Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, who’s biblical scholarship this blog has previously noted, was a guest on Tom Brokow’s Meet the Press last weekend and presented her understanding of Catholic teaching on abortion. It seems to be lacking in factual veracity.
MR. BROKAW: Senator Obama saying the question of when life begins is above his pay grade, whether you’re looking at it scientifically or theologically. If he were to come to you and say, “Help me out here, Madame Speaker. When does life begin?” what would you tell him?
REP. PELOSI: I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator–St. Augustine said at three months. We don’t know. The point is, is that it shouldn’t have an impact on the woman’s right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child–first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester. There’s very clear distinctions. This isn’t about abortion on demand, it’s about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and–to–that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god. And so I don’t think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins. As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who’ve decided…
MR. BROKAW: The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that it…
REP. PELOSI: I understand that.
MR. BROKAW: …begins at the point of conception.
REP. PELOSI: I understand. And this is like maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy. But it is, it is also true that God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And we want abortions to be safe, rare, and reduce the number of abortions.
While I would not comment on her claim to be an ardent practicing Catholic which is between her and God, I really wonder what she, or her research assistant, has been studying for a long time. The Church has always called abortion an evil which is never permissible. This is true no matter what the viewpoints were of individuals over time on secondary issues.
Non-Catholic Irenaeus at Catholidoxy looks at the historical record and fisks the accuracy of Speaker Pelosi’s statement several times over:
That the doctors of the church have not been able to decide when life begins. But if she’d really studied the issue (as she expressly claims), she would know that no doctor of the church in particular and no orthodox father of the church has ever said abortion is OK, as we’ll see at great length. It’s true that some doctors and fathers and theologians of the Church raised the question of “ensoulment,” asking when an unborn baby receives a soul, and given different answers. But in Christian (as opposed to Gnostic) tradition, humans are not only souls but also bodies. And thus no Father ever, ever used the idea of later ensoulment (often borrowed from Aristotle) to excuse or permit abortion. Contrary to what Pelosi expressly says, Augustine never ever said life begins at three months In Christian tradition, until the 1960s, life was thought to begin at conception, regardless of the details certain thinkers put forth about speculative embryonic anthropology..
Amy Welborn of Charollote is Both hits the issue at it’s heart.
Over and over we are told - by bishops themselves - that their primary role in contentious situations like this is to teach.
Here you have a very prominent American Catholic, going on the record with her purported studiousness on this issue, authoritatively declaring something false about the teaching of the Catholic Church.
This is what we call a teachable moment. Monday morning, the USCCB should have a press release, accompanied by a real human being - preferably a bishop - maybe even a Colorado bishop, given the location and the proximity of the press - giving a short, succinct correction of Pelosi’s statement. It wouldn’t take long. Do it right in front of where the convention is meeting.
No 501(c)(3) worries. No threats of endorsement or condemnation. Just…
Do it over and over and over - do not let this moments pass by and the deceptions continue to rule.
Her advice is especially important because as Father John Richard Neuhaus pointed out a few years ago:
. . .when the Democrats had unequivocally become the abortion party and the Republicans unmistakably the pro-life party, it was obvious that liberal Catholics, including most bishops, had chosen, whether they knew it or not, party over principle. Under the tutelage of Cardinal Bernardin and others, consciences had been sedated, and the bishops turned their energies to writing pastoral letters on "peace and justice" issues such as disarmament and economic equality. For which they received the enthusiastic plaudits of the media. Largely because they were not talking about abortion.
But several Bishops have started have started to speak out this time.
Cardinal Egan of New York
We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.
Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Lori for National Catholic Conference
The Church has always taught that human life deserves respect from its very beginning and that procured abortion is a grave moral evil. In the Middle Ages, uninformed and inadequate theories about embryology led some theologians to speculate that specifically human life capable of receiving an immortal soul may not exist until a few weeks into pregnancy. While in canon law these theories led to a distinction in penalties between very early and later abortions, the Church’s moral teaching never justified or permitted abortion at any stage of development.
These mistaken biological theories became obsolete over 150 years ago when scientists discovered that a new human individual comes into being from the union of sperm and egg at fertilization. In keeping with this modern understanding, the Church has long taught that from the time of conception (fertilization), each member of the human species must be given the full respect due to a human person, beginning with respect for the fundamental right to life.
Archbishop Wuerl of Washington D.C.
. . .We respect the right of elected officials such as Speaker Pelosi to address matters of public policy that are before them, but the interpretation of Catholic faith has rightfully been entrusted to the Catholic bishops. Given this responsibility to teach, it is important to make this correction for the record.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear: the current teaching of the Catholic Church on human life and abortion is the same teaching as it was 2,000 years ago. The Catechism reads:
“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception…Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.” (Catechism, 2270-2271)
The Catechism goes on to quote the Didache, a treatise that dates to the first century: “’You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.’”
From the beginning, the Catholic Church has respected the dignity of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death.
Archbishop Chaput of Denver in a letter wih the delightful title of On the Separation of Sense and State
Catholic public leaders inconvenienced by the abortion debate tend to take a hard line in talking about the “separation of Church and state.” But their idea of separation often seems to work one way. In fact, some officials also seem comfortable in the role of theologian. And that warrants some interest, not as a “political” issue, but as a matter of accuracy and justice.
. . .
Since Speaker Pelosi has, in her words, studied the issue “for a long time,” she must know very well one of the premier works on the subject, Jesuit John Connery’s “Abortion: The Development of the Roman Catholic Perspective” (Loyola, 1977). Here’s how Connery concludes his study:
“The Christian tradition from the earliest days reveals a firm antiabortion attitude. … The condemnation of abortion did not depend on and was not limited in any way by theories regarding the time of fetal animation. Even during the many centuries when Church penal and penitential practice was based on the theory of delayed animation, the condemnation of abortion was never affected by it. Whatever one would want to hold about the time of animation, or when the fetus became a human being in the strict sense of the term, abortion from the time of conception was considered wrong, and the time of animation was never looked on as a moral dividing line between permissible and impermissible abortion.”
Or to put it in the blunter words of the great Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed on this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.”
. . .
The duty of the Church and other religious communities is moral witness. The duty of the state and its officials is to serve the common good, which is always rooted in moral truth. A proper understanding of the “separation of Church and state” does not imply a separation of faith from political life.
But of course, it’s always important to know what our faith actually teaches.
And many more bishops and laity are joining the chorus.
Perhaps in closing we should listen to the words of Jesus:
. . .I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. 'Matt 25:42-45
If the unborn child
even a child at the one cell stage of development,
is not the “least of these”
JUST WHO IS?
Cause Not Harm
Criss Cross Democrats and Republicans and Abortion
Social Justice topic
4 months ago