August 25, 2008
The following statement is from Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl:
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.
Director of Communications
It is true that both Augustine and Aquinas wrote of a delayed ensoulment, but I don’t believe that either declared it legitimate to destroy the unensouled, but still animate, embryo.
Great theologians sometimes speculate, and not all speculation rises to the teaching of the church.