of God Himself.
    And yet there is no doubt that to many it will appear not merely difficult but even impossible to observe”

    So yes, if we are, to be honest, is not this the reason why so many justify using contraception. But rather than accept their limitations before God, they have created self-serving consciences and in doing so they hide their nakedness (Shame) before Him, by hiding in the bushes and covering themselves with leaves (excuses). And in doing so stifle spiritual growth.

    There are many social, economic, and health reasons why people use contraception form downright selfishness to the other end of the spectrum one of very low income, poverty, bad housing, poor education, abusive marriages, mental health issues, substance abuse, HIV, broken relationships as in one partner refuses to have sex without the use of contraception, many of these are cultural Catholics and often poorly educated ones, who have never really committed to the faith, also for many in these badly fractured life situations, NFP is totally impractical.

    I have proposed a way forward to one based on humility, manifest by venerating the true Divine Mercy Image one of Broken Man, given by our Lord Himself to the Church, that has the potential within it to create unity of purpose, while encouraging spiritual growth, within the whole Church. Were this to happen it would draw in many Protestant denominations to the Catholic Church’s teaching on HV, in condemning contraception as sinful, as we would now have the means to create Unity of purpose, based on our humility before God, rather than self-justification.

    So would it not be better, to be honest by those who use contraception and acknowledge the Truths within Humanae Vitae before God and the faithful just prior to receiving Communion, in that they cannot live to its demands through human frailty?
    And in doing so grow spiritually in confronting their own human frailty, which would most certainly, also encourage more births.

    While creating a truthful humble authentic Church before God and mankind.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  5. “The Catholic Church teaches, and has taught, that life – human life – begins at conception,” said Cardinal Wilton Gregory at a Wednesday luncheon of the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C.

    “So, the president is not demonstrating Catholic teaching,” he added.

    But even though Biden is in clear violation of Canon 915, the cowardly Gregory will still give him the Blessed Sacrament. Blah, Blah, Blah …

    Can. 915 Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.

    • Yep, this is literally the first time I’ve heard him publicly affirm an actual Church teaching (I live in Atlanta, so was subjected to him for years), but whoopie doo. As you correctly pointed out, he’ll still continue to provide the Eucharist to Joe and Nancy and their ilk. So it’s just empty words…..

  6. Joe Biden doesn’t believe that life begins at conception. He does believe that passing a $3.5 trillion “infrastructure” bill will eliminate hurricanes and other natural disasters. He appears to believe that leaving Americans behind to the whims of the Taliban in Afghanistan is fine, because we successfully evacuated 120,000 people and brought many of them to the United States to join those who have crossed out southern border as future “citizens,” presumably Democrat-voting citizens. He believes in eliminating our energy resources in favor of some fantasy sources to be determined once the current sources are gone. He believes that spending the resources today of our great-great-great grandchildren is fiscally responsible. Well, you get the idea. If we follow Joe’s “logic,” we will be in deep doo-doo, and future generations will be deceased prior to their birth.

    • Letter to Editor:

      This is one of the funniest articles I’ve ever read here. Thank you (and please allow credit where credit is due–to Cardinal Gregory too) for helping cleanse my respiratory system.

  7. :demonstrating? Biden has clearly stated that he does not accept the catholic dogmatic teaching that human life begins at conception. And this belief of his is held for the reason to safeguard the so called right of a women to choose to abortion. Any catholic that in way defends or supports Biden can no longer claim catholic identity. Hence, the cardinal’s catholic identity is very questionable to say the least. Let us pray –“Jesus, forgive us our sins; save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls into Heaven, especially those in are in most need of Thy mercy.”

  8. I’d offer this headline:

    “Pope Emeritus Benedict: Cardinal Gregory ‘is not demonstrating church teaching in not invoking Canon 915 with Biden'”.

  9. If you go out today, be sure to wear a hat. Because, if Cardinal Gregory is actually publicly criticizing a Democratic politician, there must be some very large animals with snouts flying around out there.

  10. Biden is so far away from the TEACHONG of our HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH that being in the POSITION WHERE HE IS, he should be EXCOMMUNICATED! HE IS MISS-LEADING THE YOUNG, THE UNFORMED AND, THOSE WHO ARE BEING MISS LEAD, WHO ARE IN NEED OF HEARING THE RIGHT TEACHING FORM PEOPLE IN POWER! THE POWER OF BIDEN IS of NO SMALL ISSUE! OUR HOLY MOTHER THE CHURCH MUST STANDS UP AND “MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD!” John 1:23, for every faithful to follow! Jesus BUILT the CHURCH UNDER PETER’s hands! NON OTHER! No one has the Right to change any of JESUS’ TEACHING! “If you love me, keep my COMMANDMENTS!” John 14:15! When the sperm is no longer a sperm and the Egg is no longer an Egg, at that very moment when the unity of that sperm and that Egg is joined, a new LIFE IS IN THE MAKING! When O united with H2, immediatly WATER was formed! The SAME principle applies to a NEW HUMAN LIFE is formed under the WILL OF GOD!

  11. A welcome affirmation on human life at conception, and a reasonable response to the death penalty. And his admission of Biden’s rebuttal of Catholic doctrine is equally as important. Although his unchanged position on communion for Pres Biden and other pro choice politicians remains an apparent discontinuity of belief and practice. That Archbishop Gregory’s affirmation of human life at conception makes headlines is perhaps the bottom line take away. It reveals the rife ambiguity within the Church on settled doctrine. For example, a pol on virtually any issue has moral leeway to support insofar as there is no clear injustice. Killing of the innocent whether in or outside the womb is among the gravest of evils. It cannot be justified whether in a pluralistic society as ours, or a despotic Nazi Germany. It was gravely sinful to support Nazi genocide. Why would a pluralist society, a wrongly adjudicated decision [Roe] make the equivalent of genocide, infanticide morally acceptable? Whatever we may argue canonically, theologically the circumstances [the pluralist society] cannot transform an inherent evil into a good. Communion for those who support infanticide in the womb [or out] is in practice the sanction of that crime. A moral crime religiously held as well as a civil crime since it is an injustice denying the right to life, the most basic of all human rights. That liceity [communion for infanticide supporters] misinforms the faithful that there are no permanent moral principles. That is both the weakness proposed in the exhortation Amoris Laetitia, and those same mitigating proposals the bane of our humanness. They effectively teach Christ entered our world to be crucified that we might have the option to accept or reject his commandments with equal justification. Archbishop Gregory, however well intended in his discussion at the National Press Club, presents us with that anomaly.

  12. Well that is refreshing. Be more refreshing when he finally concedes that Biden’s works and actions are offensively contradictory to the Church’s teaching on the value of every human life. As for when life begins, that is intrinsically unequivocal, independent of the Church’s or anyone else’s teaching. A new, distinct, genetically complete living organism exists at the moment of conception. Biden needs to be challenged to say explicitly and out loud what he really thinks – that some human lives are disposable ad libitum and that governments should have the power to force all of us to be complicit in their murders. Jennifer Psaki should be challenged to invite him to do so in public at every press conference from now until he is finally sent to the rest home. Every time she answers with “Biden is a devout Catholic” the rejoinder is that “maybe but would you please answer the question I asked.” The reporter should keep asking it until they are dragged from the press room.

  13. Newsworthy! Read all about it! A Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church deigns to voice belief on the beginning of life! According to His Eminence, he is doing nothing but teaching according to the Church! Quick! Pearls to clutch! Where’s the couch on which we faint?? His words are such as to cause a swoon!

  14. ‘Biden not demonstrating Catholic teaching on when life begins.”

    To the Cardinal goes this week’s coveted ‘Captain Obvious” award. But one must admit that the fact that he would even make such a statement is a sign of progress.

  15. P.S. Phil Lawler at Catholic Culture, Sept. 9, is not totally impressed with Gregory’s comments.
    Lawler is right, as usual.
    Still, it’s a start.

  16. I learn a lot reading all of you. I mean the comments (someone is a bit… ¡ out of control!, but any way), and also the main articles, of course. Thanks to this community

  17. Time and again, in the West, the moral problem turns out to be the same, upon closer inspection and contemplation…too many people remain in high school their entire lives. Way too much focus is placed on avoiding the mockery of what they perceive to be the ‘cool kids.’ You can look where you will…even at the places you’d expect to feature the strongest personalities, such as the leadership of massive corporations and even the military…and you find this abject cowardice. So long as this is the case, the results will continue to underwhelm. People are scared to death of being labelled as ‘unhip’ or ‘backward’ or ‘bigoted’….THAT dread serves as pretty much all the deity that most modern Westerners HAVE…

  18. Life begins at conception – this is a biological fact, not a religious one, and so if it’s growing it’s alive, and so abortion is …….

    when two people go into an abortion mill – only one comes out

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