This is in the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s newspaper:
Pelosi’s nationally aired abortion comments "disgraceful’, "incompetent", "incredible" USCCB corrects House Speaker’s views as "misleading" and outdated
By Rick DelVecchio
Catholic and conservative commentators reacted with outrage and disbelief to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s nationally televised comments that Church teaching is undecided on when life begins and that the question "shouldn’t have an impact on a woman’s right to choose."
Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said he has had long experience with Catholic politicians disagreeing with Church teaching on abortion but never before with what he called "absolute misrepresentation."
"I have to tell you in 15 years of doing this job this one goes off the end," he told Catholic San Francisco.
Pelosi should correct the record, he said.
"I don’t know what the woman’s motive is," he said. "Let’s just assume it’s stupidity. I’d still oblige her to hold a press conference saying she misrepresented the teachings of the Catholic Church."
The Archdiocese of San Francisco received hundreds of e-mails from around the country, many urging that the Church correct Pelosi. A "horrified" Bill Kelly of Carolina Shores, N.C., wrote: "Since she spoke as a Catholic will there be any action taken by the Archdiocese to refute her?"
Archbishop George Niederauer will address recent comments by Pelosi in a column in the Sept. 5 issue of Catholic San Francisco, archdiocesan spokesman Maurice Healy said.
In an official response, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a joint statement by the heads of the USCCB Pro-Life and Doctrine Committees calling Pelosi’s comments "misleading" and based on mistaken theories of fetal development that modern embryology made obsolete 150 years ago.
"The Church has always taught that human life deserves respect from its very beginning and that procured abortion is a grave moral evil," the USCCB said in a statement signed by Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine.
Individually, one U.S. cardinal and two other archbishops publicly corrected Pelosi.
Pelosi "is a gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills," Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote in a message also signed by Auxiliary Bishop James Conley. "Regrettably, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them."
Cardinal Edward Egan of the Archdiocese of New York said he was "shocked" at Pelosi’s comments and found them not only misleading but also "utterly incredible in this day and age."
Washington, D.C., Archbishop Donald Wuerl said, "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."
There was no immediate response from Pelosi’s office in Washington.
Pelosi, a long-time San Francisco Democratic congresswoman and lifelong Catholic, made the comments in response to a question from host Tom Brokaw on NBC’s Sunday morning public affairs show "Meet the Press." They were part of a wide-ranging interview on the eve of the opening of the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Brokaw recalled the Aug. 16 presidential candidates’ forum at Saddleback Church in Orange County, where Pastor Rick Warren asked Sen. Barack Obama his opinion on when a baby she be granted human rights. Obama answered that science and theology disagree and that the answer is "above my pay grade."
Brokaw asked Pelosi what her response would be if Warren "were to come to you and say, ‘Help me out, Madam Speaker, when does life begin? " ‘
Citing her Catholic faith and knowledge, Pelosi gave a detailed answer and was undeterred when Brokaw tried to interrupt her to clarify Church teaching, according to NBC’s transcript of the interview:
"PELOSI: I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition. And â€¦ 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. Roe vs. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child – first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester. There’s very clear distinctions. This isn’t about abortion on demand, it’s about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and – to – that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god. And so I don’t think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins. As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who’ve decided."
BROKAW: The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that it
PELOSI: I understand that.
BROKAW: begins at the point of conception.
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. But it is, it is also true that God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions."
Pelosi went on to criticize congressional Republicans for opposing contraception:
"And we want abortions to be safe, rare â€“ and reduce the number of abortions. That’s why we have this fight in Congress over contraception. My Republican colleagues do not support contraception. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, and we all do, we must – it would behoove you to support family planning and, and contraception, you would think. But that is not the case. So we have to take – you know, we have to handle this as respectfully. This is sacred ground."
Online commentators immediately attacked the House speaker as misguided.
The blog Vive Christus Rex!: Of all previous comments by pro-abortion politicians, Pelosi’s was "the most disgraceful and dark answer that I have ever heard in my life."
Thomas Peters’ American Papist blog: "Mind-blowingly incompetent."
The A Shepherd’s Voice blog: "The corruption of reason is one of the logical consequences of legalized abortion."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is "a far cry from Nancy Pelosi’s catechism which would make Roe vs. Wade a sacred doctrine," Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote on National Review Online.
Church teaching on the sanctity of life is easily understood at a glance at the Catechism or statements by the hierarchy.
"Since its beginnings, Christianity has maintained a firm and clear teaching on the sacredness of human life," the USCCB says on its website in a document cited in the bishops’ correction of Pelosi. "Jesus Christ emphasized this in his teaching and ministry. Abortion was rejected in the earliest known Christian manual of discipline, the Didache.
"Early Church fathers likewise condemned abortion as the killing of innocent human life. A third-century Father of the Church, Tertullian, called it ‘accelerated homicide.’ Early Church councils considered it one of the most serious crimes."
Pelosi "horribly misrepresented" Church teaching, said the blog Catholidoxy, citing a long list of ancient Jewish and Christian witnesses to the sanctity of life in the womb:
"Note that Pelosi implies there was all this gray area in the Christian tradition until ‘maybe 50 years’ ago or so, as if ( Pope ) Paul VI pulled Humanae Vitae out of thin air. He was codifying the consensus of centuries of tradition in the face of radical and novel cultural pressures."
Some commentators said Pelosi seemed to confuse the Church’s historically consistent teaching on the sanctity of life at all stages with old scientific debates over fetal development.
"Since Speaker Pelosi has, in her words, studied the issue "for a long time,’" said Catholic commentator Amy Welborn Dubruiel, "she must know very well one of the premier works on the subject, Jesuit John Connery’s ‘Abortion: The Development of the Roman Catholic Perspective’ ( Loyola, 1977 ) .
"Here’s how Connery concludes his study: ‘The Christian tradition from the earliest days reveals a firm antiabortion attitude . The condemnation of abortion did not depend on and was not limited in any way by theories regarding the time of fetal animation. Even during the many centuries when Church penal and penitential practice was based on the theory of delayed animation, the condemnation of abortion was never affected by it.’"
Despite the fierce contest for Catholic swing voters in the presidential race between Obama and the presumptive Republican nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, Donohue said he did not think Pelosi’s comments were politically motivated.
"That would suggest malice taken to an extraordinary degree," he said. "I think it was someone who was very uncomfortable with the question and was not able to pull the typical, ‘I am opposed, but
"How many people are used to being asked when does life begin? I think this is someone who erred is a serious way and should issue a correction."