Saturday, September 06, 2008

Um... Nancy...

Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is a self-styled Catholic. Note my choice of words: "self-styled." For she has done what I consider repulsive as one who was drawn to the whole truth of the Catholic Church: she has picked up a cafeteria tray and selected from the Church the factoids she finds appealing, and ignored the items she finds hard to swallow.

Most recently, she has made a statement during an interview on MSNBC's Meet The Press that displayed either her appalling lack of knowledge of Church teaching, or else a bold, smoothed-over intent to deceive the uninformed voter. Here's an excerpt which details her response to the question Tom Brokaw posed of when life begins:

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.

Naturally, this has Catholic bloggers, myself included, up in arms. Thanks to my anonymous tipster who sent me this response from Fr. Jonathan Morris. Fr. Morris makes some good points, but I think he missed a crucial point when he argued against Pelosi's reference to St. Augustine by way of antiquity (emphasis added):

Nancy Pelosi... has now come to agree with a 4th century theologian’s take on human embryology, that pre-born things aren’t human babies (with the right to continue living) because of their supposed incapacity for sensation (St. Augustine’s antiquated argument).... Pelosi has decided to accept the view of an African theologian who lived 1,600 years ago.

This is a flawed argument because the distance of a statement from the present time is immaterial to its degree of truth. G.K. Chesterton famously quipped, "I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday. " There is no expiration date on truth. Progress is not measured by time, but by proximity to a destination or a goal. It would be more accurate to say that St. Augustine's view, assuming we take Pelosi's word for its authenticity, is inconsistent with Catholic teaching.

The American bishops have also picked up on her statement, and they are responding en masse to clarify that the Church has taught since the first century that abortion is evil, which was a position contrary to that promulgated by the Roman Empire at the time. Ms. Pelosi's own bishop, Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco, is the most recent one to respond, by inviting her "into a conversation with me about these matters. It is my obligation to teach forthrightly and to shepherd caringly, and that is my intent."

Good for you, Your Grace. It's about time. I pray she accepts your invitation.

1 comment:

  1. Why do these people call themselves Catholic??


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