Catholic Church contradicts Pelosi’s self-serving attempt to rationalize abortion as "permissable" for Catholics Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, September 02, 2008
You may remember this when the brilliant theologian, Nancy Pelosi, attempted to explain why abortion is, in reality, permissible to Catholics:
On NBC's Meet the Press, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, told Tom Brokaw that the Catholic Church does not have a definitive teaching on when life begins, and that, therefore, abortion may be considered permissible. "Over the history of the church," she said, "this is an issue of controversy." She attempted to prove her claim by quoting the fifth century bishop and theologian, St. Augustine of Hippo.
Now, regardless of your stance on abortion or the Catholic church, you have to be an absolute ignoramus if you're unaware of the unshakable and historic stance of the church as it pertains to abortion.
Bishop Edward J. Slattery of the Diocese of Tulsa succinctly restates the doctrine in case you need to be reminded:
"In our own generation, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states it with succinct precision," writes Slattery. "'Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.'"
Any questions? Again, you may disagree. But what you can't claim is that this is an "issue of controversy" in the Catholic church. It may be an "issue of controversy" among various people who claim to be Catholic, but it certainly isn't an issue of controversy within the Church's doctrine or among its clergy.
If you need an analogy or two in order to understand the absurdity of the Pelosi claim, Fr. Thomas Williams provides them:
Fr. Williams wrote that being a pro-abortion Catholic is akin to being a Muslim who believes in more than one god, or an environmentalist who supports the seal slaughter. From a logical point of view, he said, the ideas of being pro-abortion and an "ardent" Catholic, as Pelosi claimed to be, are mutually exclusive.
"Polytheism is not an Islamic thing. An environmentalist who patronizes anti-ecological activities is not an environmentalist at all, but a subversive." Similarly, Pelosi's position as a "pro-choice" Catholic is logically insupportable.
The speaker's attempts to squeeze abortion rights into Catholic moral teaching were no more credible than trying to pass apartheid off as a legitimate goal of the civil rights movement. "Being Catholic" he wrote, "is no different. The title 'Catholic' presumes a whole string of basic beliefs."
So much for Nancy Pelosi's ridiculous and self-serving attempt to re-write Catholic Church doctrine.
And speaking of heartbeats, remember, she's two heart beats away from the presidency. That should make you shiver uncontrollably.
This particular assertion is referring to the church’s history, not its contemporary doctrine.
The church’s doctrinal history seems very consistent:
He quotes one of the earliest known Christian works, the Didache, or "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," in which first century Christians read, "Do not kill a foetus by abortion, or commit infanticide."
First off, in the MTP interview that seems to be the most catalyst of all these Pelosi is a bad Catholic outpourings, she didn’t actually talk about abortion. She ran away from that term as quick as her mouth could take her. What she did say is something that is a historical fact—that Catholic theologians have over the centuries seriously disagreed among themselves as to when "life" begins. She implied that those theologians who thought life began later than earlier would have approved of abortion before the point at which they felt life began, and I believe she pointed out that plenty of Catholics don’t adhere to the Church’s current teachings, but she never said that abortion was ever permitted by the Church. It was a lot more "nuanced" than you try to make it sound. Second, refresh your knowledge of the Creeds. They say several things which "he would be saved must believe" (in the words of the Athanasian Creed), but say nothing about abortion. Apparently the Church Fathers thought that stuff like the Trinity and the Incarnation were a lot more important to salvation. Third, remember that the Catholic Church is a human institution, and intensely hierarchal in nature; and like hierarchs, its rulers are most concerned with keeping their members in line, even when the institution is wrong—even when they know the institution is wrong. Fourth, unless you are one of those hierarchs, you don’t need to carry their water for them. At least one of them has already called Ms. Pelosi out; but unless you are a Catholic theologian you’re not even qualified to say if she is or is not wrong. (And, since I’m not even a Catholic, I know I’m not.)
kishnevi is obviously more informed about this matter than I am, so I’ll confine my reply to just one point: McQ, are you really suggesting that a single cite of a single authority, from a time when quite possibly there wasn’t yet even a conception of a "Christian church", is somehow satisfactory to prove that there’s been no controversy over the entire history of Catholicism? If a liberal tried to get away with an argument like that, I suspect you’d shoot him/her down without blinking an eye.
McQ, are you really suggesting that a single cite of a single authority, from a time when quite possibly there wasn’t yet even a conception of a "Christian church", is somehow satisfactory to prove that there’s been no controversy over the entire history of Catholicism?
What I’m suggesting is there has been no inconsistency that anyone can point too since that first cite. Unless, that is, you can point to a cite which refutes it.
And I never said there was no controversy - what I said is that church doctrine appears to have been consistent. Obviously if someone disagrees with the church’s stance, there will be controversy. But that doesn’t mean it had anything to do with changing church doctrine.
Pelagianism has been "debated" in the church for centuries and centuries, but it’s still safe to say that if you advocated it way back in the 5th century were a heretic then, same as if you profess it now.
but unless you are a Catholic theologian you’re not even qualified to say if she is or is not wrong. (And, since I’m not even a Catholic, I know I’m not.)
Your "Third" is a little misleading. The pope is presumed infallible when he is speaking on matters of faith and morals. By definition, he cannot be wrong.
Actually Papal Infallibility has only been invoked 6 times. I believe the last one was on the position on Mary’s Immaculate Conception (that she was born without Original Sin, I believe).
When its invoked you know it. Its specifically called out.
That being said, McQ is correct in that the Church’s position on abortion has been stable.
In fact, I’d say issue was in front of people at the time of Church’s founding and earlier. In fact, the Hippocratic Oath (~400 BC) has a prohibition against inducing abortion. So the topic isn’t new by any stretch.
Where’s Erb, since he’s resurfaced to gloat over the Palin choice...he gave us a lengthy lecture about how the views of ’many Catholics’ carries the same weight as the official church view even when they are diametrically opposite.
And he knows this for certain by discussing it at wine and cheese functions with ’good’ Catholics. How do we know they’re good? They say so, and so does Professor Erb.
And the final ruling he gave was Pelosi was okay and still could be considered a good Catholic even if her view is 180 degrees from the official Church view.
Ott Scerb must be out there somewhere to render the ultimate verdict on this.
And the final ruling he gave was Pelosi was okay and still could be considered a good Catholic even if her view is 180 degrees from the official Church view.
Seems to me Saint Andrew the Incontinent tried a similar line, and got himself rather tangled in the illogic of it all.
By no means do I intend to challange the conclusions Bruce makes about the Church’s line on abotion, but I think I should in fairness point out that the Didache may not be the best thing to invoke to back the argument since it’s origins seem to be a rather large question mark.
It’s been some years since I’ve even thought about it, but as I recall it was discovered in a monstary in Constantinople around 1880, and if memory serves first republised around 1911... and has been described variably as being written in the first to the thrd century, and also as being written by one, no, three, no FOUR scholars each leaning heavily on earlier work, inclduing the first section of the Didache, which apparently was lifted totally from a jewish work which predates Christ altogether.
You can imagine the source of the controversy about the validity of the work given the lack of understanding about it’s origins.
There’s some suggestion that the thing was in fact one of the outputs of the third Constantinople council as a justification for the edicts of that council. ( the Council, BTW was called by Constantine IV in 680ad, more or less) which was most famous for it’s condemnation of condemnation of of the concept of Monothelitism, as you mentioned in your post, as well as Pope Honorius. This is also where the argument over infalibility started, so it all kind of fits. That origin would also explain how it came to be found in Constantinople in the first place, if it originated there.
Again, I’m not suggesting Bruce’s point is wrong. I’m simply suggesting you’re going to open yourself to some argument in citing the Didache. (And I laughingly suggest that sword cuts both ways... the arguments themselves may or may not be valid)
Today’s American Catholic bishops are a lot more conservative on matters of faith and morals than those of 35 years ago were. I think that prominent American Catholic politicians (like Sen. Biden and Speaker Pelosi) would be prudent to maintain a low profile on this issue.
kishnevi’s post interests me because it reads not only like he’s not a Roman Catholic, he’s not even a churchgoer (or maybe, like Obama, he snoozed through twenty years of sermons).
kishnevi - [The Creeds] say several things which "he would be saved must believe" (in the words of the Athanasian Creed), but say nothing about abortion. Apparently the Church Fathers thought that stuff like the Trinity and the Incarnation were a lot more important to salvation.
The Creeds are not the only expression of Catholic / Christian doctrine, which ultimately rests in the Bible. The Catholic Encyclopedia says of the Creeds:
"... we can understand that a profession of faith was required of those who were to be baptized, as in the case of the eunuch (Acts 8:37); in fact the baptismal formula prescribed by Christ himself is an expression of faith in the Blessed Trinity. Apart then from the question regarding the composition of the Apostles’ Creed, it is clear that from the beginning, and even before the New Testament had been written, some doctrinal formula, however concise, would have been employed both to secure uniformity in teaching and to place beyond doubt the belief of those who were admitted into the Church." (1)
The Creeds express the basic, underlying belief of the Catholic Church: that there is one God; that He exists simultaneously as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost; and God the Son was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, lived and died as a man for the sins of all men, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. Incidentally, most (if not all) main Christian denominations use these Creeds as they have the same basic tenents of faith as the Catholic Church. I see the Creeds as a "short form" of Christianity, which is explained in more detail in various church writings such as the Catechism and ultimately in the Bible.
I also note that the various Creeds do not contain an injunction against murder, theft, or adultery, but I think we can safely say that the Catholic Church does not recognize them as unimportant or take the view that a decision to commit these acts by a communicant is a matter on which it has nothing to say.
kishnevi - ... remember that the Catholic Church is a human institution, and intensely hierarchal in nature; and like hierarchs, its rulers are most concerned with keeping their members in line, even when the institution is wrong—even when they know the institution is wrong.
Um, no. To Catholics, the Church is an institution of God. Christ does not tell St. Peter, "Upon this rock I will build your church"; He refers to it as "my church" (Matthew 16:18). The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:
The authority established in the Church holds its commission from above, not from below. The pope and the bishops exercise their power as the successors of the men who were chosen by Christ in person. They are not, as the Presbyterian theory of Church government teaches, the delegates of the flock; their warrant is received from the Shepherd, not from the sheep. The view that ecclesiastical authority is ministerial only, and derived by delegation from the faithful, was expressly condemned by Pius VI (1794) in his Constitution "Auctorem Fidei" (q.v.); and on the renovation of the error by certain recent Modernist writers, Pius X reiterated the condemnation in the Encyclical on the errors of the Modernists. In this sense the government of the Church is not democratic. This indeed is involved in the very nature of the Church as a supernatural society, leading men to a supernatural end. No man is capable of wielding authority for such a purpose, unless power is communicated to him from a Divine source. (2)
It goes on to state flatly that, "As the Divinely appointed teacher of revealed truth, the Church is infallible." [emphasis mine]
I should note here that, as a Protestant, I don’t believe in the infallibility of any churchman. The Pope could tell me that the sun goes round the earth (as, I believe, early Popes did indeed say) and I would consider them wrong and not bound to attempt to believe what I know is untrue. But I am NOT a Catholic, who (as I understand it) ARE bound to accept the teachings of their church. If a Catholic cannot in good conscience accept some teaching or another of the church, then I suggest that he should find another church more agreeable to his beliefs or at the very least shut up about it.
kishnevi - ... unless you are one of those hierarchs, you don’t need to carry their water for them. At least one of them has already called Ms. Pelosi out; but unless you are a Catholic theologian you’re not even qualified to say if she is or is not wrong.
Possibly. I’m not an astronomer, but I think I would feel qualified to correct somebody if he claimed that the sun goes ’round the earth.
I don’t claim to know the Mind of God, but I reject the idea that we’re supposed to keep our opinions to ourselves if we perceive that somebody else is sinning. For example, I think it would be entirely appropriate to say, "You really oughtn’t do that; it’s a sin" if somebody is about to steal or hurt somebody else, and it is equally appropriate to say, "You’re wrong" if somebody says that such sins are, in fact, not sins at all. This is also in keeping with Catholic theology:
The obligation of fraternal correction, so far as private persons go, does not obtain, generally speaking, for the case of one who violates a law through invincible ignorance. The obvious reason is that there is then no immunity for it is their duty to instruct their subordinates. Every one, however, whether having an official competency or not, is bound to give the admonition when the sin, committed though it be from ignorance, is hurtful to the offender or a third party or is the occasion of scandal. (3)
Now, if SanFran Nan thinks that abortion is OK because "I don’t think anybody can tell you when life begins" (4), then I’d say that she is either gravely misinformed about Catholic theology or she’s lying. Given that she says that she is an "ardent, practicing Catholic" and that "this is an issue that I have studied for a long time", I think we can rule out the possibility that she’s misinformed. According to the Catholic Encylopedia, the church’s view that life begins at conception dates back at least to the fourth century and St. Gregory of Nyssa (5); it isn’t something "recent" as she tries to claim. I expect that it began to be more openly discussed by the church starting about fifty years ago when the Sexual Revolution hit and an increasing number of women wanted to have free love without the consequences of a baby to take care of and didn’t like being told by some stodgy old priest that they were committing a mortal sin when they went to get an abortion.
If SanFran Nan wants to say that, as a Catholic she personally opposes abortion and would never encourage anybody to have one but, as a member of the Congress, she has to represent the wishes of her constituents... Well, whether that gets her off the hook with her church is up to them. However, I don’t get the sense that SanFran Nan is merely being a representative when she supports abortion. Rather, she sees it as a "woman’s right" that trumps her duties as a Catholic. The intellectually honest course of action would be for her to leave the church, but (for whatever reason) she won’t do that. Whether the church should excommunicate her is, again, their decision. It seems to me that they should also have some strong words for a "ardent, practicing Catholic" who so publicly misrepresents Catholic theology.
I would like to note in closing that SanFran Nan’s tortured and frankly ridiculous defense of her views on abortion is an example of why liberals have a "religion gap" when it comes to elections. They can claim to be ardent, devout, regular churchgoers, but it usually comes out that it’s a sham. Whether its The Annointed One claiming that he’s his brother’s keeper even while his REAL brother lives in squalor in Kenya or a variety of "Catholic" liberals trying to claim that the Catholic Church does anything but forbid abortion, libs always show themselves to be hypocrites of the first water.
Yeah, they go to church. Just don’t ask them to try to live up to anything they’re told there.
docjim—thank you for the info upload. 1) the question of when life begins (in the form of the question of when the fetus/baby becomes "ensouled") was debated by Catholic theologians up through the middle ages. It took a lot longer than Gregory of Nyssa to finalize the answer, even if he was the first one who proposed it. If the Catholic Encyclopedia makes it sound like there was not a further seven or so centuries of discussion on the matter, than that’s a flaw in the Catholic Encyclopedia. 2) what Pelosi actually said was to cite the fact that there was considerable discussion and make it seem as if that fact allowed for wriggle room about abortion (and I think all of us, including myself, agree that there is no wriggle room)—but she did not directly disagree with Church teaching on the matter, at least in the interview I heard her (Meet the Press) 3) the Church may be from and of God, but the Roman Catholic Church is a hierarchical institution heir to all the ills that hierarchical institutional flesh is heir to, which includes the tendency of the hierarchs to stamp out dissent (by fair means or foul) simply because it is dissent. I would suggest that the Catholic Encyclopedia is one of those methods—written in a manner which tries to make it sound as if the only way faithful Catholics have ever thought on a particular question is the way that currently constitutes Church teaching. 4) why a blogger of libertarian tendencies would want to go to bat for a hierarchical institution when that institution is perfectly capable of going to bat for itself (as witnessed by the actions of at least one American Catholic bishop who clearly and directly stated where and how Pelosi was wrong) is beyond me—unless he’s merely a Republican attempting to score a transitory political point.
Bithead—Even if the Didache dates "only" to the third or fourth century CE, that still is plenty early enough for purposes of this discussion.
And just to be clear, I am not a Catholic, simply someone who has studied Catholic spirituality and theology rather intensively over the years. Nor have I ever snoozed through my rabbi’s sermons. As for abortion, I believe, in accordance with orthodox Jewish thought, that it should be reserved for cases where the mother’s life (or at least health) is endangered ( a position that dates at least to the first century CE)—but in terms of American secular law, Roe v Wade is the correct solution and that the decision regarding abortion should be left to the individual involved, the pregnant woman.
And, speaking of the earth going round the sun, did you realize that Sherlock Holmes, at least at the beginning of his career, was not aware of that fact? It wasn’t germane to his profession, so he had ignored it. (Study in Scarlet—and I’m not going to quote the exact passage because that way you will have all the excuse you need to reread it.)
Here’s the problem I have with Pelosi (or anybody else) trying to cover their position by saying, "Oh, it’s been a controversy for years".
Even if true, it doesn’t deal with the fact that it’s not a controvery NOW. Church doctrine on the matters of when life begins and abortion is what it is. One might just as well try to defend being in favor of slavery or against allowing black people to vote because those things used to be legal or there has been controversy about those laws in our history. Let’s take what Pelosi did say and make a few minor changes for purposes of demonstration:
"Whether black people should be slaves is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the leaders of our country have not been able to make that definition. And President Jefferson said that they should be. We don’t know. The point is, is that it shouldn’t have an impact on the person’s right to own slaves. The Dred Scott decision talks about very clear definitions of when a slave — escaped, recaptured, purchased. There’s very clear distinctions. This isn’t about bringing back the slave trade, it’s about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and—to—that a slaveholder has to make with his overseer and his god. And so I don’t think anybody can tell you whether black people should be slaves. As I say, the American people for centuries have been discussing this, and there are those who’ve decided that they should not be."
As for your assertion that SanFran Nan "did not directly disagree with Church teaching on the matter", I think you are being disengenuous. For her to say that "nobody knows" when the Church is actually quite clear on the matter of when life begins is merely a spineless way for her to say that she thinks the Church is wrong without being explicit. Politicians are good at that sort of thing.
She doesn’t want to obey the Pope, but she hasn’t got the guts to nail her defiance to the church door.
Oh, and as for Holmes’ knowledge of the solar system, I think Doyle realized pretty quickly that he’d painted himself into a bit of a corner: by making Holmes’ knowledge too specific and narrow, it actually would have limited the great detective’s ability to solve those little puzzles that came his way. Hence, by the time of The Greek Interpreter, Holmes could chat with Watson in a desultory, spasmodic fashion about subjects ranging from golf clubs to the causes of the change in the obliquity of the ecliptic and eventually to to the question atavism and hereditary aptitudes. Holmes even chided himself for not reaching the solution to the mystery of The Crooked Man more quickly based on the clue of Mrs. Barclay referring to her wicked husband as "David" because he knew the story of David, Bathsheba and Uriah, though perhaps it WOULD be a little unfair to expect even a man with a memory like Holmes’ to recall whether the story was in the first or second of Samuel.
Kishnevi, the question of when the soul arrives in the body is an entirely different question (of the same class as "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?") from whether you are allowed to kill it. And on THAT the Church has never had a dispute: you are not.