I think it’s fair to say that, just as clergy sometimes put their foot in it by jabbering about stuff they know nothing about, politicians do so at least as frequently, if not more so. Sunday morning, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, didn’t just put her foot in her mouth–she swallowed it whole. The subject was abortion and the Roman Catholic position on it, and Pelosi, a practicing Catholic, demonstrated that she’d make a splendid Episcopalian, according to Ed Morrissey of Hot Air:
I’m always astounded as to the extent of deception in which pro-choice Catholics indulge themselves, both inwardly and outwardly, to justify their positions. Perhaps there is no balder example of this than Nancy Pelosi attempting to spin the Catholic doctrine on human life today on Meet the Press. Pelosi argues that the Catholic position on human life only developed in the last 50 years and that it doesn’t impact abortion in any case:
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. That’s why we have this fight in Congress over contraception. My Republican colleagues do not support contraception. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, and we all do, we must–it would behoove you to support family planning and, and contraception, you would think. But that is not the case. So we have to take–you know, we have to handle this as respectfully–this is sacred ground. We have to handle it very respectfully and not politicize it, as it has been–and I’m not saying Rick Warren did, because I don’t think he did, but others will try to.
To call this ignorant would be charitable, I suspect. But don’t take my word for it. In statements that have been largely ignored by the mainstream media (I haven’t been able to find the first of these in any prominent MSM outlet, including the New York Times, despite the writer being the hometown bishop), two Roman Catholic cardinals have blasted the Speaker. The first is Archbishop Edward Egan of New York City:
Like many other citizens of this nation, I was shocked to learn that the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America would make the kind of statements that were made to Mr. Tom Brokaw of NBC-TV on Sunday, August 24, 2008. What the Speaker had to say about theologians and their positions regarding abortion was not only misinformed; it was also, and especially, utterly incredible in this day and age.
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.
Then there’s the Archbishop of Washington, D.C., Donald Weurl:
On Meet the Press this past Sunday, August 23, 2008, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made statements regarding the teaching of the Catholic Church, human life and abortion that were incorrect.
Speaker Pelosi responded to a question on when life begins by mentioning she was Catholic. She went on to say, “And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition…” After Mr. Tom Brokaw, the interviewer, pointed out that the Catholic Church feels strongly that life begins at conception, she replied, “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.”
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.
For years liberal Catholic politicians have been sticking their thumbs in the eye of their church, and the whole Christian tradition, using such nonsensical arguments as “I’m personally against abortion, but I can’t impose my morality on others” (this at the same time that they haven’t hesitated to impose their morality in any of a number of other areas). This effort of Pelosi’s, while more dishonest than most, is of a piece with the general approach. Good for Egan and Weurl, and the other Catholic bishops and priests who are speaking up to this and other repellant efforts to justify the unjustifiable.
UPDATE: Some people, when they’ve dug a hole for themselves, stop digging and try to climb out. But Speaker Pelosi has decided to dig even deeper. American journalists don’t seem interested in this story, but the Guardian of the UK has this:
Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Pelosi, said in a statement Tuesday that she “fully appreciates the sanctity of family” and based her views on conception on the “views of Saint Augustine, who said: ‘… the law does not provide that the act (abortion) pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation …”’
The statement from [Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William Lori, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Doctrine] said “uninformed and inadequate theories about embryology” in the Middle Ages 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.”
Daly said that while Catholic teaching is clear that life begins at conception, many Catholics do not agree. He said Pelosi “agrees with the Church that we should reduce the number of abortions” by making family planning more available such as increasing the number of comprehensive age-appropriate sex education and adoption programs, Daly said.
And these people oppose teaching Intelligent Design in the public schools because it is “unscientific”! Someone needs to clue Daley in on some real science: the fact that “life” begins at conception isn’t Catholic teaching; it’s basic biology. That the conceptus is a unique human being with its own genetic code is also indisputable. Whether it is a “person” who should be accorded all or a portion of the rights that are possessed by all people is a theological, moral, and legal question that is fully debatable. But trying to justify a pro-abortion stance on the basis of Senator Saint Augustine’s understanding of biology is a move worthy of the Flat Earth Society.
UPDATE: Welcome to those of you coming from Hot Air.