Question on Catholicism, abortion, makes for dramatic moments in vice presidential debate
October 12th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Question on Catholicism, abortion, makes for dramatic moments in vice presidential debate

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Washington (CNN) - It was the first-ever debate between two Roman Catholics vying for a White House perch, and in Thursday’s face-off between Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, the question was put plainly: How does your faith shape your position on abortion?

It’s one of the most divisive questions in American politics, and the query from debate moderator Martha Raddatz, asked near the end of the sole vice presidential debate, set the table for some of the night’s most personal and poignant moments.

“I don't see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith,” said Ryan. “Our faith informs us in everything we do.”

“My religion defines who I am,” said Biden. “I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life.”

But the two men took very different tacks on applying their faith to the abortion issue. Ryan said his religion – combined with “reason and science” – led him to oppose legalized abortion, and that “the policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.”

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Ryan recalled when he and his wife, Janna, saw the ultrasound of their firstborn child, Liza. “We saw that heartbeat – a little baby was in the shape of a bean,” he said, noting that they still called their daughter “Bean” and saying he believes that “life begins at conception.”

“With respect to abortion, the Democratic Party used to say they wanted it to be safe, legal and rare,” Ryan continued. “Now they support it without restriction and with taxpayer funding … that to me is pretty extreme.”

Biden said he accepted his church’s anti-abortion position – “life begins at conception in the church’s judgment” – but that he refused to impose that view on “equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews.”

“The next president will get one or two Supreme Court nominees,” Biden said. “That’s how close Roe v. Wade is. … Do you think (Romney is) likely to appoint someone like Scalia or someone else on the court far right that would outlaw abortion? I suspect that would happen.”

Both men also used the question on abortion and Roman Catholicism to pivot to other issues, with Ryan saying the Obama White House is “infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals” presumably because of a new rule requiring insurers to provide free contraception coverage for virtually all American employees.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Before answering the abortion question, Biden said his Catholicism has “informed my social doctrine … about taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.”

The Obama campaign and liberal Catholic groups used the debate to organize Catholic watch parties and to argue that Ryan’s proposed budget in the House of Representative ran counter to Catholic values.

About one in four American voters is Catholic, though there is such a broad range in Catholic political concerns and voting habits that many political experts reject the notion of a cohesive Catholic bloc.

Catholics have voted with the winning presidential candidate in every election since the early 1990s.

Obama camp, liberal groups use VP debate to organize Catholic voters

In 2008, Obama beat John McCain among Catholics by 54% to 45%. In 2004, John Kerry – the first Catholic nominee for president since John F. Kennedy – lost the Catholic vote to George W. Bush, provoking Democrats to take Catholic outreach more seriously.

Both major parties had America’s highest-profile Catholic cleric, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, give the closing prayer at their recent political conventions.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Abortion • Catholic Church • Joe Biden • Paul Ryan • Politics

soundoff (1,543 Responses)
  1. Reality

    HO-RNY....as in THO-RNY and INFORM

    October 12, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  2. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    informs use

    October 12, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  3. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    informs u

    October 12, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  4. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    nforms us

    October 12, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  5. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    forms us

    October 12, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      s us

      October 12, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      wacky filter – inform

      October 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • test


      October 13, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • test

      inf-orms us

      October 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      Sorry to be a pest with the tests here – just wanted to get it right to add to the Hint list.

      October 13, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  6. Rational Libertarian

    24 Hour Crisis Center

    "Why do you pretend there is any other choice than Obama and Romney? That is just silly."

    It's this type of att.itude that maintains the ridiculous two party system.

    October 12, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      It *is* a ridiculous two-party system. It's designed that way. It's called 'first past the post' and this process is maintained and controled largely by the precinct captains, delegates and electoral college.
      Until that changes we will continue to have a two-party system.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      "first passed the post" is not unique to a two party environment. There are many countries with more than 2 parties were the party / candidate with the most votes wins – you only have to look north to Canada for one example.

      October 13, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • b4bigbang

      Not saying it's unique, but it certainly doesn't help.
      I still maintain tha the election laws in the US will have to be altered before a third party has an equal chance at the polls.
      To say it's merely the fault of Joe-voter [for sticking to GOP/Dem] is inaccurate IMO.

      October 13, 2012 at 1:08 am |
    • b4bigbang

      And of course there are exceptions to the rule, esp at the local level.
      For example, the Green Party has run Arcata, CA in past.
      (Don't know if they run it currently – haven't checked)

      October 13, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      What laws prevent a third major party? I think it's more a case att!tude, of "polarization" – "compromise" and "moderation" are four letter words in the USA.

      October 13, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • b4bigbang

      Yes, polarization is a big part of it. Dont underestimate the power of 1st passed the post, as this thrives under our 2 extremes polarization.
      While living in New Zealand I saw first-hand how a proportional [instead of 1st passed] system virtually guarantees more than 2 parties.
      A third party [Green] got a lot of votes, but not a majority, still guaranteeing them a proportion of MPs [members of Parliament]. They allied with the Labour Party (NZ Dems) against the conservative party [National, if memory serves].
      This is what we need in the US.

      October 13, 2012 at 1:43 am |
    • b4bigbang

      "...the power of 1st passed the post, as this thrives under our 2 extremes polarization."

      Or it may be more accurate to reverse my statement and say the over-represented influence of two-extreme polarization under [and magnified by] 1st passed the post.

      October 13, 2012 at 1:47 am |
  7. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    "Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."

    –James Madison

    October 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      An extremely wise assessment, which happens to agree with the teachings of the New Testament.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  8. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    NOTICE to Helpful Hints: If you're on the blog, please take note that the phrase "informs us" is a "naughty phrase"! HA HA HA! Seriously, this is like "wonderful us"! Dumbass programmer at CNN! Woo hoo!

    October 12, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Testing, Testing

      Well I'll be! I just tried them, and you are right. But why? What is the Big No-No word hidden in there?

      October 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Reality

      HO-RNY....as in THO-RNY and INFO-RM, See below for more of the idiocy that is CNN

      • The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there are words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".

      • Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.

      Sum Dude routinely updates the list of forbidden words/fragments.

      Two of the most filtered words are those containing the fragments "t-it" and "c-um". To quickly check your comments for these fragments, click on "Edit" on the Tool Bar and then "Find" on the menu. Add a fragment (without hyphens) one at a time in the "Find" slot and the offending fragment will be highlighted in your comments before you hit the Post button. Hyphenate the fragment(s) and then hit Post. And remember more than one full web address will also gain a "Waiting for Moderation".
      Zeb’s alphabetical listing

      o “bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN "awaiting moderation" filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ar-se.....as in Car-se, etc.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, lubco-ck, etc.
      co-on.....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
      cu-nt.....as in Scu-ntthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sh-@t.....but shat is okay – don't use the @ symbol there.
      sp-ic.....as in disp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!

      There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this list is complete.
      Allowed words / not blocked at all:
      raping (ra-pe is not ok)
      shat (sh-@t is not ok)

      The CNN / WordPress filter also filters your EMAIL address and NAME as well – so you might want to check those.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • Reality

      info-rms us

      October 12, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
  9. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    Ryan: "Our faith informs us in everything we do." Richard Dawkins: "Religion...teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding."

    October 12, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Ryan: "Our faith |nforms us in everything we do."

      October 12, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte


      October 12, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Life is a test from God whether you love and follow Jesus' (God in the flesh, Immanuel, God with us) truth or love and follow satan's lies. The hair clogging my kitchen sink did not come from my head. Did I mention, so far, you've failed His test.


      October 12, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      "The hair clogging my kitchen sink did not come from my head."

      What kind of bullshit are you spouting tonight, HS? The only way the hair in your grease trap could not have come from you is if you are renting or are living in a used house. STFU dolt!

      October 12, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • waitasec

      willful ignorance?

      October 12, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • waitasec

      is your god that stupid that he set up a test for those he "created" with a brain to not use their brain?

      double facepalm for you

      October 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      Oh man... you're too much, my friend 😀


      October 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • Sniffly Bob, Polka King of the Wild Frontier

      Uh, that is our synthetic HeavenSent, who likes to slip a whopper statement into the middle of things the real one has or would actually say.

      October 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  10. testing123


    October 12, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • check check 123

      Check. Check 1. Sibilance. Sibilance. Check. Check 2. Sibilance. Sibilance.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Wunk

      (chris farley voice)CHECK 1, check 2

      October 12, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • check check 123


      Mine was Tom Hanks on Wayne's World. lol

      October 12, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Butthead

      Uhhh...uh huh huh huh ......shut up, Beavis!

      October 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  11. EX catholic

    Idolatry is worship to demons. The Roman-Catholic "church" is a Politico-religious Organization. All of their ceremonies, practices, rituals and teachings are idolatrous. In their Idolatry they worship demons. That can be easily demons-trated by Scripture.

    October 12, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Towelie

      If you are gonna worship demons, don't forget to bring a towel!

      October 12, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      @EX catholic

      So you left the demons behind I take it....what is your religion today?

      October 12, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • TomPaine

      Catholics do not worship saints (or statues of them)., they venerate them–and yes, there is a big difference.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Della

      X Catholic more like NO Catholic

      October 12, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • EX catholic

      TomPaine wants to make it a game of words, a matter of Semantics. Like if it can be reduced to a discusion of whether is adoration vs. veneration. It is not a matter of Semantics, they're both the same thing. Actually the Merriam-Webster Dictionary list revere, adore, reverence and worship as Synonyms of Venerate.

      So, Tom again; The Roman-catholic "church" is a Politico-religious Organization. ALL of their ceremonies, rituals, practices, dogmas and teachings are grossly Idolatrous. Idolatry as per the Scriptures, is the worship of demons. Idolatry is a very serious SIN. It is a Violation a braking of the first and second Commandments. It is demons-trated in Scriptures.

      October 13, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Chick-a-dee

      @ EX catholic:

      Obviously, you don't get it.

      If I approach my next door neighbor, Elizabeth and my Aunt Ann, and I ask each of them to pray for me or someone else, no one would consider that worshiping either of them. If Elizabeth and Aunt Ann died right now, and each was a good woman who lived to love God and her neighbors, I'd hope that they'd be in heaven now or at least in the near future. If that's the case, then her being (soul) is still around and if I ask each to pray for me or someone I know, that's not worshiping either. Finally, if we are talking not about my aunt but about St. Ann,and not the neighbor but St. Elizabeth, women who each lived life so well that each was recognized by the Church as exemplary, asking either, or both, to pray for me or someone else is STILL not worshiping either one.

      Mark your comments down under the heading "Malarkey".

      October 13, 2012 at 1:57 am |
  12. EX catholic

    Catholics are Idolaters, idolatry is worship to demons, therefore catholics in their Idolatry worship demons. That can be easily demons-trated by Scripture.

    October 12, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • billdeacons

      Go ahead. I'll check back on Monday to review your post

      October 12, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      Get a grip on yourself!

      October 13, 2012 at 1:58 am |
  13. HeavenSent

    If you are not a practicing Christian that shows your love for Jesus, then you automatically belong to satan's team. My camel-toe was arrested for failure to yield to a pedestrian. You have the chance of repenting for your sins to Jesus, ask Him if you can get closer to Him, and of course, sin no more.


    October 12, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • therealpeace2all


      Typical fundie... just spouting off your moronic drivel from the Bible.
      Thanks... I'm still LMAO.... needed it tonight !
      If you would just begin to use your brain and think a little, maybe we can get you out of the "Cult of Christ."


      October 12, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • CS


      I see what you did there...;)

      October 12, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Human be aware of hindu filthy dog's of hindu Atheism, self center ism , DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD.

      @Heven Nickle and Dime ism, absurdity of a Hindu, ignorant, goon.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  14. Name*

    One's way of life is one's true religion.
    ...to serve and magnify oneself...XES.

    One's "personal faith" is one's religious life...it is only a subset of one's true way of life...to serve and magnify oneself.

    October 12, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Meatwad

      I serve and magnify myself all the time, but Carl told my I'm gonna grow hair on my palms. I don't want no damn hair on my palms.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • Towelie

      If you are gonna serve and magnify yourself, don't forget to bring a towel!

      October 12, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  15. Rational Libertarian

    Why anybody would vote for either candidate is beyond my cognitive capabilities.

    October 12, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      @Rational Libertarian

      I have no problem at all voting for Obama. He's done nearly everything we elect a president to do, and he did it all with little support from the left, and massive obstruction from the right.

      He has compiled a stellar record given the circ.u.mstances under which he took office.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      A trillion dollar stimulus that did nothing to improve the economy sounds like a pretty big mistake to me.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • waitasec

      if i don't vote i don't have an excuse to complain.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian


      First off, there's more than two candidates.

      Second, that's BS. If your choice is between a d.ouche and a turd, why vote?

      October 12, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      @Rational Libertarian

      True, but he tried and failed. Hard to imagine any other president doing any better under the circ.u.mstances he inherited from Bush. None the less, he has been accountable and I feel certain he is much better equipped to move our nation forward that Romney. Obama is a clear choice for me. Why do you pretend there is any other choice than Obama and Romney? That is just silly.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • waitasec

      i'm a registered independent.

      so na na na na na na :p

      October 12, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • waitasec

      if there are more than 2 candidates why are you here?


      October 12, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      How bad would things have been without the stimulus? Without a doubt much worse although I will agree that borrowing money just delays the day of reckoning.

      October 13, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  16. CGAW

    Finding a true Christian among politicians would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Atheism is a crazy position so its just easier for a politician to say they believe in a religion.

    October 12, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      "Atheism is a crazy position..."

      What does that statement mean, I don't understand.

      October 12, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      Care to back up your statement of atheism being a crazy position?

      October 12, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Atheism isn't a position, it's a by-product of sanity.

      October 12, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • STOP MURDER OF CHILDREN , Human be aware of hindu filthy dog's of hindu Atheism, self center ism , DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD.

      atheism is hinduism, denial of truth absolute, way of hindu's, criminals.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Rational Libertarian


      @24 Hour Crisis Center

      I'm sure missn' HS right now !


      October 12, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • waitasec

      atheism is the most logical position.
      all you need to do is use the brain you claim your god made for you then you will one day see
      god was made in mans image.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Chris

      I believe he means that to claim to be atheistic is political suicide, which really does seem to be the case.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center


      Ah, yeah. I think you are right. Post fail. Poorly worded and stating the obvious.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  17. Where is your God now?

    I found out where your God is!


    October 12, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Meatwad

      I picked God for my fantasy NBA team ya'll. He get's back on D.

      October 12, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  18. The Truth

    If nothing else was clear in this debate one thing was, if Romney/Ryan gets elected the rigght wing will consider it a referendum on the personhood amendment and there will be a bill repealing Roe vs Wade on Romneys desk within a year. For some of you that sounds like a good thing, and you would be facist theocrats who want to demolish our government and replace it with the Christian taliban who will vote for Romney regardless of how crazy he is.

    October 12, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @The Truth

      Sounds like a pretty good amount of "The Truth" to me, IMHO.


      October 12, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  19. Sam Yaza


    October 12, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      i would marry this woman but that would be a sin,...sin like i care

      October 12, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • STOP MURDER OF CHILDREN , Human be aware of hindu filthy dog's of hindu Atheism, self center ism , DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD.

      Marry my mother and make me your son.

      October 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm |

      no, frankly you sound like a head-ach,

      October 12, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • STOP MURDER OF CHILDREN , Human be aware of hindu filthy dog's of hindu Atheism, self center ism , DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD.

      hinduism, ignorance of a hindu, stupid by birth, goon.

      October 12, 2012 at 6:03 pm |

      thats it


      October 12, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Della

      Shame on you

      October 12, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  20. STOP MURDER OF CHILDREN , Human be aware of hindu filthy dog's of hindu Atheism, self center ism , DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD.

    Sharia' permits child prosti tution. My mother started hooking when she was 14, now I have ten HARAMEE (BAS'T,ARD) brothers. Sharia did not permit abortion, illegality of Hindu ism, self-centered, denier of truth absolute to young prosti tutes.

    October 12, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Sam Yaza


      October 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Og Like Rock

      Rock think retro-active abortion may be answer for you....Og like rock. Rock smart. You idiot....

      October 12, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.