BLOGGERS UNITE! Keep shaping the conversation on pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

For the last few days we have been focusing our attentions on Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), VP candidate Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), et. al., and reopening the issue of Holy Communion for pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

The Catholic blogosphere has been pushing the conversation but only few reps of the mainstream media have picked this up. 

I know talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt has discussed the Pelosi Problem from last Sunday’s Meet The Press and has linked back to this blog.  I have head Laura Ingraham bring it up.  Bill O’Reilly spoke about Card. Egan’s slap down on his show, the highest rated in all cable/satellite TV.  Alas, I haven’t heard Bill Bennett discuss it yet.  I don’t believe any networks have brought it up since Pelosi appeared on NBC’s Meet The Press.

But the issue is a huge one.  Apart from the impact of the Catholic vote on the upcoming elections, we are dealing with the sanctity of human life. 

QUAERITUR: Will pro-abortion Catholic politicians and other highly visible pro-abortion Catholics prevail shaping the rank and file attitude about receiving Holy Communion while defying the Church on faith and morals or will the Church’s duly appointed pastors prevail?

A paradigmatic moment came during Speaker Pelosi’s interview with Tom Brokaw on Meet The PressWatch what happens:

REP. 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 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.   Roe v. Wade talks about  [So, instead of her Church’s teaching, her reference point is Roe v Wade.] 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… 

Speaker Pelosi uses as her starting point Roe v Wade and not the Church’s Magisterium.

Will prominent dissident Catholics be the primary influence over the stance of Catholics in the pews and on couches? 

Pope Benedict is striving to reinvigorate our Catholic identity.  This is the major purpose of what I call his Marshall Plan to rebuild after the devastation of the last decades.

Will the Church’s teachings simply be shoved aside in favor of the slithery musings of dissidents?  

Who will influence our Catholic identity?

I call on Catholic bloggers to keep these questions in the public eye.

We need solidarity.

Individually we can do only so much, but working with some harmony we can shape the conversation.

To that end I want to point you to a couple useful entries elsewhere.

First, take a look at the young feller’s work over at AmericanPapist.  He has two especially useful entries.

He has a timeline for the development of the Pelosi Blunder

Here is what he has as of this point:

Here’s a timeline to get you up to speed:

… and that’s where things currently stand. Still no personal response from Pelosi.

You can find most of the same material here on this blog, but he usefully helps you see how the events developed.

Also at AmericanPapist we find reactions in the press helpfully collated.

But we also need to have some resources to help us understand just how confused and false Speaker Pelosi’s references really are.

To that end, here is a link to my entry about how she misuses St. Augustine’s thought about abortion.  I was pleased to see that Hugh Hewitt referred to this on his blog, so it is getting visibility.

Also, when Pelosi’s spokesman reiterated the Speaker’s dopey remarks yesterday, he referred again, incredibly, to St. Augustine but add chapter and verse.  He referred to  Augustine’s exegesis of Exodus 21:22-25 but gives a very incomplete citation which would make it nearly impossible for most people to find it.

Here it is.

A diligent blogger, Maureen of Aliens In This World, did the heavy lifting and posted the Latin and a rapid English translation of the reference Pelosi’s spokesman glibly burbbled.  Do go and look at her place, but here it is.  It needs the wider distribution this blog can provide.

Context, Pelosi.
August 26, 2008 at 7:29 pm | In Uncategorized |

Nancy Pelosi’s people say that she’s studied the Fathers on abortion, and takes all her inspiration from St. Augustine. They said it was “On Exodus”, but that’s not what you want to look for. What you want is Quaestionum in Heptateuchum. Liber 2 is Quaestiones in Exodum. Go to Section 80. It’s about Genesis 21:22-25 — but a different version from the usual one.

(Btw, did I mention that cool Section 1 at the very beginning of Book 2? The one about how it was okay for the midwife to lie to Pharaoh, because it helped save babies’ lives and was no skin off Pharaoh’s nose? No, you want to hear Section 80.)

Okay…. Prepare for yet another incredibly ugly and incompetent Latin translation, courtesy of me! But hey, if I mess up enough, the Latinists will come out to tell me what I did wrong.


Utrum quod in utero formatum adhuc est, animatum posset intellegi.

(Whether what is already formed in the womb can be understood as ensouled.)

80. (21, 22-25) Si autem litigabunt duo viri, et percusserint mulierem in utero habentem, et exierit infans eius nondum formatus; detrimentum patietur, quantum indixerit vir mulieris, et dabit cum postulatione.

Mihi videtur significationis alicuius causa dici haec, magis quam Scripturam circa huiusmodi facta occupatam. Nam si illud attenderet, ne praegnans mulier percussa in abortum compelleretur, non poneret duos litigantes viros, cum possit et ab uno hoc admitti, qui cum ipsa muliere litigaverit, vel etiam non litigaverit, sed alienae posteritati nocere volendo id fecerit. Quod vero non formatum puerperium noluit ad homicidium pertinere, profecto nec hominem deputavit quod tale in utero geritur.

Hic de anima quaestio solet agitari, utrum quod formatum non est, ne animatum quidem possit intellegi, et ideo non sit homicidium, quia nec examinatum dici potest, si adhuc animam non habebat.

Sequitur enim et dicit: Si autem formatum fuerit, dabit animam pro anima. Ubi quid aliud intellegitur, nisi, et ipse morietur? Nam hoc et in caeteris ex hac occasione iam praecipit: Oculum pro oculo, dentem pro dente, manum pro manu, pedem pro pede, combustionem pro combustione, vulnus pro vulnere, livorem pro livore: talionis videlicet aequitate. Quae Lex ideo constituit, ut demonstraret quae vindicta debeatur. Nisi enim per Legem sciretur quid vindictae deberetur, unde sciretur quid venia relaxaret, ut dici posset: Dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris? Debitores igitur Lege monstrantur, ut quando ignoscitur appareat quid dimittatur. Neque enim debita dimitteremus, nisi quid nobis deberetur Lege indice disceremus. Si ergo illud informe puerperium iam quidem fuerit, sed adhuc quodammodo informiter animatum (quoniam magna de anima quaestio non est praecipitanda indiscussae temeritate sententiae), ideo Lex noluit ad homicidium pertinere, quia nondum dici potest anima viva in eo corpore quod sensu caret, si talis est in carne nondum formata, et ideo nondum sensibus praedita. Quod autem dixit: Et dabit cum postulatione quod maritus mulieris, informi excluso, dandum constituerit, non est in promptu intellegere: quippe, quod graecus habet, pluribus modis intellegitur, et tolerabilius cum postulatione dictum est, quam si aliud diceretur. Fortassis enim postulabit ut det, ut eo modo satis Deo faciat, etiamsi maritus mulierve non expetat.


First, the Bible part. Literally, Augustine’s Latin quote from Exodus says: “If two men quarrel, and they strike what a woman’s womb is holding, and her infant not yet shaped should come out (be miscarried, or be born prematurely)…“

The middle part isn’t quoted. (Not unusual, in the Fathers. They quote only what they’re talking about.) Then the Latin goes on to say: “…the damages permitted will be as much as the woman’s husband announces, and he will give it at request.“

Augustine’s commentary goes on from there:


To me it seems that this is said for some cause of significance; more is done than this kind of Scripture seems to be busy with. For if only that were being paid attention to, a struck pregnant woman would not be forced into miscarriage (abortum), two quarreling men would not be provided when by one it could be done and admitted that he would quarrel by this same woman — or would not even quarrel, but would do willing harm to another’s posterity. He thus truly did not will homicide to be extended to an unformed newborn, because surely what is so carried in the womb is not classified as a man.

Here the question of the soul is accustomed to stir: whether what is not formed can indeed be understood as not ensouled. And therefore that it is not homicide, because it can be said not yet to have been determined whether it did not have a soul yet.

Following that, it says: “Si autem formatum fuerit, dabit animam pro anima.”

["But if it was formed, he will give life for life." Literally, "breath for breath" or "soul for soul".]

Whereby what else is understood, except that he himself would die? For in this and in the others it now instructs on this occasion: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” — clearly the justice of retaliation.

That Law therefore is set up so that it demonstrates what vengeance is owed. Namely, if it is not understood through the Law what is owed by vengeance, from which it is understood what was relaxed by pardon, how can it be said: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors“?

Therefore, debtors are shown through the Law, so that as much is seen to be pardoned as is forgiven. Namely, neither are we forgiven debts, unless we did discern by the sign what is owed to the Law.

If, therefore, this newborn was still formless as yet, but already ensouled in a formless way (because the great question of the soul is not thrown down, unpleaded, by rash opinion), therefore the Law does not will that it be extended to homicide, because a live soul cannot yet be said to be in this body that lacks feeling, if such is in flesh not yet formed and therefore not yet gifted with senses.

But it also said: “And he will give it at request” — what the woman’s husband decided would be given for the removed formless one — is not to be understood easily. “Asioma“, of course – what the Greek holds — is understood in many ways, and more tolerably is said “at request” than if it were understood another way.

Indeed, perhaps he will demand what he should give; so that in this way, he does something adequate for God’s sake, even if the woman’s husband should not ask it.


First of all, notice that it’s a question of accidental manslaughter, not intentional murder or intentional abortion.

Notice the humble “if” and “whether”. St. Augustine is eager to grapple with the fascinating question of ensoulment, but he shies away from definitely saying the soul is not there. All he is saying is that it’s impossible to say, given what was known to him and his time, whether or not the soul’s there when the senses aren’t yet. Also that, since the Israelites couldn’t tell for sure whether the unborn child had a soul, it wasn’t quite fair to make someone pay soul for soul. (In his opinion. Being careful to avoid “rash opinion” or overly certain pronouncements.)

He says this based on a Bible translation not the same as that used by modern scholars; so there’s another factor.

Furthermore, the whole thing should make us more careful not to offend God, more eager to be more forgiving than the Law — but at the same time, the offender should pay more than the Law requires, of his own accord. Everyone should be in awe of our forgiving but just God.

None of this is considered in Nancy Pelosi’s interpretation.

(Especially not the mendacious, baby-saving midwife in Section 1.)

Folks… we need to keep our attention on this so that it doesn’t simply drift into the flotsam and jetsam of ephemeral news cycles.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Jacob says:

    Father, I’ve linked to this post. This is a battle that needs to be fought and your blog is the perfect stage as it reaches so many. You are in my prayers as well as the speaker that she may repent and publicly state her error.

  2. Margaret says:

    Thought exercise: if this is finally, deo gratias the time when our Church leaders and pew-warmers finally decide in great numbers that abortion really does matter, and that public policy needs to actually build up a culture of life, if we actually achieve some kind of “critical mass” in the near future, will it be the spark that ignites the powderkeg in this country? I’m not trying to be a doom-sayer here– I’m the first person to laugh off conspiracy theorists. But our country has been so complacent for the last forty years, giving inches and miles to those who would rewrite our culture and society yet deny the existence of even any natural law. These people have essentially been spoiled and pandered to for about as long as they can remember. Ordinarily, when a spoilt child is firmly told “no” for the first time, wild, flailing tantrums ensue, replete with throwing and breaking things. I’m just wondering if a Catholic awakening in this country would actually see things get much uglier, at least in the short term…

  3. For my part, I posted on my site what will appear in the parish bulletins this weekend.

  4. Catherine says:

    Fox News carried it last night- on Brit Hume’s Special Report…I was so disgusted to see the actual video. I had read the transcript before seeing the video and had no idea how horrible it was to hear and see her say the error and scandal. SO VERY SCANDALOUS…God help Speaker Pelosi!

    I’m also posting all news items on the entire situation.

  5. Has NBC covered any of this? I mean, they can’t be blind to what was sparked on their own network.

    Newsworthy is an understatement. However, only certain networks will report on news that is not favorable to the democratic party.

    In the meanwhile, as painful as it probably is for some bishops, Nancy Pelosi’s bumbling move will do good to get people talking about life-issues.

    Unfortunately, among the TV networks, it appears Fox may be it.

    Has CNN had anything on this? Ok, how about ABC?

  6. Great article just posted on FoxNews by Lauren Green (sorry if you already posted on it Fr. Z – stuff is hitting hard and fast):

    The Speaker Blew It! Nancy Pelosi and the Catholic Church on Abortion

  7. I have written on this from a slight distance – both geographically and ecclesiologically! Feel free to link to the post entitled “Is Pelosi an Anglican?” –

    There is little of this hitting the wires outside the US so the internet is by far the best way to keep people talking about this important issue. You never know, perhaps Mr Biden will say something about it… then again…

  8. Phillip says:

    Even sadder and more disappointing is that Abp. Niederauer has not even addressed the heresy committed by his flock. He decided to make a statement in the archdiocesan newspaper on Sept. 3rd or 5th, I forgot. But one cannot really blame him. Most of the bishops, priests, deacons, and religious in this city never say a word about “Catholic” politicians continuing in heresy and receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist. In morality classes in the schools here, it is always about peace, love, helping one another, the sick, the poor, the elderly, the disabled etc. The pro-life movement is rarely touched upon, let alone grounded into the people. Catholics in this city, clergy and laity alike, need to be more aware of how their “catholic” representatives are conducting themselves in the faith.
    Lord help us. Saint Francis, pray for us in your City!

  9. Rosie says:

    What is actually going on is that Pelosi and Biden are giving Obama cover because
    of Obama’s extreme views on abortion that border on infanticide. What Pelosi said
    and where she said it was very well thought out and orchestrated. Someone else came
    up with that argument for her. It is too obscure for her to have found herself.
    The Democrats want the Catholic vote so they need
    to define abortion. I think they grossly underestimated the
    backlash from the Bishops and Roman Catholics.

  10. Supertradmom says:

    I shall continue to highlight this blog and other news items connected to the anti-life movement on my modest blog at . Obama referred to “unwanted pregnancies” in his acceptance speech this evening. Those who are Catholic and should know better disturb us more….

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