Archbishop George Niederauer responded today to Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) recent comments that she has “some concerns about the Church's position respecting a woman's right to choose.” Justifying her decision to support abortion by citing her free will “is entirely incompatible with Catholic teaching,” the archbishop insisted.
Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi told Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift in a December 21, 2009 interview that she disagrees with the Church on certain issues but considers herself a “practicing Catholic.”
“I have some concerns about the church's position respecting a woman's right to choose. I have some concerns about the church's position on gay rights. I am a practicing Catholic, although they're probably not too happy about that. But it is my faith. I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that is that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have that opportunity to exercise their free will,” Pelosi said.
Archbishop Niederauer countered in his January 13 column, “Embodied in that statement are some fundamental misconceptions about Catholic teaching on human freedom.” God gave human beings the capacity to choose between good and evil in order to give them the gift of freedom, even at the cost of many evil choices, the archbishop said.
But this gift of freedom, the freedom wrongly cited in justifying a woman’s right to choose, among other fallacies, does not justify the position that “all moral choices are good if they are free,” insisted Archbishop Niederauer, because “the exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything.”
Addressing those who advocate for “reproductive choice” while claiming to be Catholic, Archbishop Niederauer emphasized, “it is entirely incompatible with Catholic teaching to conclude that our freedom of will justifies choices that are radically contrary to the Gospel—racism, infidelity, abortion, theft. Freedom of will is the capacity to act with moral responsibility; it is not the ability to determine arbitrarily what constitutes moral right.”
The belief in the validity of arbitrarily determining right and wrong is widespread both in and outside of the Church, the archbishop noted.
Touching on the meaning of one's conscience, the San Francisco archbishop described it as “the judgment of reason whereby the human person, guided by God’s grace, recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act. In all we say and do, we are obliged to follow faithfully what we know to be just and right.”
“As participants in the life of the civil community,” Archbishop Niederauer wrote, “we Catholic citizens try to follow our consciences, guided, as described above, by reason and the grace of God. While we deeply respect the freedom of our fellow citizens, we nevertheless are profoundly convinced that free will cannot be cited as justification for society to allow moral choices that strike at the most fundamental rights of others. Such a choice is abortion, which constitutes the taking of innocent human life, and cannot be justified by any Catholic notion of freedom.”