The Speaker and the Bishops

Rocco has an excellent summary of the story surrounding House Speaker Pelosi's interview on Meet the Press and the response thereto from Catholic bishops. Here's an excerpt from the complete post at Whispers in the Loggia:
Hours into a week the Democratic leadership's sought to script down to its most minute detail, the party's "Catholic problem" roared to the fore today as, in an unprecedented move, the opening of the Blue bloc's Denver convention saw four senior hierarchs publicly blast the event's chair -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- for "misrepresent[ing] the history and nature" of the church's teaching on abortion in the California congresswoman's latest defense of her pro-choice stance.

Barely a day after presidential nominee-in-waiting Barack Obama tapped another pro-choice Catholic, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, as his running mate, and as the party approved a platform declaring its "unequivocal" support of abortion rights "regardless of [a woman's] ability to pay," church pro-lifers launched into action following this exchange between Pelosi and Tom Brokaw on yesterday's Meet the Press:
MR. BROKAW: Senator Obama [said] the question of when life begins is above his pay grade, whether you're looking at it scientifically or theologically. If he were to come to you and say, "Help me out here, Madame Speaker. When does life begin?" what would you tell him?

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.
In response, late today the following statement was released in the name of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops by the chairs of the body's Committees for Pro-Life Activities and Doctrine, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport:
In the course of a “Meet the Press” interview on abortion and other public issues on August 24, 2008, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion.

The Church has always taught that human life deserves respect from its very beginning and that procured abortion is a grave moral evil. 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 has long taught 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.
In addition to the conference's pamphlet on "a pro-life church," the USCCB release included as supplemental documents its prior statements on the responsibilities of Catholics in public life and, even more notably, the worthy reception of the Eucharist.


(For more, read the complete post at Whispers in the Loggia)


  1. Thank you for posting links to information on the church's pro-life stand and the conditions for worthy reception of the Eucharist. These issues touch each of us, not just those in political office. I wish more pastors would discuss the importance of communion, as you have.

  2. It looks like things are going to heat up at the convention, after this news report. Are we in for a "defining moment" in the campaign?

    "Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived at the Democratic National Convention on Monday amid rumblings over whether his pro-choice Catholicism would help or hurt the Democratic ticket.

    "An Irish-Catholic from a working-class upbringing, Mr. Biden won the nod as presumptive presidential nominee Barack Obama's running mate in part because of his appeal to blue-collar Catholics, the same voters who swung during the primary for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

    "Although he represents Delaware in the Senate, Mr. Biden grew up in Pennsylvania, a must-win state for Democrats in November.

    "But the party's hopes of winning the critical Catholic vote took a hit Sunday when Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver said Mr. Biden should avoid taking Communion as a result of his pro-choice stand on abortion.

    "Archbishop Chaput, who was scheduled to lead a pro-life candlelight vigil Monday night here in front of Planned Parenthood, called Mr. Biden's support for abortion rights "seriously wrong," said archdiocese spokeswoman Jeanette De Melo.

    "I certainly presume his good will and integrity," said the archbishop, "and I presume that his integrity will lead him to refrain from presenting himself for Communion if he supports a false 'right' to abortion."

    "The archbishop, who was not invited to speak at any convention events in what appeared to be a deliberate snub, told the Associated Press that he would like to speak privately with Mr. Biden."

  3. I have trouble understanding catholic politcian's who can justify their stands on abortion. It is troubling.

  4. Perhaps the most amazing element of this story is that the Speaker of the House of Representatives apparently has a lesser grasp of Catholic teaching on abortion than has the average person on the street.

  5. No, I don't believe so, CP. She knows exactly what the Catholic church teaches. She most likely has had some personal experience, for example, knowing someone who's gone through the pain and anguish. She knows the rules ... but like so many of us ... try and build a defense. I know I've done it. And I'm sure many of us out there have also. Not only with this sin, but with others.

    With why I'm left with: who am I to judge who has communion and who doesn't? I can't judge people ... and neither can the Bishops, or can you; CP. Only GOD can.

  6. Without commenting on the stance the bishops do or do not take on these issues, I need to say that to assert that only God can make such a judgment on this matter is to suggest that the Eucharist is less than what it is. The Eucharist is the sign of unity among Christians. It is entirely possible that one's actions so radically distance oneself from the communion of Eucharist that a radical healing of that distance would be required in order to bring one back into communion with the body of Christ which the Church is.

    I'm not making a specific statement here about the ramifications of abortion but I write, rather, more generally.

    That we are the body of Christ means that we have obligations to one another as well as to God.

  7. CP is right on the mark. "We have obligations to one another as well as to God". Which is why maybe the Bishops are the one's to refrain from receiving Communion due to their lack of attention to those priests who were abusing children.


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