I was just out driving, had the radio on and heard this Meet the Press sound bite by Nancy Pelosi, on Limbaugh’s show:
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.
I am writing very fast, here, because I have to run out again, but I am mildly amused to see that Mrs. Pelosi, who is one of those Democrats who thinks of the Constitution as a “living document” that can evolve, is effectively sneering at the notion that the Catholic Church has only defined life as beginning at the point of conception “like maybe 50 years” ago, or something. She is wrong about that, (thanks, Shana) but even if she were not, why wouldn’t an “evolved” position in a “living” church be worth her respectful consideration.
Moreover, if Pelosi wants to quote Augustine’s saying “three months,” as somehow authoritative – even if the church does not – how does she reconcile that with her abortion voting record, which upholds later term abortions, partial birth abortions, embryonic experimentation, etc, etc. She says “I personally think the answer is 16 weeks,”, but that’s just an opinion, like anyone else’s opinion, even mine – and if she believes the answer is 16 weeks, how can she possible vote in favor of, say, partial birth abortion?
Pelosi is completely right that God gives us free will, and that we all have to make our decisions, deal with our own consciences and deal with the repercussions both here and in the afterlife. I know pro-life Catholics who have very ambiguous feelings about Roe-v-Wade specifically because of free will. But Pelosi is seriously misrepresenting what the Catholic Church teaches, and she is doing it in order to spin and obfuscate. Excuse the crudity, but it takes some pair of balls, frankly, to try to argue that the Roman Catholic Church has any sort of wishy-washy teaching or belief about the sacredness of human life, or the gravity of expediently and arbitrarily ending human life, whether at its beginnings or its end, or experimenting with human life.
Pelosi needs to read her Catechism. We believe that we are created creatures, loved into being by God. Both war and capital punishment are to be undertaken only with the greatest reluctance, after a great deal of consideration, and only when it is deemed necessary to prevent a greater evil. Abortion is a whole ‘nother issue; as I wrote at Pajamas Media, when discussing abortion and Obama – it is graver, even, than either of those two, war and capital punishment. The church is not “in controversy” about that; the church is actually unambiguous as all get-out on the issue of abortion. The “controversy” exists within individual Catholics, themselves, perhaps, but not in the church. And, as Ed Morrissey says, membership in the church is voluntary, afterall.
Finally, even if Senator – St. Augustine said “three months” or “we don’t know” I strong suspect that he – and every other Doctor of the Church, as well as millions of Catholics and non-Catholics Christians, and non-Catholics and even secular humanists like Nat Hentoff – would advise people to “err on the side of life.”
I mean, I’m not expert, and I’m far from brilliant. But one does not have to be brilliant to figure that out. Err on the side of life, not death. It might be a legislative conundrum, and a sickle into the side of free will and free conscience, but in simple terms of life and death, the moral calculus is not really that difficult.
I wonder if Mrs. Pelosi will hear from her Bishop on this? I tend to doubt it, but it does seem to me the province of the Bishop to tell a member of his flock who is publicly misleading – or mistaken, or simply lying – others about the teaching of the church to stop doing that.
Read all Ed Morrissey has to say about Pelosi on MTP.
More here at Catholidoxy, and here, at Inside Catholic. Also, STACLU says Pelosi disagrees w/ Roe v Wade. Hmmmm.
UPDATE: In the comments, fschmieg notes that – quite unsurprisingly – Archbishop Charles Chaput, of Denver, who is an excellent teacher, a Franciscan and a true shepherd (and who has a just-released book discussing the question of rendering unto Caesar) has responded to Pelosi, and he pulls no punches. Excerpt:
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.”
Ardent, practicing Catholics will quickly learn from the historical record that from apostolic times, the Christian tradition overwhelmingly held that abortion was grievously evil. In the absence of modern medical knowledge, some of the Early Fathers held that abortion was homicide; others that it was tantamount to homicide; and various scholars theorized about when and how the unborn child might be animated or “ensouled.” But none diminished the unique evil of abortion as an attack on life itself, and the early Church closely associated abortion with infanticide. In short, from the beginning, the believing Christian community held that abortion was always, gravely wrong.
Of course, we now know with biological certainty exactly when human life begins. Thus, today’s religious alibis for abortion and a so-called “right to choose” are nothing more than that – alibis that break radically with historic Christian and Catholic belief.
Abortion kills an unborn, developing human life. It is always gravely evil, and so are the evasions
employed to justify it. Catholics who make excuses for it – whether they’re famous or not – fool only themselves and abuse the fidelity of those Catholics who do sincerely seek to follow the Gospel and live their Catholic faith.
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.
Don’t ask me why Chaput does not have a red cardinal’s hat yet; I don’t know. I do know that if they gave him one, he would be exactly what NYC needs to replace Cardinal Egan, who has left the Metro area starving after the exemplary shepherding of the Mighty John O’ Connor. It won’t happen, but I can dream.