Pope to Pelosi: ‘…from conception to natural death…’

Here is the Vatican’s statement regarding the pope’s 15-minute meeting today with Nancy Pelosi:

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His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.

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Pelosi, in a statement from her office to the AP, said: “In our conversation, I had the opportunity to praise the Church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel.”

Her statement did not mention the pope’s reference to abortion.

The Vatican did not issue a photo of the meeting, as it usually does when world leaders stop by.

Post-Al Smith Dinner criticisms arise

When I was writing something last week about the Al Smith Dinner, I noted that Bush and Kerry were not invited four years ago — in all likelihood, because Kerry is a pro-choice Catholic.

In the back of mind, I was wondering why it makes such a difference. Yes, Kerry is Catholic. But plenty of pro-choice pols who are not Catholic are invited to the big dinner, including (this year alone) Chuck Schumer (Jewish), Hillary Clinton (Methodist) and, of course,  Obama (UCC).

eganobama.jpegI thought about Cardinal Egan’s anti-abortion statement that was directed at Nancy Pelosi, which said: “Anyone who dares to defend that (the unborn) may be legitimately killed because another human being ‘chooses’ to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.”

That would seem to cover Obama, too. But there he was at the dinner, at Egan’s side.

But no one brought it up.

Until after the dinner. Conservative Catholic pundit Deal Hudson wrote a column for InsideCatholic.com that made this point: “The sight of Obama and the cardinal palling around sends the message — whether intentional or not — that the pro-choice senator is fine in Egan’s eyes.”

The column seems to be getting some traction in the Catholic blogosphere.

CatholicsForMcCain says: “So, the Cardinal says that pro-abortion politicians should not be providing leadership in our country, yet will sit at a black-tie dinner and share laughs with a man who has supported infanticide and partial-birth abortion?”

Another blogger points out: “One line in particular, though, struck me as odd. During his remarks, Senator Obama stated that he “shared the politics of Alfred E. Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Newman.” Now, obviously, the worst thing you can do with a joke is overanalyze it, but I had to wonder: exactly what were the politics that Barack Obama thought he had in common with Al Smith? Presumably he was not referring to his positions on social issues such as abortion or homosexual unions, which were not major issues in Al Smith’s time, but on which he no doubt would have differed from Senator Obama.”

And the writer of ClericalWhispers gives a nice overview on where abortion fits into overall Catholic politics. He writes:

In a year like 2008, when the economy trumps social issues, Catholics are most likely to return to their roots in the Democratic Party. And that’s particularly true when they hear fellow Catholics arguing that Democrats reflect their religious values. McCain may have gotten a longer standing ovation on his way to the podium at the Al Smith Dinner and dropped references to “defending the rights of the unborn” in among his jokes. But it was Obama who won over Al Smith IV, the event’s emcee and great-grandson of the historic candidate. “Awesome,” Smith told Obama after the Democrat had finished speaking. “That was just awesome!”

Echoes of Cuomo in abortion debate

First Nancy Pelosi questioned whether the Catholic Church has always been clear about abortion. Not surprisingly, a posse of bishops swarmed around her words.

Now the bishops are going after Joe Biden’s “Meet the Press” comments about abortion, which are much more classically Democratic.

Asked when life begins, Biden said: “Look, I know when it begins for me. It’s a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I am prepared to accept the teachings in my church.”

cuomo.jpgThen he said that he cannot “impose” his views on others. This is the Catholic, pro-choice position defined by Mario Cuomo in his famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) speech at Notre Dame in 1984.

Among many other things, he said:

Now, certainly, we should not be forced to mold Catholic morality to conform to disagreement by non-Catholics, however sincere they are, however severe their disagreement. Our bishops should be teachers, not pollsters. They should not change what we Catholics believe in order to ease our consciences or please our friends or protect the Church from criticism. But if the breadth and intensity and sincerity of opposition to Church teaching shouldn’t be allowed to shape our Catholic morality, it can’t help but determine our ability — our realistic, political ability — to translate our Catholic morality into civil law, a law not for the believers who don’t need it but for the disbelievers who reject it.

And it’s here, in our attempt to find a political answer to abortion — an answer beyond our private observance of Catholic morality — that we encounter controversy within and without the Church over how and in what degree to press the case that our morality should be everybody else’s morality. I repeat, there is no Church teaching that mandates the best political course for making our belief everyone’s rule, for spreading this part of our Catholicism. There is neither an encyclical nor a catechism that spells out a political strategy for achieving legislative goals. And so the Catholic trying to make moral and prudent judgments in the political realm must discern which, if any, of the actions one could take would be best.

Of course, the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference didn’t accept Cuomo’s position then.

And they don’t accept Biden’s now.

Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman, U.S. Bishops Committee on Doctrine, say in a statement: “However, the Senator’s claim that the beginning of human life is a ‘personal and private’ matter of religious faith, one which cannot be ‘imposed’ on others, does not reflect the truth of the matter.”

Here’s the full statement:

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman, U.S. Bishops Committee on Doctrine, issued the following statement:

Recently we had a duty to clarify the Catholic Church’s constant teaching against abortion, to correct misrepresentations of that teaching by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “Meet the Press” (see www.usccb.org/prolife/whatsnew.shtml). On September 7, again on “Meet the Press,” Senator Joseph Biden made some statements about that teaching that also deserve a response.
Senator Biden did not claim that Catholic teaching allows or has ever allowed abortion. He said rightly that human life begins “at the moment of conception,” and that Catholics and others who recognize this should not be required by others to pay for abortions with their taxes.
However, the Senator’s claim that the beginning of human life is a “personal and private” matter of religious faith, one which cannot be “imposed” on others, does not reflect the truth of the matter. The Church recognizes that the obligation to protect unborn human life rests on the answer to two questions, neither of which is private or specifically religious.
The first is a biological question: When does a new human life begin? When is there a new living organism of the human species, distinct from mother and father and ready to develop and mature if given a nurturing environment? While ancient thinkers had little verifiable knowledge to help them answer this question, today embryology textbooks confirm that a new human life begins at conception (see www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/bioethic/fact298.shtml). The Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact.
The second is a moral question, with legal and political consequences: Which living members of the human species should be seen as having fundamental human rights, such as a right not to be killed? The Catholic Church’s answer is: Everybody. No human being should be treated as lacking human rights, and we have no business dividing humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not. This is not solely a Catholic teaching, but a principle of natural law accessible to all people of good will. The framers of the Declaration of Independence pointed to the same basic truth by speaking of inalienable rights, bestowed on all members of the human race not by any human power, but by their Creator. Those who hold a narrower and more exclusionary view have the burden of explaining why we should divide humanity into those who have moral values and those who do not and why their particular choice of where to draw that line can be sustained in a pluralistic society. Such views pose a serious threat to the dignity and rights of other poor and vulnerable members of the human family who need and deserve our respect and protection.
While in past centuries biological knowledge was often inaccurate, modern science leaves no excuse for anyone to deny the humanity of the unborn child. Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice.

Cardinal Egan’s two statements on abortion draw waves of kudos

Why do I get the feeling that if and when Cardinal Egan does retire, his two, strong anti-abortion statements of 2008 will go down as a large part of his public legacy?

For years, observers of all kinds noted Egan’s reticence to speak out in the public square. At first, many thought he was reluctant to try to follow Cardinal O’Connor, a master of the ages at both sound bites and all-out speeches. In recent years, I’ve heard many people say that Egan was cutting himself off from the public square because he could not get past his deep distrust of the mainstream media.

tjndc5-5b531olhqk315wbdl7p4_layout.jpgIt’s true that Egan often writes with zest in Catholic New York and that he speaks often on The Catholic Channel on SIRIUS Satellite Radio. But his audience is limited.

I don’t know how many times over the year I’ve heard Catholic laypeople wonder what the archbishop of New York was up to.

Then came 2008. In April, pro-choice Rudy Giuliani received the Eucharist at a papal Mass at St. Patrick’s Catheral.

And Egan hammered him — releasing an out-of-the-blue statement that included: “I had an understanding with Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, when I became Archbishop of New York and he was serving as Mayor of New York, that he was not to receive the Eucharist because of his well-known support of abortion. I deeply regret that Mr. Giuliani received the Eucharist during the Papal visit here in New York…”

The Catholic blogosphere went nuts, with orthodox/conservative/devoutly pro-life Catholics hailing Egan as a hero. For weeks, bloggers continued to hold up Egan’s statement as an example of how a cardinal/archbishop is supposed to act.

Then, this past Sunday, Nancy Pelosi went on “Meet the Press” and tried to explain her pro-choice position, in part, by contending that Catholic teachings on abortion were once unclear.

After Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl and Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput took some opening shots at Pelosi, Egan let absolutely loose:

We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons.

And the blogosphere has again gone crazy!

One blogger wrote: “If you compare the statements of Cardinal Rigali, Bishop Lori, Archbishop Chaput, and Archbishop Wuerl to Cardinal Egan’s, the latter has the tone of someone who has “had it” with the hubris of pro-abortion politicians.”

Another: “Cardinal Egan’s judgment of Nandy Pelosi’s farce about the church’s teaching on abortion is unusually and refreshingly blunt. Bravo for him.”

Still another blogger opens with “Did I just hear Cardinal Egan change the abortion debate?” and then goes on to say: “Game, set and match to the pro-life crowd. Cardinal Egan just pulled a reverse of the Scopes Monkey trials. He demonstrated that scientific proof was on the side of the Bible, but knowing he was speaking to a lot of folks who put no credence in the scriptures, he avoided even bringing them into the conversation.”

Strong praise, indeed.

And, yes, Egan is drawing comparisons to none other than…John O’Connor.

One blogger wrote: “This is like the good old days; a New York City Cardinal telling a CINO (Catholic in Name Only) she must recant her pro-abortion position! It reminds me of Cardinal John O’Connor and Geraldine Ferraro and Mario Cuomo. Well done, Cardinal Egan!”

And the RedState blog went with this headline: “Cardinal Egan channels Cardinal O’Connor, and lays the smackdown on Nancy Pelosi.”

When all is said and done, some Catholics — not all, but some — may remember Egan as Cardinal Smackdown.

Nancy Pelosi…on Augustine

After Cardinal Egan released a statement yesterday belittling Nancy Pelosi’s comments on abortion, the House Speaker released her own statement.

She won’t back down from her contention that the Catholic Church — Pelosi is Catholic — has not always had clear teachings about abortion.

st-augustine.jpgHer spokesman, according to the AP, says her views are based on the “views of Saint Augustine, who said: ‘… the law does not provide that the act (abortion) pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation …’ ”

On “Meet the Press” Sunday, Pelosi said that the “doctors of the church” have not always agreed on when life begins.

Egan responded with: “What the Speaker had to say about theologians and their positions regarding abortion was not only misinformed; it was also, and especially, utterly incredible in this day and age.”

Additionally, Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William Lori, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, have issued their own statement. Here it is in full:

In the course of a “Meet the Press” interview on abortion and other public issues on August 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion.

In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.” (No. 2271)

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 teaches 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.

Cardinal Egan slaps Pelosi statements on abortion

tjndc5-5b552ruo6tgx5cu17p4_layout.jpgCardinal Egan has jumped into the fray over Nancy Pelosi’s comments regarding abortion on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.”

House Speaker Pelosi, a Catholic Democrat, said that “doctors of the church” have been unable to pinpoint when life begins. She also suggested that the church has been unable to make up its mind historically about abortion.

Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl and Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput first took her on yesterday, saying that church teachings on abortion have not and will not change.

Minutes ago, Egan released this statement:

Like many other citizens of this nation, I was shocked to learn that the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America would make the kind of statements that were made to Mr. Tom Brokow of NBC-TV on Sunday, August 24, 2008. What the Speaker had to say about theologians and their positions regarding abortion was not only misinformed; it was also, and especially, utterly incredible in this day and age.

We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.