House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bishop wants to meet with her to discuss her recent comments on Catholic Church history concerning abortion.
In his column in Catholic San Francisco, the diocesan newspaper, Archbishop George Niederauer revealed that he had asked the speaker, an avowed Roman Catholic, to meet with him, according to the Catholic League.
Pelosi stirred a storm of protests from bishops across the nation after she said on "Meet the Press" on Aug. 24 that the Catholic Church was not always opposed to abortion, and that many Catholics today take a different position on this issue. Three days later, the league recalled, Pelosi’s office issued a statement that essentially restated her remarks, though it acknowledged that the church was today opposed to abortion.
After Tom Brokaw said that the Catholic Church feels strongly that life begins at conception, Pelosi replied, "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.”
Claiming she had carefully researched church history, she said, "I don't think anybody can tell you when life begins," adding that "over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition."
In the wake of her controversial statement, many Catholics, including Niederauer and Cardinal Edward Egan of the Archdiocese of New York, chided Pelosi for her blatant misrepresentation of Catholic teaching on abortion.
In addition, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Sept. 2 not only issued a news release criticizing Pelosi for her comments, it also released a two-page document outlining the Catholic Church’s historical opposition to abortion since the first century.
After mentioning the fact that scientists are certain that "a new human individual comes into being from the union of sperm and egg at fertilization," the bishops wrote, "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."
In a statement Friday, Catholic League President Bill Donohue said “San Francisco Archbishop Niederauer did not force this issue on Nancy Pelosi -- she forced it on him. His article [in the diocesan newspaper] is a cogent account of what the bishops expect from Catholics in public life, spelling out in great detail how the process works when dissidents like Pelosi continue in their obstinacy. The church regards abortion to be 'intrinsically evil.'
“Four years ago, another Catholic dissident on this subject, New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, did the right thing by announcing that he would abide by the church’s strictures and no longer present himself for Communion.
“That is exactly what Pelosi should have done. Instead, she chose to defy the teachings of the Catholic Church, misrepresent them in public and continue to insist that she is right. Thus has she beckoned her bishop to act. The ball is in her court. Practicing Catholics, of course, strongly support Archbishop Niederauer.”
Catholic University President David M. O’Connell told the Washington Post: “We’re seeing more … very prominent individuals in the public square who are eager to identify themselves as Catholics . . . The bishops want to make sure that the people understand that 'celebrities' don’t get a pass when it comes to the teachings or the practices of the church.”
In a statement, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, the chairman of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops said: “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.”
In rebuking Pelosi, Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl said that "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion."
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver said the idea that a woman has the "right to choose" to end her baby's life goes against Catholic teaching.
He added that none of the early church leaders "diminished the unique evil of abortion as an attack on life itself, and the early church closely associated abortion with infanticide. In short, from the beginning, the believing Christian community held that abortion was always, gravely wrong.
"Catholics who make excuses for it -- whether they're famous or not -- fool only themselves and abuse the fidelity of those Catholics who do sincerely seek to follow the Gospel and live their Catholic faith," he added.
It was not only bishops and other church leaders who corrected the Speaker. Ten House members sent Pelosi a letter asking her to publicly rectify her misrepresentation of Catholic teachings.
"As fellow Catholics and legislators, we wish you (Pelosi) would have made a more honest effort to lay out the authentic position of the church on this core moral issue before attempting to address it with authority," said the congressmen.
"Your subsequent remarks mangle Catholic Church doctrine regarding the inherent sanctity and dignity of human life; therefore, we are compelled to refute your error."
"To reduce the scandal and consternation caused amongst the faithful by your remarks, we necessarily write you to correct the public record and affirm the church's actual and historical teaching that defends the sanctity of human life," concluded their letter, which contained the following signatures.
Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (MI)
Hon. Steve Chabot (OH)
Hon. Virginia Foxx (NC)
Hon. Phil Gingrey (GA)
Hon. Peter King (NY)
Hon. Steve King (IA)
Hon. Daniel Lungren (CA)
Hon. Devin Nunes (CA)
Hon. John Sullivan (OK)
Hon. Patrick Tiberi (OH)
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