Skip to comments.Pelosi, Abortion & St. Augustine - UPDATED
Posted on 08/25/2008 2:30:44 PM PDT by doug from upland
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 SenatorSt. Augustine said at three months. We dont know. The point is, is that it shouldnt have an impact on the womans right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the childfirst trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester. Theres very clear distinctions. This isnt about abortion on demand, its about a careful, careful consideration of all factors andtothat a woman has to make with her doctor and her god. And so I dont 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 whove 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.
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.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
‘Sometimes, indeed, this lustful cruelty, or if you please, cruel lust, resorts to such extravagant methods as to use poisonous drugs to secure barrenness; or else, if unsuccessful in this, to destroy the conceived seed by some means previous to birth, preferring that its offspring should rather perish than receive vitality; or if it was advancing to life within the womb, should be slain before it was born.’
-De Nube et Concupiscentia 1.17 (15)
On the undeveloped fetus:
Now who is there that is not rather disposed to think that unformed abortions perish, like seeds that have never fructified? But who will dare to deny, though he may not dare to affirm, that at the resurrection every defect in the form shall be supplied, and that thus the perfection which time would have brought shall not be wanting, any more than the blemishes which time did bring shall be present: so that the nature shall neither want anything suitable and in harmony with it that length of days would have added, nor be debased by the presence of anything of an opposite kind that length of days has added; but that what is not yet complete shall be completed, just as what has been injured shall be renewed.
On therapeutic abortion:
And therefore the following question may be very carefully inquired into and discussed by learned men, though I do not know whether it is in man’s power to resolve it: At what time the infant begins to live in the womb: whether life exists in a latent form before it manifests itself in the motions of the living being.
To deny that the young who are cut out limb by limb from the womb, lest if they were left there dead the mother should die too, have never been alive, seems too audacious.
Now, from the time that a man begins to live, from that time it is possible for him to die. And if he die, wheresoever death may overtake him, I cannot discover on what principle he can be denied an interest in the resurrection of the dead.
Therefore brothers, you see how perverse they are and hastening wickedness, who are immature, they seek abortion of the conception before the birth; they are those who tell us, “I do not see that which you say must be believed.”
HEARTBEAT DETECTED AT 18 DAYS, BRAINWAVES AT 40 DAYS - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogZ5V3O5A8o
Larry Elder is on the issue - http://www.kabc.com
What a damned liar pelosi is!
Pope’s visit renews abortion debate
By: Josephine Hearn and Ryan Grim
April 15, 2008 06:48 AM EST
In June 2004, as prominent Catholics in the United States debated whether Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry should be allowed to receive Communion, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger weighed in with what appeared to be an unequivocal opinion: No.
If a politician who supports abortion rights attempts to receive Communion, Ratzinger wrote, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.
Ratzinger is to arrive in Washington on Tuesday as Pope Benedict XVI, and his visit to the nations capital is already pitting anti-abortion-rights activists against Roman Catholic lawmakers who support abortion rights, reviving an issue that has received scant attention in Congress or on the campaign trail in recent months.
The conflict could come to a head Thursday, when the pope is scheduled to celebrate a Mass at the Washington Nationals new ballpark. The Vatican has invited all Catholic lawmakers, and many abortion-rights-supporting Catholics including Kerry and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are expected to attend.
In ads placed in The Washington Times and Politico this week, the anti-abortion-rights American Life League is urging the pontiff to protect the body of Christ from the bloodstained hands of pro-abortion Catholics by denying Communion to politicians who support abortion rights.
Michael Hichborn, ALLs media director, said his group is the largest anti-abortion advocacy organization in the U.S. What we expect is that there will be pro-abortion Catholics who are going to try to receive Communion when the pope holds Mass, he said. Were also hoping that his advisers have fully briefed him on those politicians who may attempt to receive Communion. I dont know how well-prepared hell be.
You presume that everyone there knows the rules of the church and follows them, she said. No one is policing that. People go to church and people go to Communion if they feel in their heart they are prepared to receive Communion.
Abortion-rights-supporting Catholic lawmakers on the Hill seemed reluctant Monday to discuss the issues raised by the popes visit. Representatives for several members said their bosses were traveling and couldnt be reached or were otherwise unavailable for comment.
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, offered a one-line statement: The speaker receives Communion regularly and expects to receive it on Thursday.
Kerry spokesman David Wade said his boss also intends to take Communion on Thursday.
A spokesman for Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), one of the lawmakers singled out for attention in ALLs ads, said that Durbin wont be attending Mass because of floor and committee schedules but that he will go to a papal reception at the Italian Embassy on Wednesday.
Sen. Durbins religion is a private matter, and were not going to comment beyond giving scheduling information, said spokesman Joe Shoemaker.
Ratzingers 2004 opinion appeared in a memo that was sent to then-Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and first reported in the Italian magazine LEspresso. In the memo, which did not mention Kerry by name, Ratzinger said: The church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion, even among Catholics, about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not, however, with regard to abortion and euthanasia.
McCarrick later told Catholic News Service that the memo didnt reflect the full message I received, but he refused to release what more there might have been.
Benedict has not softened the position expressed in the memo. Aboard the papal plane in 2007, he discussed a threat by Mexican Catholic leaders to excommunicate politicians who supported abortion.
According to a Reuters report, the pope supported the proposed excommunication.
Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon law, which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving Communion, which is receiving the body of Christ, he said.
The Mexican church leaders did nothing new, surprising or arbitrary. They simply announced publicly what is contained in the law of the church, he went on.
Walsh said that while the pope supported the Mexican church leaders right to excommunicate lawmakers who support abortion rights, they eventually chose not to do so.
Catholic lawmakers in the United States have periodically come under attack for failing to follow all of the Vaticans teachings in their politics, particularly on abortion rights.
When the pontiff made his comments about Communion and abortion in the context of the Mexican political debate last year, some Catholic House Democrats, led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), responded by issuing a statement in which they stressed their efforts to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place.
Advancing respect for life and for the dignity of every human being is, as our church has taught us, our own lifes mission, the lawmakers said in a May 2007 statement. Each of us is committed to reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and creating an environment with policies that encourage pregnancies to be carried to term.
WASHINGTON--Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. Bishops Committee on Doctrine, have issued the following statement:
In the course of a Meet the Press interview on abortion and other public issues on August 24, 2008, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion.
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 Churchs 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.
See also Basil of Caesarea:
“Women also who administer drugs to cause abortion, as well as those who take poisons to destroy unborn children, are murderesses. So much on this subject.”
Letter CLXXXVIII, chap. VIII
Letter to Amphilochius