Representative Nancy Pelosi has been a lightning rod for the ire of conservatives for some time, but now she has drawn fire of a different kind. Within the last 24 hours, the archbishops of Denver, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., along with Bishop William Lori have all publicly upbraided the Speaker of the House for her erroneous comments on the Church’s abortion teaching.
In a Meet the Press interview on August 24, Pelosi responded to a question from Tom Brokaw about when human life begins, saying “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 . . . 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.”
Cardinal Edward Egan of New York became the latest prelate to denounce Ms. Pelosi’s comments when he said on Tuesday, “Like many other citizens of this nation, I was shocked to learn that the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America would make the kind of statements that were made to Mr. Tom Brokaw of NBC-TV on Sunday, August 24, 2008.”
Not only was Cardinal Egan shocked, but he went on to say that, “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.”
The crystal-clear photographs and films that give people the ability to see babies in their pregnant mothers’ wombs make it impossible for anyone with “the slightest measure of integrity or honor” to fail to know what these “marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb,” Cardinal Egan asserted.
“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. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith.”
The head of the Catholic Church in New York closed his statement by saying that anyone who defends abortion is not fit to be a leader in a civilized democracy. “Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being ‘chooses’ to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.”
Cardinal Justin 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 also issued a statement on Monday evening in which they remarked, “Nancy Pelosi misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion.”
The two prelates then provided a historical recounting of the Church’s teaching on abortion and reaffirmed that “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.”
Writing in a Monday statement, Archbishop of Washington D.C. Donald Wuerl also criticized Pelosi’s comments. The archbishop emphasized that elected officials have the right to address matters of public policy, but added “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 continued.
The archbishop then quoted paragraphs 2270 through 2271 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which read:
“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.”
The archbishop said the Catechism goes on to quote the Didache, an early Christian treatise from the first century AD, which reads: “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,” Archbishop Wuerl insisted.
On Monday Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver, and James D. Conley, Auxiliary Bishop of Denver, also released a statement responding to Pelosi’s comments, saying “ardent, practicing Catholics will quickly learn from the historical record that from apostolic times, the Christian tradition overwhelmingly held that abortion was grievously evil.”