Pelosi lies about Catholicism and abortion

posted at 1:55 pm on August 24, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

I’m always astounded as to the extent of deception in which pro-choice Catholics indulge themselves, both inwardly and outwardly, to justify their positions.  Perhaps there is no balder example of this than Nancy Pelosi attempting to spin the Catholic doctrine on human life today on Meet the Press.  Pelosi argues that the Catholic position on human life only developed in the last 50 years and that it doesn’t impact abortion in any case:

REP. PELOSI:  I would say that 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.  And Senator–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.  Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child–first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester.  There’s very clear distinctions.  This isn’t about abortion on demand, it’s about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and–to–that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god.  And so I don’t think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins.  As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who’ve decided…

MR. BROKAW:  The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that it…

REP. PELOSI:  I understand that.

MR. BROKAW:  …begins at the point of conception.

REP. PELOSI:  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.  But it is, it is also true that God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions.  And we want abortions to be safe, rare, and reduce the number of abortions.  That’s why we have this fight in Congress over contraception.  My Republican colleagues do not support contraception.  If you want to reduce the number of abortions, and we all do, we must–it would behoove you to support family planning and, and contraception, you would think.  But that is not the case.  So we have to take–you know, we have to handle this as respectfully–this is sacred ground. We have to handle it very respectfully and not politicize it, as it has been–and I’m not saying Rick Warren did, because I don’t think he did, but others will try to.

The notion that the Catholic Church declared abortion a sin at the same time as the Pill is patently absurd, and shows that Pelosi has either lied about studying the issue in terms of Church history or lied about what she found.  Church writings specifically naming abortion as murder appear as early as 70 AD in the Didache, the first written catechism of the Christian church:

“The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child” (Didache 2:1–2 [A.D. 70]).

Tertullian, sometimes known as the Father of the Latin Church, wrote with equal clarity and force:

“In our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed” (Apology 9:8 [A.D. 197]).

“Among surgeons’ tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade, by means of which the limbs [of the child] within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fetus is extracted by a violent delivery.

“There is also [another instrument in the shape of] a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: They give it, from its infanticide function, the name of embruosphaktes, [meaning] “the slayer of the infant,” which of course was alive. . . .

“[The doctors who performed abortions] all knew well enough that a living being had been conceived, and [they] pitied this most luckless infant state, which had first to be put to death, to escape being tortured alive” (The Soul 25 [A.D. 210]).

Saint Hippolytus, who sometimes found himself in conflict with the Church hierarchy, nevertheless agreed completely on abortion.  He made the point that abortion managed to combine the sins of adultery and murder at the same time:

“Women who were reputed to be believers began to take drugs to render themselves sterile, and to bind themselves tightly so as to expel what was being conceived, since they would not, on account of relatives and excess wealth, want to have a child by a slave or by any insignificant person. See, then, into what great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by teaching adultery and murder at the same time!” (Refutation of All Heresies [A.D. 228]).

The Catholic catechism is extremely clear on the nature of its position on human life, and has been remarkably consistent on this point for almost 2,000 years, and it finds that position in the Old Testament.  Human life begins at conception, not at birth, and not at some point consistent with Roe for convenience.  In Psalm 51, David refers to his sinfulness beginning at the moment of conception, and sinfulness requires physical life and a soul to exist.

Pelosi isn’t the only Catholic with a habit of self-deception or flat-out dishonest on this topic; Joe Biden also falls into this category.  Douglas Kmiec shifted his support from Mitt Romney to Barack Obama, and as John McCormack points out at the Weekly Standard, he did so by claiming abortion to be one of many issues that Catholics must consider as part of their faith when voting.  I addressed that thinking in an earlier post, but I’ll recap it by noting that the Church urges people to address “sinful” inequalities but does not demand any particular strategy for that purpose.  It does, however, make abortion — even formal facilitation of abortion — an instantly excommunicating act.

Membership in the Catholic Church is voluntary.  If people do not want to follow its doctrines, they should find another faith community that reflects their values — and at the least, they should learn what the Church teaches on abortion and life before mischaracterizing it on national television.  Pelosi is either a fool or a liar, or perhaps both.

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Slightly off-topic response to Rotorhead: the Church does not teach that capital punishment is intrinsically wrong. It is listed as one of the two justifiable cases of deliberate homicide in both Catechisms (16th century, and 1992).

JP2 however, did teach that capital punishment in our society is no longer justifiable. This is a matter of circumstance, and it’s not hard to see that he was probably right even though it was just his opinion rather than Church teaching. We are a culture that kills children for convenience; we are no longer responsible enough to wield the death penalty in the courts, particularly since we can make do without it using modern jails. Nonetheless Catholics can and do disagree with JP2 without jeopardizing their membership in the Church since he was merely expressing his own opinion.

Abortion, on the other hand, is taught by the Church to be intrinsically wrong – i.e. no circumstance or alternate society would ever make it justifiable.

As to those who have brought up Aquinas and Augustine’s positions on fetal development, it is worth noting that neither man spoke for the Church. Aquinas made it very explicit at the beginning of the Summa that he expected to be in error on some points and that his arguments should be discarded where they conflict with Church teaching. Church teaching has consistently been that abortion is intrinsically wrong.

Gaunilon on August 26, 2008 at 12:47 AM

Because independent consciousness marks the point when the foetus stops being simply a part of the mother and begins to be a being within the mother.

No, the foetus is never “a part of the mother” like an arm, but is attached to the mother through the umbilical cord. Were it possible to have a womb outside a womb, the foetus would still develop into another human being.

Again, we must be using different versions of the term “human life”, since by my definition (”alive, and belonging to a human”) you could include gametes and so on, and so every ejaculation is mass murder.

This is the precise moment where your analysis falls apart. A foetus does not “belong to” a human like an arm or a leg, it IS a human, separate and genetically distinct, but is attached by an umbilical cord.

As opposed to sperm, which belong to a man as part of his reproductive system. A sperm is not programmed to become another human being, only to provide half of the genetic material necessary for one when combined with an egg after intercourse. Zygotes and by extension foetuses are programmed from conception to become a full and distinct human being. Their self-humanity is innately programmed. They are not “parts,” but a separate human (some assembly time required).

But again, you’ve already chosen a “desired trait”, that being the potential for independent consciousness. That being the case, you don’t grant liberty to gametes, arms, or tumors.

Humanity is not a “desired trait.” Traits are something like eye color or skin color, which are variable and changing them does not affect the humanity of the person in question. Humanity is an inherent state. You are essentially saying we should determine whether granite is valuable because it is blue rather than because it is granite. Blue is a trait granite has. Granite is what it is. Regardless of the ability to feel pain at that exact moment, a zygote will continue to carry out its programming to become a human being. It’s ability or inability to feel pain as an entire organism is irrelevant to its programming.

I’ll put it to you this way: You can desensitize someone to pain. You cannot “de-human” them short of some horrendous scientific experiment.

BKennedy on August 26, 2008 at 12:59 AM

As to those who have brought up Aquinas and Augustine’s positions on fetal development, it is worth noting that neither man spoke for the Church. Aquinas made it very explicit at the beginning of the Summa that he expected to be in error on some points and that his arguments should be discarded where they conflict with Church teaching. Church teaching has consistently been that abortion is intrinsically wrong.

Gaunilon on August 26, 2008 at 12:47 AM

The delayed ensoulment view was written in the Decretum in the 12th century, which was the foundation for church canon law.

dedalus on August 26, 2008 at 1:24 AM

From todays WND blog, the Denver Catholic Archbishop strongly condemns Pelosi’s abortion justification.

Archbishop Chaput also highlighted that “we now know with biological certainty exactly when human life begins. Thus, today’s religious alibis for abortion and a so-called ‘right to choose’ are nothing more than that – alibis that break radically with historic Christian and Catholic belief.”

“Abortion kills an unborn, developing human life. It is always gravely evil, and so are the evasions employed to justify it. Catholics who make excuses for it – whether they’re famous or not – fool only themselves and abuse the fidelity of those Catholics who do sincerely seek to follow the Gospel and live their Catholic faith,” the statement adds.

Finally Archbishop Chaput recalls that “the duty of the state and its officials is to serve the common good, which is always rooted in moral truth. A proper understanding of the ‘separation of Church and state’ does not imply a separation of faith from political life. But of course, it’s always important to know what our faith actually teaches.”

docdave on August 26, 2008 at 7:37 AM

Can there be anything more disgusting than her attempt to take others down her path of evil.

sheesh on August 26, 2008 at 7:57 AM

Does a tumor really have a different genome from the host body? Or does it have a different expression of the same genes?

From what I have read, one of the theories about the origins of cancer is that the gene that regulates cell division gets stuck in the “on” position.

It’s not so much a mutation, as it’s damage to the regulatory mechanism.

Medical science’s view of what genes are, and how the operate has been transformed radically in the last few decades.

MarkTheGreat on August 26, 2008 at 9:10 AM

I thought aredent Catholics and Christians followed God’s word (Bible) and there have been enough examples stated from the bible on when life begins so what is the problem. Ardent Catholics who question pro abortion laws should read their bibles again.

garydt on August 26, 2008 at 11:44 AM

A Catholic who does not follow the teachings of the Vatican is not a Catholic. Go join another church. Stop defiling ours.

otcconan on August 26, 2008 at 2:13 PM

The USCCB have responded. See here, and follow the links.

rightwingprof on August 26, 2008 at 2:53 PM