Catholics and Politics

My Front Porch – Where Religion and Politics Collide

Speaker Nancy Polosi stepped in it on the Sunday Talk show circuit – I’m sure you’ve heard. It appears that she’s not exactly up on some of the historical and theological details of her Catholic faith. That’s pretty common. I can’t – and won’t – claim to be anything close to perfectly knowledgeable myself. The problem is, of course, that she displayed her ignorance (or delusion) not only as Speaker of the House and party leader, but as a Catholic as well. And this about an issue that (I paraphrase) she claims to have studied for quite some time.

From the biographer of John Paul The Great, and of Benedict XVI, George Wingel:

In her “Meet the Press” appearance Aug. 24, Pelosi was asked by Tom Brokaw whether she agreed with Senator Obama’s statements on abortion at Saddleback. Pelosi, declaring herself an “ardent, practicing Catholic,” told Brokaw that “this is an issue that I have studied for a long time” – and then got herself into a deep muddle, in which she seemed to confuse St. Augustine with St. Thomas Aquinas (neither of whom, in any case, knew anything about modern embryology); misrepresented the settled (and scientifically informed) judgment of the Catholic Church on when life begins by declaring it an open question, and concluded by suggesting that none of this really makes a difference, because what the scientists, theologians, and philosophers say “… shouldn’t have an impact on a the woman’s right to choose.” The Speaker then misrepresented the legal impact of Roe v. Wade, arguing that the Supreme Court hadn’t created a right to “abortion on demand” – which will come as news to those on both sides of the ongoing debates over partial-birth abortion and other late-term abortion procedures, parental- and spousal-notifications laws and regulatory oversight of abortion clinics.

Hugh Hewitt follows up with an excellent question.

Pelosi’s Meet the Press deception has triggered unprecedented, forceful responses from the American Roman Catholic hierarchy.

Has even one member of the MSM asked the Speaker for a response, a clarification, or an apology?

Perhaps not. But much to my surprise, the American Catholic Hierarchy certainly has. Kathryn Jean Lopez quotes Edward Cardinal Egan at the Corner:

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 Brokaw 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.

Even my own Archbishop in Washington DC, Donald Wuerl, has spoken up.

“We respect the right of elected officials such as Speaker Pelosi to address matters of public policy that are before them, but the interpretation of Catholic faith has rightfully been entrusted to the Catholic bishops. Given this responsibility to teach, it is important to make this correction for the record.”

Wuerl pointed out that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear, and has been clear for 2,000 years.

Nancy Pelosi is not the only Catholic politician to be “called on the carpet” this week. Sen. Joe Biden is also in the process of calling attention to the fact that his faith and his politics are not exactly in alignment. Here K Lo quotes Denver’s Archbishop Chaput.

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.”

Somewhere in the ’90s I’d gotten used to a much less vocal, much more mealymouthed temperate statements from American Bishops. Compare this to the tiff that occurred in 2004 with Sen. Kerry over the exact same issue. You can see how it ended from Kerry’s remarks then.

“Abortion should be rare, but it should be safe and legal, and the government should stay out of the bedroom,” Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, said to chants and whoops of approval during an abortion-rights rally.

Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts, made his remarks Friday as he accepted the endorsement of one of the nation’s largest abortion-rights organizations, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

He told a crowd outside the City Museum that he would stake out a position on the issue much like that of former President Bill Clinton.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) and other Catholic lawmakers around the country said they had no intention of changing their views – or their identity as Catholics – now that a cardinal from Rome had suggested that their support for legalized abortion should preclude them from Communion.

A single cardinal. It seems different now. More unified.

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