Catholic bish­ops as­sail Pelosi over abor­tion re­marks

The Washington Times Weekly - - Advertisement - BY JU­LIA DUIN

Sev­eral of the na­tion’s top Catholic bish­ops, in­clud­ing the arch­bish­ops of Wash­ing­ton and New York, piled crit­i­cism on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Aug. 26 about her tele­vised re­marks two days ear­lier on abor­tion and the Catholic Church.

The crux of the dis­pute: the med­i­ta­tions of a fourth-cen­tury saint on whether abor­tion al­ways con­sti­tutes homi­cide.

Mrs. Pelosi’s con­tention that it does not brought down the wrath of the 433-mem­ber U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops (USCCB) on her head. On Aug. 26, they chided the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat for “mis­rep­re­sent­ing” the Catholic Church’s views on abor­tion when she told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “over the cen­turies, the doc­tors of the church have not been able to make that def­i­ni­tion” of when life be­gins.

When re­minded by an­chor Tom Brokaw that church doc­trine states hu­man life be­gins at con­cep­tion, the speaker replied the church had only ar­rived at that con­clu­sion in the past 50 years.

Clas­si­fy­ing her­self as “an ar­dent, prac­tic­ing Catholic,” she added that St. Au­gus­tine guessed around the year 400 the fe­tus re­ceived a soul at three months’ ges­ta­tion but, “We don’t know. The point is, is that it shouldn’t have an im­pact on the woman’s right to choose.”

Six bish­ops have since taken it on them­selves to give her his­tory and doc­trine lessons.

The USCCB state­ment, signed by Car­di­nal Justin F. Ri­gali, chair­man of the bish­ops’ Com­mit­tee on Pro-Life Ac­tiv­i­ties, and Bishop William E. Lori, chair­man of the bish­ops’ Com­mit­tee on Doc­trine, said Au­gus­tine’s guess­work was ir­rel­e­vant be­cause “the Church´s moral teach­ing never jus­ti­fied or per­mit­ted abor­tion at any stage of de­vel­op­ment.” “Di­rect abor­tion,” they said, quot­ing the church’s cat­e­chism, “is gravely con­trary to the moral law.”

Car­di­nal Ed­ward Egan, arch­bishop of New York, said he was “shocked” by Mrs. Pelosi’s re­marks.

“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,” said his state­ment posted on the arch­dioce­san Web site.

“We are blessed in the 21st cen- tury with crys­tal-clear pho­to­graphs and action films of the liv­ing re­al­i­ties within their preg­nant moth­ers,” he con­tin­ued. “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” and peo­ple who think to the con­trary “should not be pro­vid­ing lead­er­ship in a civ­i­lized democ­racy wor­thy of the name.”

Mrs. Pelosi’s of­fice re­leased a state­ment Aug. 26 re­peat­ing her stance.

“Her views on when life be­gins were in­formed by 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 said, quot­ing the saint’s ex­po­si­tion on Ex­o­dus 21:22 in the Old Tes­ta­ment. “While Catholic teach­ing is clear that life be­gins at con­cep­tion,” the state­ment added, “many Catholics do not as­cribe to that view.”

Sev­eral of the bish­ops have ac­knowl­edged Mrs. Pelosi’s point — that the church didn’t al­ways teach that abor­tion was homi­cide and that canon law some­times spec­i­fied dif­fer­ent penal­ties for abor­tion and mur­der.

But they re­it­er­ated that this was based on the poor sci­ence of pre­mod­ern times and that in any event none oftheChurchFather­swho­de­niedthat abor­tion was homi­cide ever doubted that it re­mained a grave of­fense against both the po­ten­tial life and against God, the au­thor of life.

In an in­ter­view Aug. 26, Wash­ing­ton Arch­bishop Don­ald W. Wuerl said such views mean the speaker “is fail­ing to live up to her Catholic faith.”

“It does not make sense to go back and de­fend things that were done cen­turies ago out of the wis­dom of the peo­ple who lived then,” he said.

He added that St. Au­gus­tine’s thoughts on when a soul en­ters the body in utero “grew out of the lack of the sci­en­tific data we have to­day that clearly shows an em­bryo is hu­man.”

“If you let an em­bryo come to term, it will be a hu­man, not some­thing else,” he said. He re­leased a state­ment Aug. 25 re­stat­ing the cat­e­chism and re­mind­ing Mrs. Pelosi that she was no ex­pert on Catholic doc­trine. The arch­bishop has writ­ten two church cat­e­chisms over a 30year pe­riod.

“It’s my role as a bishop to teach the faith,” he said in the in­ter­view. “It is not the role of some­one in pub­lic of­fice.” When he read Mrs. Pelosi’s re­marks, “what struck me was this was an at­tempt to be­gin to in­ter­pret the Catholic faith and to teach peo­ple, and that’s the role of bish­ops,” he said.

AL­LI­SON SHEL­LEY / THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

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