Leading liberal cardinal says Biden ‘not demonstrating Catholic teaching’

Yet at the same time, he said unspecified "theologians" are currently debating the "medical issues" of when conception takes place.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory (Catholic Archdiocese of Washington/Facebook)

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the left-leaning archbishop of Washington, D.C., acknowledged that President Joe Biden’s understanding of when life begins is clearly at odds with Catholic teaching.

Yet at the same time, he said unspecified “theologians” are currently debating the “medical issues” of when conception takes place — an apparent attempt at softening the blow of his response to Biden.

At a National Press Club event on Wednesday, a reporter asked Cardinal Gregory if he was “surprised” to hear about Biden’s disagreement with the idea that life begins at conception. She also asked the cardinal to clarify Church teaching on the matter.

“The Catholic Church teaches, and has taught, that life — human life — begins at conception,” he said. “So the president is not demonstrating Catholic teaching.”

Cardinal Gregory, however, was not satisfied to leave it at that. After a brief pause, he said theologians are trying to hash out the precise moment of conception and its attendant implications.

“Now, among the theologians, there’s all kinds of medical issues about when does conception take place?” he said. “When is it? Is it at implantation? Is it at some point when the sperm and the ovum come together and create a new reality?”

“Theologians have debated that and continue to debate that,” he added.

President Biden’s belief that life begins after conception is not a belief he has held for too long. During the 2008 election, then vice presidential candidate Biden said he was “prepared as a matter of faith to accept” Church teaching on the beginning of life.

Then again in 2012 Biden reiterated his belief on the beginning of life during a vice presidential debate with Paul Ryan.

“Life begins at conception, that’s the Church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life,” he said. “But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman.”

Last week Biden did not explain why he no longer assents to Church teaching on the beginning of life. Astute observers of the political climate, however, can surmise that one simply cannot be a viable Democratic candidate for office while proclaiming that life begins at conception.


Evan Stambaugh

Evan Stambaugh is a freelance writer who had previously been a sports blogger. He has a BA in theology and an MA in philosophy.