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Speaker Pelosi v. Archbishop Chaput and the Teachings of the Roman Catholic Church

Monday, August 25, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Here’s what Nancy Pelosi said on Meet the Press yesterday:

REP. PELOSI: 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. . . . 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.

(HT: Carol Liebau who discusses the whopper at Townhall’s group blog.)

Last week I spent a couple of hours on air with Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput. Nancy Pelosi should read the archbishop’s new book, Render Unto Caesar, but does anyone really believe she doesn’t know she lied through her teeth on an issue central to the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. (I’d love for readers and listeners to order copies for her offices in D.C. and San Francisco –and to look for the opportunity to put the book into her hands.) There is no doubt about what the Church teaches about the sanctity of unborn life, and it didn’t begin teaching that 50 years ago. Pelosi’s attempt to cloud this issue is really despicable and deeply dishonest, a display of her fear of explaining her own position. The worst part is that she is attempting to spread confusion –lies really– about the Church’s teaching which could mislead others who genuinely would like to know what the Church teaches about the issue.

Here’s what the archbishop noted last week on my show:

HH: Now you bring up the pro-life issue, and we’re going to spend a lot of time talking about it, so here’s my first foray into it. We are talking on August the 19th, and I expect to rebroadcast this interview in the future, so it will be on August 19th, but it’s going to be rebroadcast again. But this is three days after a big gathering in Saddleback Valley Community Church auditorium with my friend, Rick Warren, who you may very well know as well, talked to the presidential candidates. Were you satisfied that that was a serious conversation about the life issue, Archbishop?

CC: Well you know, I didn’t hear it when it was on. I heard some of the tapes afterwards, some of the session, and I didn’t hear all of it, so my comments will be in that context. I certainly thought that Senator McCain gave a very clear answer, and I’m always grateful when people give me what they think in a direct kind of way. You know, for Senator Obama to say that it’s above his pay grade to know when we should begin to respect the human dignity of an unborn person I think is evading the question. We all have to make that decision. Every time we vote, whether to vote in favor or against pro-choice, or pro-abortion legislation, is making a decision. So I think that he’s made decisions, each one of us has to make decisions all the time in our voting. So to say it’s above our pay grade just isn’t dealing with the issue appropriately. So I hope that both sides of the issue will speak clearly and directly so that we can make decisions based on the facts.

HH: Now I think probably the most controversial paragraph in the book, and by the way, my hat’s off to you for organizing this. You make people work to get to the controversy, because it’s in a context that has to be developed out of American history and Roman Catholic theology. But it’s on Page 229. “My friends often ask me if Catholics in genuinely good conscience can vote for a pro-choice candidate. The answer is I couldn’t. Supporting a right to choose abortion simply masks and evades what abortion really is, the deliberate killing of innocent life. I know of nothing that can morally offset that kind of evil.” Thank you for the clarity. Is that opinion widely held among the bishops, Archbishop?

CC: Well, I would suspect that’s where most of us stand. I don’t know that they always say it in the same way I said it, but I think most of us stand there. You know, many of us are hesitant to speak very publicly on this issue, because we’re accused of partisanship or whatever. And I think bishops have to be very careful. I haven’t registered in a party, because I don’t want the people to use that as an excuse to say that I’m partisan. So I think bishops really stand in the same place, but may not articulate it the same way I did.

– – – –

HH: Archbishop, I want to go back to the abortion discussion. Quoting again from one of the later chapters in your book, “One of the pillars of Catholic thought is this-don’t deliberately kill the innocent, and don’t collude in allowing it. We sin if we support candidates because they support a false right to abortion. We sin if we support pro-choice candidates without a truly proportionate reason for doing so, that is a reason grave enough to outweigh our obligation to end the killing of the unborn. And what would a proportionate reason look like? It would be a reason we could, with an honest heart, expect the unborn victims of abortion to accept when we meet them and need to explain our actions as we someday will.” Are you aware of any such proportionate actions out there, proportionate reasons right now, Archbishop?

CC: Well, let me give you two answers to that. You know, as I say, it’s hard for me to come to the conclusion there are proportionate reasons. But here’s a case where I’m certain there would be. If you have two candidates running for the same office, they’re the only choices, both of them are pro-choice, but one is much better on the other issues than the other. I think that you can choose the lesser of two evils with a clear conscience. You don’t have to. You can decide not to vote, or you can vote for a third person who couldn’t be elected. But in those circumstances, you would be voting for a pro-choice candidate, but not because the person is pro-choice, but because the alternative is a worse situation. I also know that, and this is the second point, I know many good Catholics who have given a lot of serious thought to the abortion issue, and will still vote for a candidate who is pro-choice. They’ll try to discourage that person from holding that position, they’ll work really hard within their party to get the party to change its platform if it’s pro-abortion. But they’ve kind of examined all the issues, and weighed them together, and still feel that in a particular situation, that the candidate that they are going to vote for who is pro-choice is a better of the two. And the Church, you know, says you can do that if you have a truly proportionate reason. And I hope they work hard at it, and I don’t always understand how they arrive at their conclusion. It’s hard to imagine in my mind anything worse than the destruction of more than a million unborn children in our country every year through abortion. But I think that sincere people really do arrive at those conclusions sometimes.

Note how the archbishop tries to understand how a Catholic could vote for a pro-abortion rights candidate. But there is no mistaking the centrality of the issue or where the Church stands on it. Speaker Pelosi was being as deceptive as any public figure I have ever heard address the subject of Catholic doctrine, and the bishops should immediately issue the necessary rebuke less anyone be misled by the willful deception.

The only thing Pelosi accomplished by attempting this dishonest ruse is to return the focus to Joe Biden’s extreme pro-choice record (though he fails to match that of Obama’s which is the most extreme record possible given he voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.) Biden supporters made much of his Catholic identity and roots this weekend, but passed over that once again the Dems have nominated a candidate who by definition is deeply at odds with the core teachings of his own church. Biden is supposed to help shore up the Catholic vote, Why would Mass-attending, observant Catholics vote for someone who quite obviously rejects the Church’s teachings?

Come to think of it, order a copy of Chaput’s book for Slow Joe’s office as well.

Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life

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