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Bishops to Pelosi: Stop misrepresenting church teaching against abortion

Bishops to Pelosi: Stop misrepresenting church teaching against abortion

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Nancy Pelosi has gotten into hot water for misrepresenting Catholic Church teaching against abortion. Appearing on Meet the Press last Sunday, she said:

"I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time," she said.

"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," she said.....

In a release issued Monday night, Washington, D.C.,  Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl said Pelosi's comments on "Meet the Press" on Sunday "were incorrect."

"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."

He cited Catechism language that 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."

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 this concurrent  statement:

In the course of a "Meet the Press" interview on abortion and other public issues on August 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion.

In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, "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." (No. 2271)

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 Church's 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 teaches 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.

More information on the Church's teaching on this issue can be found in our brochure "The Catholic Church is a Pro-Life Church".

Various bloggers weighed in as well,  Catholidoxy  and Amy Welborn adding lay support to the bishops' statements.

And George Weigel, writing for Newsweek about the whole Democratic abortion stance, nails the House Speaker:

Then there are the multiple confusions of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In her "Meet the Press" appearance Aug. 24, Pelosi was asked by Tom Brokaw whether she agreed with Senator Obama's statements on abortion at Saddleback. Pelosi, declaring herself an "ardent, practicing Catholic," told Brokaw that "this is an issue that I have studied for a long time"-and then got herself into a deep muddle, in which she seemed to confuse St. Augustine with St. Thomas Aquinas (neither of whom, in any case, knew anything about modern embryology); misrepresented the settled (and scientifically informed) judgment of the Catholic Church on when life begins by declaring it an open question, and concluded by suggesting that none of this really makes a difference, because what the scientists, theologians, and philosophers say "... shouldn't have an impact on a the woman's right to choose."

Someone new to all this might well wonder how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could allow herself -- in such a clumsy manner -- to be so publicly wrong on what her church teaches.

For the uninitiated, some history: you need to know that Catholic Democratic public servants have been cozy with the American bishops for decades, American bishops that have often and all too accurately been defined as "the Democratic Party at prayer".

Those Democrats, self-defined Catholics, are unaccustomed to being called to serious account when their pronouncements and votes on fundamental issues are contrary to Church teaching. And when they wander into the bishops' territory -- Church teaching -- they are not even accustomed to being told when they are wrong!

But the tide is turning at the USCCB, in great part to the leadership of brave bishops -- Archbishop Raymond Burke comes to mind -- who witness constantly and with eloquence to the sanctity of innocent life.

So, let's await the fallout from the Pelosi rebukes. And fallout there will be.

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