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A Teachable Moment? (Update)

Archbishop Charles Chaput issued a statement today, challenging Speaker Nancy Pelosi's understanding of the Catholic doctrinal tradition which she had enunciated during yesterday's "Meet the Press" appearance.Here is part of the Archbishop's statement:

Interviewed on Meet the Press August 24, Speaker Pelosi was asked when human life begins. She saidthe following:"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 def-inition . . . St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't havean impact on the woman's right to choose."Since Speaker Pelosi has, in her words, studied the issue "for a long time," she must know very wellone of the premier works on the subject, Jesuit John Connery's Abortion: The Development of theRoman Catholic Perspective (Loyola, 1977). Here's how Connery concludes his study:"The Christian tradition from the earliest days reveals a firm antiabortion attitude . . . The condemna-tion of abortion did not depend on and was not limited in any way by theories regarding the time offetal animation. Even during the many centuries when Church penal and penitential practice was basedon the theory of delayed animation, the condemnation of abortion was never affected by it. Whateverone would want to hold about the time of animation, or when the fetus became a human being in thestrict sense of the term, abortion from the time of conception was considered wrong, and the time ofanimation was never looked on as a moral dividing line between permissible and impermissible abor-tion."

Interestingly, Chaput also cites the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose judgement is categorical:

Or to put it in the blunter words of the great Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer:"Destruction of the embryo in the mother's womb is a violation of the right to live which God hasbestowed on this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with ahuman being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended tocreate a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. Andthat is nothing but murder."

The full statement is here: Welborn posted earlier on the Pelosi interview, with interesting links and some fascinating readers' comments. One comment is by a Bill Bannon (whom I do not know) on the views of Augustine and Jerome.[Apologies that the transcription from a pdf file is uneven, but I think the message comes through.]Update:Here is a statement released by the Conference of Bishops and posted on their web page:

-Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. Bishops Committee on Doctrine, have issued the following statement:In the course of a Meet the Press interview on abortion and other public issues on August 24, 2008, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion.The Church has always taught that human life deserves respect from its very beginning and that procured abortion is a grave moral evil. In the Middle Ages, uninformed and inadequate theories about embryology led some theologians to speculate that specifically human life capable of receiving an immortal soul may not exist until a few weeks into pregnancy. While in canon law these theories led to a distinction in penalties between very early and later abortions, the Churchs moral teaching never justified or permitted abortion at any stage of development.These mistaken biological theories became obsolete over 150 years ago when scientists discovered that a new human individual comes into being from the union of sperm and egg at fertilization. In keeping with this modern understanding, the Church has long taught 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.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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In the final analysis, I don't think the contributions of others, famous or otherwise, is important. Discussion can offer different perspectives. Debate puts human life up for grabs. Neither discussion nor debate, however, ultimately sees the basic issue for what it is: the protection of human life at the very earliest stage(s) of biological development. Simple fact is that each of us was lucky to make it to this point in life. What gives each of us the right to discuss or debate the future existence of another human life? In the final analysis.

I think the first thing that becomes clear as you read Archbishop Chaput's statement is that he is quite angry. Maybe he could have saved the anger for the closing rather than the opening, or maybe he should just have watched his tone throughout.

"Simple fact is that each of us was lucky to make it to this point in life. What gives each of us the right to discuss or debate the future existence of another human life?"Hear, hear, Joseph. IMO you've stripped away the scholarly jargon and rationalizations and have gotten to the nub of the issue.

Hello All,As he often does, Joseph cuts quickly to the heart of the matter. But some might find the following observations of interest.Ive also studied the issue for a long time, perhaps as long as Speaker Pelosi. (Ive needed to partly because I regularly teach courses that address moral issues connected with abortion.) I havent studied the work Archbishop Chaput cites by John Connery but the quoted passage says nothing I did not already know. The ancient Christian churches, which continue to include the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches, have indeed always condemned abortion. However, abortion has not always been considered a special case of homicide.Pelosi might be referring to differing views regarding when a human fetus first has a soul. Some of the most important figures in the history of Catholic thought have claimed that a human fetus receives her/his soul some significant time after conception. Pelosi cites Augustine. A more chauvinistic position comes from none other than Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas claimed that a male human fetus receives his soul at forty days gestation and a female fetus receives her soul at eighty days gestation. I would laugh at such claims if I did not see some of the most eminent people I know in the academic profession appeal to the authority of Aquinas in defense of their claims that abortion is morally acceptable in the early stages of pregnancy.Aquinas and other greats from the past based their views on abortion and contraception on the faulty biology of Aristotle. The official position of the Roman Catholic Church now appears to be that a human is a person (which includes having a soul) once she/he has been conceived. (I say appears because this is what fundamental church documents such as the documents of Vatican II and JP IIs Gospel of Life seem to assume when they speak of all abortions as crimes against justice. I do not know if what Im calling the official position has been explicitly stated in any authoritative Church document.) I agree with my colleagues at Notre Dame that had Aquinas known what we know of contemporary biology, he would agree with the official position. (And I agree with the official position myself.)So, if you are still with me, I think the bottom line is that one cannot appeal to the authority of greats like Augustine and Aquinas in arguing for a moral right to abortion. (I have seen some interesting attempts to show that on Thomistic grounds one can argue that abortion should be legally permitted even though it is always immoral.)

Hello again all,A very quick follow-up to my last post (and you may laugh at me for quoting myself!):"I do not know if what Im calling the official position has been explicitly stated in any authoritative Church document."If anyone knows of any relevant documents that explicitly state "the official position", I'd appreciate being clued in.

Here is the most authoritiative document I can find, The Declaration on Procured Abortion: assume it is "official."It dances around the ensoulment question in this carefully parsed language:"7. In the course of history, the Fathers of the Church, her Pastors and her Doctors have taught the same doctrine - the various opinions on the infusion of the spiritual soul did not introduce any doubt about the illicitness of abortion. It is true that in the Middle Ages, when the opinion was generally held that the spiritual soul was not present until after the first few weeks, a distinction was made in the evaluation of the sin and the gravity of penal sanctions. Excellent authors allowed for this first period more lenient case solutions which they rejected for following periods."Again, there is some carefully parsed language regarding the specialized term "direct abortion" because the Church reconizes the need for certain medical procedures that meet the widely accepted definition of abortion (indirect abortions are OK?). The Church cannot ever concede that it does recognize the necessity for abortion in at least a few circumstances. It maintains the the apparent absolute prohibition against abortion by careful definition. In reality there are exceptions.The Declaration still appears to be the best overall discussion of the Church's position on abortion. The Declaration appears to be more open to thoughtful consideration (see its section on the advisability of criminalizing abortion and the recognition thatlegal bans on abortion may be ineffective). In short, the Declaraation makes the effort to tackle the difficult questions that Archbishop Chaput seems eager to avoid.

Having Tom Brokaw and Nancy Pelosi discuss "ensoulment" and Aquinas on "Meet the Press" doesn't seem like the most enlightening forum for such an issue. Wouldn't the discussion more proper to that venue be about public policy on abortion? Archbishop Chaput sets out Catholic teaching. But he does not address public policy. Should each be confined to their own sphere--the pol and the prelate? There must be some cross-pollination. Yet how does that occur?Worthy of note, I think, is Archbishop Donald Wuerl's statement re Pelosi: says: "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."He then goes on to cite the relevant texts.

Thanks to the above "commenters" for a singularly focused discussion.The one proviso that I would add is the statement that "Archbishop Chaput seems eager to avoid" the "difficult questions."I think that his statement was a limited, but needed, correction of some very flawed observations on the Speaker's part (whom he acknowledges to be a gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills").I appreciate David's link to Archbishop Wuerl's statement which I had not seen. It would be interesting to check the time-line of each statement and whether there was any co-ordination.As for how "cross-pollination occurs:" that may well be the $64 question, and would seem to be a topic worthy of in-depth consideration by Catholic periodicals and universities. The late Tim Russert was scheduled to address the issue of "Faith and Public Life" at the annual Philip Murnion Memorial Lecture of the Catholic Common Ground Initiative in Washington last June. Alas, his most untimely death prevented it.But the conditio sine qua non of any genuine "cross-pollination" (at least as regards Catholic discussion) is accuracy regarding the Church's teaching. Hence the prompt statements of the Archbishops are, in my opinion, important contributions. I again refer readers to the links on Amy Welborn's post for further resources.

I think the question is far more nuanced and complicated than the way Welborn frames it--but then, I find her somewhat muddled generally. We need to make some distinctions. It's true that the Church has long taught that procured abortion is impermissible. The question is always, on what grounds? For it to count as a homicide, then abortion has to entail killing a human being, not merely a "potential" human being. If one works within the Aristotelian framework, the key question is when "ensoulment" takes place. The Church is rather agnostic on this question. If one works in a more contemporary idiom, the question is when we have a distinct member of the species homo sapiens among us. This is a question whose answer is informed by the latest scientific knowledge. So, since the discovery of the egg and the sperm, the Church has taught that "fertilization" is the moment. But the Church has no special competency in science--it cannot freeze embryology in the 1860's.Right now, of course, there is a debate about whether fertilization is the key moment at which to identify the beginning of a new human life, or (say) the end of the period where twinning is possible. One has to make one's best scientific judgment. What would follow from that judgment that an individual human life didn't begin until the end of the totipotent phase--well, the belief that abortion before that point was not homicide. It would not follow, however, that abortion before that point wasn't wrong, or seriously wrong. But then, the question becomes why abortion is wrong if it is not a type of homicide (that's why all those eminent ethicists pay attention to Aquinas and ensoulment --it's not so much that anyone wants to go back to hylomorphism). If abortion is not a species of homicide, s there justification for banning it in a liberal, pluralistic democracy?We need to pay attention to warrants as well as conclusions. The Church can teach moral propositions, but if all the broadly plausible warrants for the propositions disappear, it 1) becomes much harder to claim that what one is teaching accords with the natural law (this is what happened, over time, with the prohibition against usury), and 2) more generally, it contributes to the sense that Catholicism offers an ethic of obedience to its followers, rather rather than an ethic of (transformed, elevated) reason to the world. It's not that the Church can't hold theoretically to its moral claims--it could say, for example, that reason is darkened by sin pervasively in this Culture of Death. But then, we're really moving closer to a natural law ethic embraced by the Protestant thinkers, because this is a pessimistic account of human reason not generally associated with our moral tradition.The Church, participating in the public square, puts forward its teachings on issues pertaining to morality and law as reasonable to all, not merely to Catholics. That stance requires defense of reasons, not merely of conclusions. People like Robby George try to do this--but their argument in the public square stands or falls on the basis of their reasons and the soundness of their arguments.An interesting saga is Leslie Tentler's book on Catholics and Contraception. As Bob, I'm sure, knows well, the teaching about contraception is a teaching of natural law--as such it was meant to be accessible to and binding on all rational persons, not merely to Catholics. And on that basis, the Catholic Church fought, mightily, to keep contraception illegal in Massachusetts--and for a while, only a while, it succeeded. Now, it strikes me, that many of the arguments put forward against contraception are akin to holiness-based arguments--meant to bring devout Catholic couples closer to God. They are not meant to be arguments accessible to everyone. And despite the sturm und drang of the 40th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae, I haven't seen anyone proposing to make it illegal again.Why does all of this matter? In a society where all are immoral and illegal, one does not need to be precise about the lines between contraception, early abortion (non-homicidal--if there is such a category) and abortion (homicidal). All are wrong, all are prohibited. But in our society, contraception is accepted as a constitutional right (some who want to overturn Roe don't want to overturn Griswold v. Connecticut), it's a different matter. So the fertilization question will receive more scrutiny, even if Roe is over- turned.

Welborn was clarifying an issue where both Pelosi and Obama took refuge in muddling. The political issue is when society should give rights or protections to developing life. Many politicians are reluctant to speak clearly even about their conclusions. There can be different grounds on which politicians and voters base their positions; they may not have thought them out, as Obama suggested in his pay-grade remarks, or they may be very confused about the warrants, like Pelosi. Chaput is saying (1) that Pelosi should get her premises in order; and (2) she is making no effort to educate or persuade the public that their might be warrants for the Catholic proposition about abortion. Democrats are not hesitant to persuade on other moral issues, and pro-abortion rights Democrats do engage in moral suasion from the reproductive rights perspective. Catholic Democrat politicians punt or muddle.

Dear Prof. Kaveny,Thank you for your post. It helped me understand the nuances better.That said, even if the end of the totipotent phase were in some ways more significant than fertilization, isn't the embryo still human and alive before then? It has human DNA and is growing. I don't think any scientists are arguing that fertilization isn't the beginning of life.

Just a quick note of thanks as well--good discussion. (Though Father Imbelli, I think inflation has made this a $64 MILLION question...Alas.) James Englert's last comment also raises this issue for McCain, I think, as he believes "life begins at conception" but also backs stem cell research. Maybe he is positing an Aristotelian calculus of conception? Or not. But it bears exploring. As does the widely accepted exceptions for the progeny of rape and incest; if they are exempted from protection, does that make one pro-life? Pr children of mothers who would die? Tough decisions. And at our pay grade, whether we like it or not.

If abortion is not a species of homicide, is there justification for banning it in a liberal, pluralistic democracy?With all respect, this strikes me as a "muddled" way to frame the question. You concede that abortion could be "seriously wrong" without necessarily rising to the level of homicide, and liberal pluralistic democracies certainly ban and regulate many actions that fall into that category (wrong but not homicide).

David G, you're right about McCain's inconsistency. I think he's operating on the too-small-to-see calculus.

Addendum: Also of note is that the full text of Pelosi's answer is often not cited. While her moral theology may raise questions, she also had this to say about her role as a public official:"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. 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. And we want abortions to be safe, rare, 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. We have to handle it very respectfully and not politicize it, as it has been--and I'm not saying Rick Warren did, because I don't think he did, but others will try to."Interesting that none of the church statements (that I have seen) take issue with her subsequent remarks on contraception and public policy and the like. Transcript here:

On Sunday, Nancy Pelosi said, "The point is, is that it [when life begins] shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose."She doesn't care whether abortion is a species of homicide. She wants it to be legal regardless.Does anyone think she'll change her mind after a reasoned discussion on twinning and totipotency?

Stuart, good question! Thanks for asking it! The church's current opposition to legal abortion is based on the belief that it is an form of unjustifiable homicide. Thereby it involves an act of injustice, and a violation of rights, creating a prima facie case for the intervention of the law.If a certain class of abortions are not homicide, upon what basis should it be made illegal? Not everything that is seriously morally wrong should be illegal, even by the Church's lights. Fornication, adultery, contraception, homosexual acts are all considered seriously wrong by the Church. They all used to be illegal. No one, not even the Church argues that they should illegal now. Furthermore, and separately, in secular terms, they all involve a right to privacy (Griswold/Eisenstadt) that many people believe should be recognized as having moral status if not constitutional status. So, if there is indeed a class of abortions that are not homicidal, why should the be treated like homicide rather than fornication, adultery, contraception, and homosexual acts? That's the question.

Re David Gibson's 8/26, 6:05 am post, with which I concur:First, I have long found it regrettable that, in our society, so many people, including political leaders, talk as though legality and morality are coextensive, indeed synonymous. In the issue at hand, namely abortion, the legal right afforded by Roe and Casey amounts to a grant of immunity from prosecution. That's all. I recognize that some of the judicial opinions, e.g., Justice Blackmun's Roe opinion, make much more sweeping claims.But simply having immunity from prosecution obviously doesn't mean that it is morally permissible to perform the action in question. Pro-choice politicians, including those Catholics like Pelosi, Biden, etc. are rightly challenged when they talk as though the "right to abortion" amounts to saying that if one decides to have one, then it's morally permissible.If, instead, these politicians, and the rest of us, kept the focus on the immunity to prosecution, then the exchanges between bishops and public figures could well lead to enlightened policy decisions.

Like David Nickol, I'm uncomfortable with Chaput's tone. His statement reads like an attack ad, where the statements from the USCCB and Wuerl are simply corrections. Of course, while we're talking tone, I also bridle a bit at this phrasing of Wuerl's: 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." It sounds too much like he's saying, "Non-bishops shouldn't presume to think and talk about difficult things like theology." After all, it's certainly possible that Pelosi, or another "elected official" in her position, could have understood and articulated the Catholic teaching on this issue. But obviously Pelosi didn't, so the bishops were right to clarify... But Chaput's partisan approach makes it seem like he was just waiting for the opportunity.I wonder, is Pelosi unwittingly closest to stating actual Church teaching when she concludes, "The point is, is that it shouldnt have an impact on the womans right to choose"? That's essentially what the bishops replied -- pinpointing the moment life begins doesn't change the basic truth that abortion is wrong. That's not what Pelosi meant, of course, but parsing out what she did mean is a bit chilling...

If a certain class of abortions are not homicide, upon what basis should it be made illegal? Not everything that is seriously morally wrong should be illegal, even by the Churchs lights.Again, this seems like a false dichotomy to me. Why must an activity be either: A) homicide, or B) something that might be morally wrong but that shouldn't be illegal? I don't think you're quite as strict a libertarian as this dichotomy would suggest. Interesting point about adultery. It actually still is illegal in some states (see ), although prosecutions seem to be rare or nonexistent. Adultery certainly seems at least as socially destructive as, say, using a bald eagle feather improperly, or selling a toilet that uses too much water, or tearing the tag off of a mattress, or even using marijuana.

The church's current opposition to legal abortion is based on the belief that it is an form of unjustifiable homicide.Settling the question of when abortion is homicide does not settle the question of when abortion is immoral, much less the question of when it should be illegal. Let's not exaggerate the political importance of scientific and philosophical issues many if not most people don't actually care about.

Stuart, you need a reason to make something illegal. What counts as a sufficient reason depends upon your legal theory. So someone who advocates a form of perfectionism (e.g., Robbie George in his book Making Men Moral) will consider the fact that an act is immoral, in that it deforms the character of the perpetrator, to be a good prima facie reason to make it illegal. Even in Thomas Aquinas' virtue - centered approach to law, however, you need to connect criminal prohibitions to the virtue of justice and the common good. So Stuart, what would be your argument for making non-homicidal abortion (if there is such a category) illegal, that would not also touch contraception.? (I ought to have pointed out, and someone can read Noonan on this if they want more info, that the lines between contraception and abortion were much blurrier in the early church too.)

you need a reason to make something illegalAnd if you're not a strict libertarian, that reason doesn't have to be very weighty at all. All sorts of things are "illegal" in this country that fall short of homicide. As for your question: The ground would be that after conception (but not before), we know that something is there which is precious and worth preserving (even if it can't be proved to be a human "person" quite yet; the law protects many things that aren't human "persons"). I'm not saying that's necessarily my view, but it's a rather obvious answer.

Making a statement regarding the Catholic Faith that is not consistent with the teaching of the Magisterium would be in legal terms, misrepresentation. There is a class of abortion that is not homicidal and is referred to as spontaneous abortion or miscarriage. It is important to note in regards to homicide, God did not give us The Ten Suggestions but rather The Ten Commandments.The Catholic Church teaches and modern Science confirms, that Human Life begins at conception. This is why both abortion and embryonic stem cell research are not consistent with the teaching of the Magisterium which reflects the Deposit of Faith as Christ Has entrusted it to His Church.I think it is important, simply because Christ Has entrusted The Deposit of Faith to His Church, that the Faith is always stated clearly and consistently. When statements are made by someone who professes to be Catholic that are not consistent with the Faith, the Church has an obligation to correct them least the Faith becomes "muddled."

Stuart, you need to distinguish between to sorts of "need." Obviously, anyone with power can pass a law that does just about anything.The question is, what is a just law? Pretty much all schools of jurisprudence would say, however, that justifiable law must meet more criteria than that it can be passed. As you surely know (didn't you go to Harvard) , all valuing of liberty is not equatable with "libertarianism". Aquinas (have you ever read his treatise on law) values liberty. He's no libertarian.I don't think your answer works, for two reasons. Contraception very surely, in fertile people at least, prevents that something from coming into existence. Germain Grisez and John Finnis argue that contraception is "contra-life" --it is an act against that very baby who might or could come into existence. Second, given the commitment to bodily integrity and autonomy already embedded in our contraception and sexual jurisprudence, why a woman would have an obligation to carry something precious is something that's not obvious at all to me. Given the strong recognition of the interest in bodily integrity throughout our law, I don't think you can do it with just this. The debate e over abortion we have today is structured by Roe, whose basic analysis went like this: 1) The fetus is not a person; therefore, 2) the woman's autonomy right trumps. Pro-lifers have taken the argument more or less at face value, though one could (I haven't seen it from you yet) argue that 1) the fetus is not a person; and 2) the woman's autonomy right doesn't trump (which is what the church's position functionally was for a long time) or 1) the fetus is a person, and 2) the woman's autonomy right trumps (JJ Tompson).

"As for how cross-pollination occurs: that may well be the $64 question, and would seem to be a topic worthy of in-depth consideration by Catholic periodicals and universities. ... But the conditio sine qua non of any genuine cross-pollination (at least as regards Catholic discussion) is accuracy regarding the Churchs teaching. Hence the prompt statements of the Archbishops are, in my opinion, important contributions."Yes, I agree.Surely it is one of the the primary roles of the laity, of whom politicians are a subset, to bring into public life reasons, enlightened by faith, for living a holy life - a life pleasing to God. For a person, such as Speaker Pelosi, who considers herself bound by the truth-claims of the Catholic Church, that would seem to be straightforward. I applaud the bishops for their public fraternal correction - because surely that, in turn, is their proper role. Sometimes this stuff actually works as advertised :-).

Mollie, I have exactly the opposite reaction to Wuerl's statement, 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. The amount and degree of casuistry in this thread under the guise of learned expertise makes Wuerl's statement a huge relief to me.

Contraception very surely, in fertile people at least, prevents that something from coming into existence. Preventing something from coming into existence in the first place isn't the same as killing something once it's there. Again, it seems rather "muddled" to miss such a fundamental distinction. Second, given the commitment to bodily integrity and autonomy already embedded in our contraception and sexual jurisprudence, why a woman would have an obligation to carry something precious is something thats not obvious at all to me. Given the strong recognition of the interest in bodily integrity throughout our law, I dont think you can do it with just this.The reference to "strong recognition . . . throughout our law" is question-begging. The question on the table is why the law should be as it is. It's obviously no answer to say, "Well, the law is as it is, and therefore shouldn't be any different." As for the first sentence there, do you recognize the possibility of this category: "precious and worth protecting as a nascent human life even if it doesn't have cognition quite yet"?

If we reached a consensus that abortion was not some kind of homicide, out goes the whole rationale of the right-to-life movement, They are interested in standing up for the rights of the unborn and stopping the killing of babies. They aren't arguing about the kind of preciousness we would try to preserve in, say, a landmark building, a pristine wilderness, or a bald eagle. And of course if the unborn child is not a person, but is considered precious, it seems to me you have to answer, "To whom is it precious?" Obviously not the the person who wants to have the abortion. So if abortion is not homicide, on whose behalf would you be passing legislation to prohibit it on some other, non-homicide grounds?Another related question, it seems to me, would be the following: "If the United States passed strong legislation that actually reduced the number of abortions sharply, what would be the benefit, and to whom?" If you assume that life begins at conception and the unborn are persons with rights, then they are the ones who benefit from fewer abortions. But if you don't assume the personhood of the fetus, who benefits when it is not aborted, even though those are the wishes of the woman carrying it?

There has been an interesting shift over the last few years in how many pro-choice Catholic politicians have chosen to engage this issue. There was a time when most, following the lead of Governor Cuomo, stated that they did not dispute the teaching on abortion, but only whether they were obligated to impose it on those who did not accept it. That was Cuomo's position, of course. Gov. Tom Ridge also made an interesting observation at one point when he stated "I realize the church hasn't created the problem. I have, because I've parted company with my church on this." In recent years, though, I've seen a tendency for Catholic politicians to quarrel with the teaching itself, as Pelosi has done. When Gray Davis was challenged by Bishop Weigand here in CA a few years ago, his spokesperson famously asked whether it was Bishop Weigand's place to criticize the governor's interpretation of his faith! One can argue (and I do) with the "Cuomo doctrine" (see Ken Woodward's effort on this score at However, whatever the failings of this approach, they pale compared to the difficulties entailed in setting yourself up as an alternative magisterium, as Pelosi has arguably done here. Not a smart move on her part.

J. Peter Nixon,Excellent observation. Elsewhere, I wrote what I thought Pelosi should have said . . . "Even my Church doesn't pretend to know the exact moment a person comes into existence, but it has clear teachings against abortion that I am personally bound by. But I don't believe it is right for me as Speaker of the House in a country with people of many different faiths to make laws that would compel them to act in the way my Church requires me to act."It just kind of didn't strike me that she didn't say that because that's not her position.

What a lot of amateur theologizing in these postings! It seems however pro-choice is for me but not for thee. We may note a minor example in the row about smoking. But nowhere is it remarked that a woman cannot "get" pregnant without an active other participant. Of the inherent shallowness of the pro-choicers, one may note Peter Singer's defense when he suggests the propriety of a woman choosing to abort an unwanted child because it would interfere with her ski vacation. The twinning argument seems to arise with those who are not embryologists. A reading of the article on twinning in the McGraw Hill Encyc of Science might be enlightening. Whether something immoral ought to be illegal is not a matter for lawyers or politicians to decide. They are too easily swayed by money. It is a question of whether we wish our society to be as moral as possible; and whether our society can stand the strain of prosperity. As Belloc pointed out, it was in rich and prosperous societies like Tyre and Carthage that the sacrifice if children became habitual. Whether Abp. Chaput's tone was aggressive seems to depend on the ear of the hearer, or perhaps on the disposition of the hearer. Sinners begrudge being reprimanded. . From Augustine, one knows that the U.S. will not be the City of God. But there is no reason for it to be the City of Satan.

Excellent analysis and questions going back and forth. Allow me to add some suggestions and thoughts:a) like a few of you, it continues to sadden me that Chaput and now others use tones and statements; quotes from the church's fathers, etc. that do not "teach" but rather "correct" honest, faithful Catholic politicians (whether you agree or disagree with their positions). There is also a game going on here - each side picks quotes, excerpts, etc. to justify their position;b) a couple of you articulated an valuable insight - in the last 40 years, the Vatican has moved and posited that life begins at conception (can not find any dogmatic statement on that) - this simply bypasses hundreds of years of church history, theology, and morality around human life, the genetics/biology of when sperm/ovum unite and then implant (40-50% never survive); then the history of life and personhood. Chaput basically skips over all of this and posits that life begins at conception. Like Cathy, this has serious ramifications on other church teachings - contraception, family planning, consience and moral choices, etc. We do have a parallel example - the Vatican has all but moved to declaring the death penalty as immoral in any and all circumstances (this is an evolution of church moral/historical thought). c) my concern again is one bishop taking on public officials - here is a quote from John Carr who works for the USCCB and produced Faithful Citizenship: "In the end, what our Bishops say about the Church is, I think, a good description of what the task is for Catholic institutions: We are called to be political, but not partisan, not to be cheerleader for any candidate, chaplain for any party or advocate for any administration but to challenge them all. We are to be principled, but not ideological. We are not going to compromise on the fundamentals: on life, on war, on peace. But we can work with others to advance these principles in different ways. We need to be civil, but not soft. We need to make our case clearly, but not impugn anyones motives. We shouldnt be calling people baby killers or war criminals. We are in the persuasion business, and that is probably not the best way to persuade. We need to be engaged but not used. We need to have relationships with our political leaders, but they ought to be around our priorities and principles, not their political needs. We need opportunities to discuss our concerns for the unborn, poor children and families and immigrants, not just pose for a photo op. Over time the consistent life ethic became a major framework and metaphor. This document never referred to the seamless garment. It has regularly talked about the consistent ethic of life, which does not treat all issues as morally equivalent, nor does it reduce Catholic teaching to one or two issues. I would argue that the seamless garment is neither. It is not seamless; it involves different issues with different moral reasoning and different consequences. It is not a single garment; it is not a way to throw a cloak over all the decisions we made. It is not a menu, a scorecard. It is not an escape or excuse for those who want to ignore abortion or want to ignore the poor." Not sure that Chaput's comments meet this level of sophistication;d) Here is some additional input from other thinkers and traditions that have not jumped to the language that abortion is "intrinsically evil" at all times - quoted from David Hollenback, SJ:"I have myself argued at some length that an ethic based on the single value of tolerance is not enough to sustain the common good of American and global society today. Indeed my book on The Common Good and Christian Ethics contains a chapter entitled Problems Tolerance Cannot Handle that sets forth a proposal for how to revitalize active commitment to the common good in the United States today (Hollenbach: chap. 2). However, my proposal on how to pursue this revitalization does not in the first instance call for the passage of legislation that would coercively ban practices judged morally unacceptable in the official teachings of the church. Rather, I call for serious engagement among those who hold different assessments of these issues in an effort to understand each others position so that, perhaps, new agreement might be reached. This is the virtue I have called intellectual solidarity. It is the virtue that calls us to develop better understandings that reach across cultures through listening as well as speaking in a genuine dialogue with those who are different. It requires intellectual commitment that seeks to understand each other, as well as pursuit of insight into the ways the structures of our society are working and what they are actually doing to the most vulnerable. It calls for developing well-rounded proposals on how to transform the institutional centers of decision-making in our increasingly interconnected societies so they serve all members of the human race. In short, it calls for long-term, serious work that takes commitment to the common good as its loadstar.Intellectual Humility as a Condition of Public Effectiveness[24] But note well, this virtue of intellectual solidarity can only be developed in an atmosphere of respect for freedom and from a stance of intellectual humility. Nothing will prevent its development more surely than the view that one already knows all that one needs to know to develop coercive legislation that will genuinely serve the goods of all members of society. To move quickly and without the required dialogue to categorizing broad categories of actions as intrinsically evil and to be banned by coercive law as soon as this can realistically be achieved is not to respect the freedom nor to assume the posture of humility required by intellectual solidarity. [25] I fear this lack of respect and humility can be discerned in some aspects of church teaching today. One can ask whether the level of certitude that characterizes some contemporary church teaching about how to approach abortion, euthanasia, and a number of other issues through the legislative and political processes may not amount to a form of hubris. If this is so, it may be part of the explanation for the high rate of departure from Catholic church membership in the United States today." My conclusion is that Chaput does not meet the intellectual humility standard proposed by Hollenbach nor does he accept the recent approach laid out by Kmiec;e) Personal story that articulates where many ordinary Catholics are today on abortion: Shortcut to: All though many reject his positions, here is an excerpt from Daniel Maguire's letter to all 270 bishops: Since there is no infallibly defined position on abortion, a similar modesty would enhance episcopal teaching. The Second Vatican Council wisely said: "Let the layman not imagine that his pastors are always such experts, that to every problem which arises, however, complicated, they can readily give him a concrete solution, or even that such is their mission (The Church in the Modern World, n. 43). It should cause no wonder that the laity do not take it as obvious that celibate bishops are necessarily more reliable "experts" on sexual and reproductive issues than the laity, "anointed as [the laity] are by the holy One"(Constitution on the Church, n. 12) and experienced as they are in their grace-filled lives. This modesty would acknowledge, with the previous code of Canon Law, that "the bishops, whether teaching individually or gathered in particular councils, are not endowed with infallibility" (Canon 1326). The canon asserts that bishops are veri doctores seu magistri. [the bishops are teachers] That teaching ministry would best be conducted by recognizing that modesty is called for when one teaches in areas where infallibility is not an issue, where the teachers have no privileged expertise, and where good people from all faiths reasonably disagree.Cardinal Dulles made a crucial theological point, deserving close attention at this time. Avery Dulles, S.J., in his Presidential address to The Catholic Theological Society of America said that the Second Vatican Council "implicitly taught the legitimacy and even the value of dissent" ("Presidential Address: The Theologian and the Magisterium," Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society of America 31 (1976). The council, says Dulles, conceded "that the ordinary magisterium of the Roman Pontiff had fallen into error, and had unjustly harmed the careers of loyal and able theologians." He mentions John Courtney Murray, Teilhard de Chardin, Henri de Lubac, and Yves Congar. Dulles says that certain teachings of the hierarchy "seem to evade in a calculated way the findings of modern scholarship. They are drawn up without broad consultation with the theological community. Instead, a few carefully selected theologians are asked to defend a pre-established position." Dulles aligns himself with those theologians who do not limit the term "magisterium" to the hierarchy. He speaks of "two magisteria-that of the pastors and that of the theologians." These two magisteria are "complementary and mutually corrective." (He neglected the third magisterium, the sensus fidelium, the experience-fed and graced wisdom of the faithful.) The theological magisterium may critique the hierarchical magisterium. Dulles concludes: "we shall insist on the right, where we think it important for the good of the Church, to urge positions at variance with those that are presently official...[i.e. taught by the hierarchy]." These are not the words of some fringe theologian; these are the words of a theologian who is now a cardinal of the Catholic Church and nothing in his subsequent writings refutes these basic and broadly accepted assertions.g) Link to Gudorf's research on the abortion history of the Church: Shortcut to: Excerpt from Chaput's statement: "In short, from the beginning, the believing Christian community held that abortion was always, gravely wrong.Of course, we now know with biological certainty exactly when human life begins. Thus, today's religious alibis for abortion and a so-called "right to choose" are nothing more than that - alibis that break radically with historic Christian and Catholic belief.Abortion kills an unborn, developing human life. It is always gravely evil, and so are the evasions employed to justify it. 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." Even giving him the benefit of the doubt, he plays fast and lose with historical facts; he makes definitive statements when there is no foundation for that; he uses name calling "alibis that break radically with historic Catholic belief" - exaggeration at best.Another excerpt: "Ardent, practicing Catholics will quickly learn from the historical record that from apostolic times, the Christian tradition overwhelmingly held that abortion was grievously evil. In the absence of modern medical knowledge, some of the Early Fathers held that abortion was homicide; others that it was tantamount to homicide; and various scholars theorized about when and how the unborn child might be animated or "ensouled." But none diminished the unique evil of abortion as an attack on life itself, and the early Church closely associated abortion with infanticide." Compare that to the research and interpretation of Gudorf - someone has overstated or misinterpreted the historical record???i) finally, respect the role of teacher in the job description of bishop - but credibility is a significant part of this. Yet, currently we have Francis Cardinal George (deposition revealing "criminal impropriety" in covering up sexual abuse); Wilton Gregory (on trial today in Belleville, IL for not sharing complete personnel information with his own board overseeing priest pedophiles); Chaput's own recent settlement in Colorado with more pending and this after his 2007 fight against statutes of limitations (isn't this a pro-life issue?); William Lori (who joined Chaput in his abortion statement against Pelosi) - that Lori who hid pedophiles and then in court tried to call his priests "free agents not connected to him and thus he/diocese was not liable or responsible for their behavior; etc.

Cathleen, if a fetus is not a person, than what exactly is it?

All though many reject his positions, here is an excerpt from Daniel Maguires letter to all 270 bishops . . . By coincidence, I ran across an article by Daniel Maguire this morning when I was Googling topics in this thread. All the rest of this message consists of quotes from the article. teaching on contraception and abortion has been anything but consistent. What most people--including most Catholics- think of as "the Catholic position" on these issues actually dates from the 1930 encyclical Casti Connubii of Pope Pius XI. Prior to that, church teaching was a mixed and jumbled bag. The pope decided to tidy up the tradition and change it by saying that contraception and sterilization were sins against nature and abortion was a sin against life. As Gudorf says, "both contraception and abortion were generally forbidden" in previous teaching but both were often thought to be associated with sorcery and witchcraft. In the fifteenth century, the saintly archbishop of Florence, Antoninus, did extensive work on abortion. He approved of early abortions to save the life of the woman, a class with many members in the context of fifteenth century medicine. This became common teaching. For this he was not criticized by the Vatican. Indeed, he was later canonized as a saint and thus as a model for all Catholics. Many Catholics do not know that there is a pro-choice Cathlic saint who was also an archbishop and a Dominican.In the sixteenth century, the influential Antoninus de Corduba said that medicine that was abortifacient could be taken even later in a pregnancy if required for the health of the mother. The mother, he insisted, had a jus prius, a prior right. Some of the maladies he discussed do not seem to have been a matter of life and death for the women and yet he allows that abortifacient medicine even in these cases is morally permissible. Jesuit theologian Thomas Sanchez who died in the early seventeenth century said that all of his contemporary Catholic theologians approved of early abortion to save the life of the woman. None of these theologians or bishops were censured for these views. Note again that one of them, St. Antoninus, was canonized as a saint. Their limited "pro-choice" position was considered thoroughly orthodox and can be so considered today. In the nineteenth century, the Vatican was invited to enter a debate on a very late term abortion, requiring dismemberment of a formed fetus in order to save the woman's life. On September 2, 1869 the Vatican refused to decide the case. It referred the questioner to the teaching of theologians on the issue. It was, in other words, the business of the theologians to discuss it freely and arrive at a conclusion. It was not for the Vatican to decide. This appropriate modesty and disinclination to intervene is an older and wiser Catholic model.What this brief tour of history shows is that a "pro-choice" position coexists alongside a "no-choice" position in Catholic history and neither position can claim to be more Catholic or more authentic than the other. Catholics are free to make their own conscientious decisions in the light of this history. Not even the popes claim that the position that forbids all abortion and contraception is infallible. The teaching on abortion is not only not infallible, it is, as Gudorf says "undeveloped." Abortion was not the "birth limitation of choice because it was, until well into the twentieth century, so extremely dangerous to the mother." There was no coherently worked out Catholic teaching on the subject, as our short history tour illustrates and there still is not. Some Catholic scholars today say all direct abortions are wrong, some say there are exceptions for cases such as the danger to the mother, conception through rape, detected genetic deformity, or other reasons. Gudorf's sensible conclusion: "The best evidence is that the Catholic position is not set in stone and is rather in development."

Cathleen, if a fetus is not a person, than what exactly is it?Nancy, can you tell us why you think a fetus with a nervous system so underdeveloped that it cannot think or feel is a person? And especially can you tell us why you think a fertilized egg, without a brain or mind or head or heart is a person? I know you will want to say, "Because the Church tells us so, and the Church cannot make a mistake." But suppose you have to convince the majority of citizens in the United States who are not Catholics. What would you say to them?

Bill, with all due respect, the Church's teaching on abortion is not up for debate. The Church is not nor has it ever been pro-choice.Your attempt to discredit the credibility of those you consider to be your "opponents", will not change the Deposit of Faith. The Catholic Catechism is where you will find the doctrines of the Catholic Church that have been explicitly defined.The Church's doctrine on abortion can be found starting on page 391 of the Catechism. It begins with this statement: "From its conception, the child has the right to life." There is no "muddling" going on here. I would suggest that everyone who does not have a clear understanding of the Catholic Church's teaching regarding abortion, read the statement in the Catechism.

David, if you are trying to argue that a fetus is not a person, than my question is still the same except I will change it to: David, if you think that a fetus is not a person than what exactly is it?

Nancy,At the moment, I am not arguing anything. I just want to know how you would explain to someone who is not a Catholic the reason he or she should regard a fetus as a person. I have been so "generous" in sharing my own thoughts that I am sure people are sick of hearing what I think! So I am asking you, what do you think?

I am wasting my time but: Nancy, Nancy.....the church is not just the deposit of faith; it is much, much more than the catechism. It is even more than a list of its doctrines.You perfectly fit my definition of a cafeteria Catholic - you pick what you want and you reject everything else. Dissent, non-infallible positions, conscience, evolving doctrinal and historical trends have all been the history and tradition of the Church. Semper ecclesia reformanda. I proudly wear the label, cafeteria Catholic, but then I believe that every Catholic is this way because that is the Catholic Church.

Chapter 12 of David Albert Jones's book The Soul of the Embryo gives a somewhat more complete picture of the casuistry of abortion in the Church. the summary points:* "The discussion of abortion in the casuistic tradition focused on the case of abortion to save the life of the mother. Antoninus of Florence regarded even this sort of abortion as prohibited once the soul had been infused but allowed abortion to save the mother's life if it was certain that the soul had not yet been infused." [Emphasis added]* "The attempt of Tauer and others to appeal to the casuistic tradition in order to justify embryo experimentation and early abortion is unconvincing. The tradition developed from and assumed a consensus on certain cases. The tradition never accepted the deliberate killing of the embryo other than in the context of saving the mother's life."I'd add that appeals to the casuistic tradition in general seem to be highly selective, anachronistic, and full of unintended corollaries.

I urge fellow readers not to miss link (e) in Bill DeHass' comment above. I don't see this reading as evocative of "where ordinary Catholics are today." I experience "ordinary Catholics" as deeply ambivalent about abortion; I see the author as an unambiguous prochoice convert. The portion about the mother regretting not aborting her handicapped daughter is chilling.This link is very helpful in understanding the zeitgeist and its effect on progressive Catholics' views. The cognitive dissonance can be extraordinarily painful, with all the people we loathe fervently prolife and all the people we admire having gotten beyond repressive teachings. How to manage? Seizing on conservative hypocrisy does nicely.

Bill, you may choose not to believe the Church's doctrine regarding abortion, but this still does not change the fact that the Catholic Church is not, never was and never will be pro-choice.A fetus that is human has the Dna of a human. That would make a human fetus a human person.

Mr DeHaas,May I respectfully suggest that your long comment (very long comment) raises four or five discrete topics: each of which could provide matter for a focused discussion; but together will only lead into the wild blue yonder. It's not cafeteria, but Trimalchio's Banquet.

For the record, Maguire has been making these claims about St. Antoninus for some time. However, the facts don't support him. You can find them here:

Mike McG,I would agree with you that the author is unambiguously pro-choice. Actually, he seems to be pro-abortion, and I do think there's a distinction.However I have great sympathy for the mother who regretted not aborting her daughter. I have a glimmer about what it might be like for a whole family to devote itself to the care of a profoundly disabled child. My niece is severly disabled, and at times has had seizures every few minutes. The epilepsy (and perhaps the powerful drugs required to control it) severly interefered with her development. She attended one of the best high schools in the country (as a special needs student) but will never be able to read or write. She can never be left alone. I don't know that her life expectancy is drastically shortened, so it is very possible she will outlive her parents. She may be able to live in a group home if that happens, but how that will be arrange, I don't know.Now, I don't want to suggest in any way that my sister and brother-in-law could do it all over again, they would choose abortion. But also I would have to say that bad as the situation with my niece is, it could be a lot worse. My niece can walk and talk and bathe herself. A very disabled individual might not be able to express his or her own needs, handle basic personal care, and might not be mobile enough to get out of bed. Also, my sister and brother-in-law are reasonably healthy themselves, and financially comfortable (so far) and well insured. Imagine being poor, with more than one family member in ill health, without insurance, with a severely disabled child to take care of, a child who is not necessarily going to be cute and cuddly or ever really comfortable or possibly never shows signs of appreciating everyone's sacrifices. If you think dealing with that kind of situation might not break some people's spirits to the point where they could not help but regret having an abortion, it amazes me.

Regarding the statements of St.Thomas etc. as to the beginning of Life, we now know that YWHW, the Breath of Life, was present at conception.

Fr. Imbelli - apologize for the long quote and you are correct - I posited at least 5 different topics.Mr. McG, JC, Tom - you each make good points. Let me respond.....I provided the personal story link to highlight the ambivelance most Catholics not condone abortion but do not want to criminalize. Would agree that this story's main character swings too far but my focus was to capture the emotion around abortion decisions (est. 80% of all US abortions happen to folks that are below the US standard economic levels) Yes, Maquire can polarize and he has a tendency to use "old" information but so do certain bishops.Looking for those who calmly seek the common ground e.g. Kmiec, Hollenbach,SJ, Jim Wallis. Rather than repeat old arguments, hoping to see more creative steps to address a gamut of needs - e.g. address the root causes of the economically disadvantaged, lack of education, continued racism, etc. that only lead to abortion. The Church needs to highlight and support these programs vs. wading into the language of condemnation, excommunication, wafer wars, and intrinsically evil descriptions.I see myself as a typical Catholic - anti-abortion but do not want to criminalize; sympathetic to those facing that decision because they are single parent, lack sufficient education, poor family upbringing, etc. I also feel that current church positions on contraception only hinder the abortion issue. I am pained at the lack of US bishops who speak out against social evils or support a preferential option for the poor.

JC, There is absolutely no contradiction between what Maguire states about St. Antoninus and what is stated in the references Wellborn cites. They all say St Antoninus supported abortion to save the mother's life, but only before "quickening." Now, if you want to maintain that the Church has taught consistently the same thing about abortion because some of its greatest didn't have enough knowledge at the time to reject the notion of quickening, that's fine with me. But then I will maintain I am always right and consistent except when I don't have sufficient knowledge about the topic I am discussing, and in instance like those, what I say doesn't count.

We used to jokingly say that Powell, SJ never had an unpublished thought; we also said that Andy Greeley never had an unspoken thought.Would suggest, using one of Fr. K's quotes, "where there is doubt, freedom!" But, my sense is that Chaput and crowd never have had a doubt. Wish I could say the same.

In the spirit of informing the ignorant - in this case those who hold that the Church has not decided definitely [infallibly] about abortion, I recommend the Catechism under the 5th Commandment]; 2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74 2271 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: You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75 God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76 2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,"77 "by the very commission of the offense,"78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death."80"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights."812274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, "if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safe guarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence."822275 "One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival."83"It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material."84"Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity"85 which are unique and unrepeatable.I read the Catechism at Mass, generally while the priest is giving his sermon [homily] or making the usual announcements. It keeps me sane. I fear I find little sympathy for the mother who felt over-burdened by her "defective" child nor for the sentimental reaction of the priest. This is the stuff of Comfortable Catholicism. She might try living in Africa or Calcutta to learn what real mothers put up with. I note that promotion of abortion carries excommunication latae sententiae - automatically. Thus do I refer to our Catholic abortion supporters as Semi-Catholics.

"I am pained at the lack of US bishops who speak out against social evils or support a preferential option for the poor.:"Bill D., I believe the bishops are consistent and united against social evils and for a preferential option for the poor, and that they do talk about these things with some regularity. However, for whatever reason, in today's world such statements and press releases are not considered media-worthy, and so they get very little attention from the mainstream media. (Probably the reason it isn't covered more is that it's something that doesn't translate into an easily-digested political conflict. Even on the immigration issue, which has received a ton of media coverage the last few yaars, the bishops' position, while not really difficult to understand, apparently is too nuanced, or too unaligned with the political fault lines, to warrant much attention.)

Understand your comments but would really like to see the approach used in the 1980's when the Bishops Conference did their peace/justice and Appalachia letters. A number of folks closer to the issues have suggested:a) years ago the USCCB split their social justice and pro-life efforts into two separate departments which essentially impacted social justice because of their litmus test on abortion;b) they need to combine their efforts and partner with Common Ground, Network, some of their other departments e.g. Hispanic Ministries to better focus their consistent ethic of life message;c) agree that the media misses much of this but also it seems to focus on single issues; bishops who run with one issue but then fade away; etc.d) there also seems to be reduced staff and resources to support the 1980's approach.

NY's Cardinal Egan weighs in with his own response to Pelosi's remarks. He takes a different tack, appealing to the truth of the unborn-child-as-fully-human as something easily observed independent of Church teaching."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."As for tone, he's got Chaput's anger but not his snark. So that's something.

David N:If you think dealing with that kind of situation might not break some peoples spirits to the point where they could not help but regret having an abortion, it amazes me. I do understand. I simply dont sanction. There is a critical difference. I understand the burning rage that drive people to terrorism. I understand the crushing anguish the parent of a raped and murdered child experiences when advocating for capital punishment. I understand the dynamic that that impels a bitterly dejected, deeply indebted, and newly fired worker to abuse a spouse or a child. I understand the tribal loyalty of a prison guard that results in brutal reprisals when a fellow officer is attacked. I understand a crack addict stealing or turning a trick to score a hit. I pray Id do the right thing were I in their shoes; I suspect I'd fall short. But I must still say noeven when I dont have a better solution at the moment.As to the value of the lives of the disabled, Not Dead Yet is worth a perusal: DeW: We agree about a great dealthe importance of sympathetic support, the regrettable and undercutting opposition to contraception, the importance of consistency, etc.We disagree about where the typical Catholic is on abortion. You seem to think that s/he opposes abortion restrictions. I think the typical Catholic is much more ambivalent than that. As with a majority of Americans, the typical Catholic wants abortion restricted in certain circumstances and unconstrained in others. In other words, the typical Catholic believes that access to abortion is too widely available, that there is a point at which the fetus claim to life override the womans claim to autonomy. This inchoate belief isnt recognized in Roe vs. Wade. In this sense, the typical Catholic is in a very different place than prochoice orthodoxy. I understand, but observe with regret, the migration of many of my progressive Catholic brethren over the past decade or two. Weve gone from unashamedly prolife to seamless garment (good move!) to remarkably sanguine about abortion and unabashedly anti-anti abortion. We, who strive to understand all manner of moral reasoning, cant seem to imagine without scorn why reasonable people, some of them faithful Catholics, would be so offended by the killing of fetuses as to make its end their lifes work. There is great energy for disparaging these people, endless attention to their inconsistencies and lack of nuance. Meanwhile Catholics for a Free Choice discourse gets a free pass. So much for solidarity.Aside: Im struck by how your Father K. quote is capable of opposing interpretations. Where there is doubt, freedom! Could be that doubt about the moral standing of the fetus means freedom to abort. But then it could be that doubt about the moral standing of the fetus means its freedom to live.

No one can resist the power of action films, Mollie.

Re Stuart Buck's 8/26, 10:56 am reply to Cathleen Kaveny: I concur with Stuart that just because something has become "settled law" it doesn't follow that it is good law. Nor does it follow that it ought not be repealed. Obviously, legal stability is a very important legal and moral value. Overturning settled law is and ought to be done with care, patience, and considerable humility. But in the case of the state of law concerning abortion in our country, it is not unreasonable to attempt, through reasonable political activity, to change the law.Just two other comments about this matter. Religious doctrine aside, there is good reason to question the kind of autonomy that Cathleen refers to. Philosophically speaking, there is good reason to say that no human being is capable of the kind of autonomy that seems to be presupposed in much of individualistic liberal thought. I am not suggesting that Cathleen herself accepts this extravagant notion of autonomy. But many people do.And adopting an excessive notion of autonomy, as Michael Walzer and Charles Taylor, among others have seen, makes for a very peculiar societal order.Cathlee also refers to Judith Jarvis Thomson's widely noted position on abortion. If I remember correctly, Thomson's position entails that if a normal adult woman has consensual sexual intercourse and becomes pregnant, she is still entitled, in virtue of her autonomy, to have an abortion. This means that in this case her autonomy allows her to decide not to be responsible for the foreseeable consequences of her action. That strikes me as preosterous autonomy.

Reluctantly I join in, since once more Mr. Austin has instructed all of us ignorant.Some obvious points:-Pelosi's remark was stupid and in need of correction -we don't need to beat to death that dead horse;-I'm glad young Casey is speakin gatthe Democratic convebntion today. Perhaps we can refocus on what is legally doable today in our pluralistic society without lessons from the Catechism.-I think that Bill De"s post, while complicated was as helpful as most here; he raises the issue of where the typical Catholic is on this issue (and the issue should be defined with some precision, not just "pro-cjoice" or pro-life") I do agree with Mike that Catholics have become more anti-anti abortion. I put some of the blame for that on members of the pro-life movement who reject the "seamless garment" approach and want to clobber folks with the Hitler analogy.None of this moves us past Faithful Citizenship and its guide, though lots of political overlay (granted the Pelosi gaffe that started this) here.Maybe Cardinal Egan will sort all that out at theAl smith dinner with Obama and McCain.

I read the Catechism at Mass, generally while the priest is giving his sermon [homily] or making the usual announcements. It keeps me sane.Gabriel,It's my understanding that the homily is an integral part of the mass. What other parts to you feel free to ignore? Is it okay to listen to music (sacred music, of course) on your iPod during the boring or heretical parts of the mass?Can you text people on your cell phone? After all, it's not as if you're driving.

I do understand. I simply dont sanction. There is a critical difference.Mike McG,There's also a critical difference between doing the right thing, sacrificing your own health and the health of your family for 20 years, and after it's all over saying you wished you had taken the easier way. She did the right thing and paid the price, so I think we can cut her some slack. I know someone who suffered terribly going through chemotherapy and says it was so horriffic that if she had known, she would have preferred to die. I don't say to her, "No, no! You must always choose life!

Autonomy is one of those terms that's defined differently--by a perfectionist liberal, such as Joseph Raz, and by Kant, and by Feinberg. But some version of the importance of human freedom is found pretty much in every legal theory. Thomson's argument that I was referring to was her argument that abortion could be conceived as a refusal to provide bodily life support, not as intentional killing. (Unconscious violinist arg.).

Gabriel Austin...Ignorant as I may be, re your characterization: "I note that promotion of abortion carries excommunication latae sententiae - automatically. Thus do I refer to our Catholic abortion supporters as Semi-Catholics." Actually it is procuring an abortion that carries such a sentence, or "formal cooperation," not "promoting" in the sense of voting pro-choice, as you seem to imply, if I read you correctly. The canon law as it stands could be problematic, in that it puts the weight of punishment almost entirely on the mother, and hence--to my thinking--shifts the topic very much to an exclusively feminist reading. Again, if civil/criminal law were to mimic canon law, it seems that women who had an abortion would be charged with homicide.

David Nickol,Maguire says St. Antoninus was pro-choice. Aside from being anachronistic, don't you think it is also a rather broad reading of the exception he makes? Maguire and Pelosi both omit the fact that the fathers' didnt know what we know now about embryology.As for the constancy of the church's teaching, I didn't say anything about it. However, it can be convincingly argued, as Peter Vanderschraaf already said at the top of this post (for Aquinas), that had Antoninus known what we know now about embryology, he would not have agreed even to this exception.

Admittedly, this was a teaching moment. When, however, does the teaching get lost in the "moment"? Does anyone else think that the response of the hierarchy was excessive? I think the latest count is three bishops and two cardinals instructing Speaker Pelosi that her statements on MTP were inaccurate. In the wings, her Ordinary is about to issue his own rebuke. Admittedly, Speaker Pelosi approached the question from the wrong angle and missed the substance of what the Church now teaches. Was it necessary for so many of the hierarchy to correct her publicly? Could this not have been done by her Ordinary or by Cardinal George an President of the conference? Why Rigali, Chaput, Lori, Egan and Wuerl? Did they do it to "teach", or are they posturing with Rome? I find it hard not to think that this was an orchestrated response, but I cannot help but see bishops beating up on a woman, whom we all know is not a trained theologian. It seems like overkill to me. Was there no other way to handle this matter? In my opinion this does not make the Roman Catholic Church look good.

Agree with you. Remember in high school football, we had a penalty for "piling on". Reminds me of "monkey see, monkey do!" Actually, if I assigned a high school theology class to write a paper about either the Pelosi interview or the church's position on abortion, Egan would not have made a "C." Sorry, I do not see where he added anything other than the nonsense about the high quality pictures of a fetus comment; give me a break.Mr. Boudway has already questioned my ruminations but the usual episcopal cohort all jump in at once -Rigali, Lori, Egan - that group all has its hands full with sexual abuse issues and none of those three would be mistaken for theologians. Sorry, Chaput is still trying to manuveur into the race for NYC. Yes, he is posturing especially given the DNC ignoring him - a nun from Network is speaking/praying - more broad based, focused on the social gospel, etc.There are much more effective ways to address this issue but the USCCB has no leadership - your prominent cardinals - George (knee deep in calls for his resignation), Egan (lame duck), Mahony (also suffering from the reprecussions of his $660 mil settlement and loss of credibility), who else? DiNardo (all but beatified by Rocco Palmo) has not been heard of since, Maida (another lame duck), most of the other red hats are retired or in Rome.Mike McG - appreciate your clarifications and additions to my "ordinary Catholic" - agree with your comments. So, when friends here someone like Egan or Chaput speak; sorry, but the reaction is to just become even more ambivalent or they react and become more "anti-anti-abortion!" Can't say that Chaput, Egan, Wuerl, or Lori changed anything other than to reinforce the party line and make sure we understand that they are the AUTHORITY.

I dont know why some are being so hard on Gabriel Austin. The Commonweal Catholics should be thanking him. If this thread goes on much longer none of us will have to purchase our first own copy of the CCC well just have to bookmark this fine Post!

Maguire says St. Antoninus was pro-choice. Aside from being anachronistic, dont you think it is also a rather broad reading of the exception he makes?JC,Actually, I think you're right. I have to admit that I just kind of glossed over the "pro-choice" comment. I agree it's both anachronistic and inapt, in that early abortion only in cases where the mother's life is in danger today would not be called "pro-choice."Maguire and Pelosi both omit the fact that the fathers didnt know what we know now about embryology.I think that goes without saying, but I don't think embryology can tell us much about ensoulment. As for "quickening" or "animation," a fetus begins to move on its own at about week six of pregnancy, so the old idea of quickening occurring at 40 days was a pretty good guess. While it's only reasonable to expect teachings to develop when they go back hundreds or even thousands of years, it does seem to me a strange argument that Catholic teaching has been consistently right on this issue because back when it was different, if they had known what we know now, they would have agreed with us.

" The Commonweal Catholics "Someone should destroy this myth. Certainly neocon and thecon Catholics are more identifiable. The reality is that the so called "liberal" posters on this blog differ in many ways and they rely on their reason and the Holy Spirit rather than to be boxed in by such restraints as "thinking with the hierarchy" which has made so many errors.Certainly, all generalizations are at risk. But it has to be noted the independence of the so called Commonweal Catholic. We allow ourselves to think and differ with each other without refusing communion to anyone. Even Augustine said we should leave that (allowing communion) up to God to sift our at judgment day.

" The Commonweal Catholics "Someone should destroy this myth. Certainly neocon and thecon Catholics are more identifiable. The reality is that the so called "liberal" posters on this blog differ in many ways and they rely on their reason and the Holy Spirit rather than to be boxed in by such restraints as "thinking with the hierarchy" which has made so many errors.Certainly, all generalizations are at risk. But it has to be noted the independence of the so called Commonweal Catholic. We allow ourselves to think and differ with each other without refusing communion to anyone. Even Augustine said we should leave that (allowing communion) up to God to sift our at judgment day.

" The Commonweal Catholics "Someone should destroy this myth. Certainly neocon and thecon Catholics are more identifiable. The reality is that the so called "liberal" posters on this blog differ in many ways and they rely on their reason and the Holy Spirit rather than to be boxed in by such restraints as "thinking with the hierarchy" which has made so many errors.Certainly, all generalizations are at risk. But it has to be noted the independence of the so called Commonweal Catholic. We allow ourselves to think and differ with each other without refusing communion to anyone. Even Augustine said we should leave that (allowing communion) up to God to sift our at judgment day.

I think you're right, Alan: there's more than a bit of posturing in all the piling on. Wouldn't it point more clearly to the unity of Church teaching if, once the USCCB issued its response, other bishops responded by referring their people to that response? If the Church position is consistent and clear -- and the need for all Catholics to embrace it is equally clear -- why should each ordinary issue an individual reply? Couldn't they at least take turns being pithy/outraged/righteous (and thereby cover more issues)?

Gabriel --No pope or council has ever declared infallibly that the Caechism of the Catholic Church, including every statement in it, is an infallible document. So your appeal to it is not cogent.

"Beating up on a woman"? How patronizing! Nancy Pelosi isn't a retired homemaker who wrote an inaccurate letter to the editor of her local paper. She is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, two heartbeats away from the American Presidency, one of the most powerful politicians in the world. And as one of the most powerful politicians in the world, she perverted Catholic teaching in service of grave evil."Piling on"? One of the most powerful politicians in the world perverts Catholic teaching in service of grave evil, and what, three? five? American bishops out of what, 180? respond with 1-page statements."Take turns being pithy/outraged/righteous"? One of the most powerful politicians in the world perverted Catholic teaching in service of grave evil! And the response here is... to criticize the bishops?

Re Cathleen's 8/26, 6:15 pm comment: 1. You say that "some version of the importance of human freedom is found pretty much in every legal theory." I agree, of course. But not all versions make good sense. For example, Dworkin's is pretty far out.2. I hope that you don't subscribe to Thomson's analogy between the fetus and the unconscious violinist. The fetus exists because of the woman's consensual sexual intercourse. Not so the violinist.Furthermore, I take it that I do have some responsibility to provide some (not bodily) life support to people who need it for their survival. The Thomson position doesn't obviously demand this. Would Nozick's view of autonomy acknowledge that I do have some such responsibility?

I don't think that the "scientific" argument is relevant to the question of whether a fetus can be aborted or not. Our understanding of the status of the fetus is based on revelation, not science and even if science could determine the exact moment that at fetus becomes "human" it would still be irrelevant to the question (for Catholics) because the Christian definition of what constitutes a human is simply different from the scientific definition of what constitutes a human.I hate putting this in American legalistic terms, but the Christian definition of what a human is confers rights on the human as well as responsibilities. In other words, the definition of what we owe the fetus also goes to what we owe the mother and even what we owe the abortionist. Our Christian definition of humanity requires us to be radically engaged with all of these in the way of the Good Samaritan. We don't discharge any of this by defining human life like we are defining the life of puppies or by criminalizing sin and getting a bunch of policemen to enforce the moral order. Both of these are modern means of disengagement, masquerading as moral engagement through political action. (We also do this as well, by the way, when we talk about natural law as though it is some kind if Catholic rule system created and enforced by a juridical police force called the Magisterium. Natural law is meant to be a reflection of our true nature and the basis of the its best possible fulfillment. It becomes reflected by our scientific understanding over time, but because of our limited abilities things that we take for granted now, like the dignity of the individual, had to be presented to us through revelation.)In our political engagement we are not going to fool or manipulate the non-believing electorate by winning a scientific discussion. We are also not going to solve the problem by voting for pro-life candidates, then pausing to pat ourselves on the back before we leave the voting booth. The debate over whether a woman should have choice or not obscures the real question of why do so many women feel that the have to choose what they do. If natural law is real, then these women are choosing a path that moves away from the fulfillment of their best potentials. The charitable response to this is not to castigate them as evil people from whom the fetus needs to be protected. Rather, the see themselves as having to chose the lesser of two evils. And this is the social and moral problem that as Christians we need to be addressing.

I find it hard not to think that this was an orchestrated response, but I cannot help but see bishops beating up on a woman, whom we all know is not a trained theologianI'm not sure that infantilizing Pelosi as an untrained "woman" is the best way to defend her.

Well, I seem to have left the italics on somehow.

Point of fact, according to the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Archbishop Chaput did not coordinate his statement with Archbishop Wuerl.

Grant: Thanks for the clarification. I hope the same can be said for the other bishops involved. Stuart: I do not think what I wrote was a defense of Pelosi's statement. I simply think less would have been more on the part of the bishops in this instance. I acknowledged Pelosi's mistake in my post, while suggesting that the bishops went overboard in their reaction. I also do not think that pointing out that she is not a trained theologian is infantilizing her. It just says she lacks the theological expertise to make the kind of statement she made.

Bernard,I think, for a secular liberal society, Joseph Raz's perfectionist liberalism makes a lot of sense. Autonomy is the ability to be "part author' of one's own life. It is not a radical being left alone; an individual's autonomy is a communal achievement; it requires the provision of bodily support and nutrition, the purposeful refraining from coercion and manipulation, and the provision of an adequate array of morally acceptable choices. I think Raz's The Morality of Freedom has a lot to connect with the notion of solidarity and authentic freedom developed n JPII's writings, and have argued that in print. My point was to challenge Stuart's blatantly incorrect claim that any theory other than libertarianism would make short shrift of individual autonomy as a value. As to Thomson, there are two issues: Is it possible to conceive of abortion not as intentional killing, but as an unwillingness to provide bodily life support? Yes, it is. Second, when is a refusal to provide bodily life support justified, morally or legally? Morally, my own view is you have an obligation to carry a pregnancy to term if you consented to sex, and the pregnancy won't do you in. But I think, if Roe is overturned, this will be a lot harder question--there is no other situation in American law where one person has an obligation to provide bodily life support to another.

"I find it hard not to think that this was an orchestrated response, but I cannot help but see bishops beating up on a woman, whom we all know is not a trained theologian. It seems like overkill to me. "Orchestrated or not, isn't this sort of public criticism expected when one is Speaker of the House, whether it is a woman or man? If Tip O'Neil had delivered such a rotten performance, would we feel constrained to rush to his defense?

Tom: You probably don't need me to tell you it's simplifying things more than a little to say "the response here criticize the bishops." The response here has been quite a bit more varied than that... And it hasn't included any defense of Pelosi, that I can make out. She was incorrect, embarrassingly so. She spoke out of her depth and she certainly should have known better. And it was absolutely the bishops' place, even their responsibility, to issue a correction. To me all of that seems so obvious it's hardly worth noting. But I see no reason to object to the question I and others have raised: Would not a single correction from the USCCB have done the trick? Would not a unified front have been more appropriate? What do we gain from multiple responses from multiple quarters? (Also, not that it matters, but Chaput's statement was more than a page long.)Jim -- as I said, I don't see anyone rushing to Pelosi's defense. I think the more pertinent question is: if a male Speaker had made a similar error, would the bishops' response be equally fervent? Maybe yes, maybe no -- but if Pelosi's sex is relevant, it's in the answer to that question. When Alan pointed out that we all know Pelosi is "not a trained theologian," I took him to mean that the danger of people assuming she was correct about Church teaching, once a bishop said otherwise, was minimal. It doesn't require a lengthy, concerted effort to debunk her as an "authority."

Orchestrated or not, isnt this sort of public criticism expected when one is Speaker of the House, whether it is a woman or man? Joe,I think Pelosi's statements were indefensible, but the name of the thread is "A Teachable Moment." It doesn't seem to me that angry public rebukes constitute teaching. Cardinal Eagan's statement doesn't even have anything in it that is identifiably Catholic thought. He dismisses the opinions of all theologians of all faiths and relies on pictures of fetuses to make his case. He doesn't correct in any way her misrepresentation of Catholic teaching or attempt to point out why we don't follow Augustine or Aquinas on this issue today.Modern embryology (and especially pictures and movies) doesn't resolve this conflict, and in fact modern embryology tells us that the fetus's first movements on its own (arching its back) occur in the sixth week of pregnancy. So "quickening" at 40 days is confirmed!

On another blog, someone angrily suggests that everyone is treating Pelosi far too gently, and Chaput should put her on trial before a tribunal. She lists Can. 1369, 750 &1, 752. 772 &2. Is such a thing possible? It's a perfectly sensational idea (in the way, say, Watergate was sensational). I am not asking if it could ever happen, only if it is theoretically possible. I may write a novel.

Ms O'Reilly (since we haven't formally met and I'm old fashioned :-),I fully agree with what you say here: "She was incorrect, embarrassingly so. She spoke out of her depth and she certainly should have known better. And it was absolutely the bishops place, even their responsibility, to issue a correction."If I may add a few observations (with which you may not fully concur):I agree that "correction" was necessary; nor do I think that correction and teaching are incompatible (as some comments seem to imply) -- witness St. Paul!I believe that the same response would have been forthcoming had the person involved been Senator Biden or Mayor Giuliani -- I certainly hope so. I think one could reasonably disagree concerning the tenor and scope of the response. I would like to point out, however, that Archbishop Chaput's response was addressed to the local church of which he is "episkopos" and which, coincidentally, is the locus of the convention. How best coordinate the responsibility of the local ordinary and the national conference is an ongoing issue for the bishops.Whether it is over-simplifying to say that the response is "to criticize the bishops," it would be naive not to concede that for some the default position is to criticize the bishops, sometimes deservedly, sometimes not. But, as Catholics, we need to acknowledge forthrightly the "munus episcopi," otherwise we assume, perhaps unwittingly, a congregationalist ecclesiology.Finally, as I ponder my own ongoing concerns, two of the comments seem to me to deserve further consideration.1. Cathy Kaveney (8/26 at 6:54 a.m.) raises the intriguing question as to how successfully "reason darkened by sin" can truly discern the natural law regarding human well-being in a particular culture. I think that an issue worth pursuing, without too quickly contrasting "Protestant" and "Catholic" approaches or falling back on generalizations regarding Augustinian "pessimism" and Thomistic "optimism" (as some tend to do).2. Peter Nixon (8/26 at 11:09 a.m.) thought he saw a declension from Cuomo to Pelosi with regard affirmation of magisterial teaching. Is this the case and what are its implications.The title I gave the post was "A Teachable Moment?" The question mark was deliberate.Thanks to all for their patience and participation.

Why is an "angry rebuke" not instructional? This was not a situation where she mispoke - in fact today she has reiterated her position. In fact, I suspect she uses this spurious reasoning all the time with he constituents in less public settings. Wouldn't a sterile list of the reasons Ms Pelosi is scandalously misrepresenting Catholic teaching have sent the wrong message? Wasn't this really a money lenders in the Temple situation? I think so.

An angry rebuke from the Catholic Church could certainly be instructional if it had some Catholic teaching in it, particularly teaching that was aimed at the wavering or the unconvinced. Here is all of what Egan had to say in direct response to Pelosi's comments regarding Augustine and the Doctors of the Church: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. . . . They [the unborn] are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith . . . ."This is such a fascinating defense of Augustine, some of whose ideas are the bedrock Catholic dogma is based on. "Forget Augustine! His opinions don't count! In fact, no theologians count! We have pictures.Can you point to anything in Egan's statement that is a specifically Catholic idea? Wasn't he answering for the Church and Catholicism? There is nothing in his statement that an atheist couldn't have written. For those who wanted Pelosi denounced, I suppose the statement will do. But for those who wanted a teachable moment, it seems to me they should have expected Egan to at least mention the Catholic faith.What every happened to tearing up your first draft and writing again when you have calmed down?

Peter Nixon (8/26 at 11:09 a.m.) thought he saw a declension from Cuomo to Pelosi with regard affirmation of magisterial teaching. Is this the case and what are its implications.This appears to be true to me, although I could not cite any evidence. Cuomo argued that he was bound by Church teaching as a Catholic, and I never doubted that he was sincerely (but personally) opposed to abortion. But as a governor, he was not bound to enact Catholic teaching into law and impose it on others, just as a Jew or a Muslim governor wouldn't be bound to impose Jewish or Islamic teachings. (I just read an interesting C. S. Lewis quote saying much the same thing, but now I can't find it.)I suppose part of the reason for the shift is the insistence of the Church that it is impermissible for lawmakers to let people make their own choices when the issue is abortion. So when you rule out "personally opposed, but . . . " the only available options are pro-abortion or anti-abortion. It would take somebody who knows a lot more than me to know if it's true, but it seems to me the Church has moved beyond articulating the general principles on which a legislator must legislate and a voter must vote, to saying what kind of candidates one must vote for and what kind of laws legislators must pass. So from my point of view, the Church pushed Catholic politicians and voters too hard based on a relatively new theory of how voters and legislators must act in a democratic, pluralistic society.I have heard that this pitched battle between the Church and pro-choice politicians is pretty much an American thing, and that the pope himself has given communion to pro-choice Italian politicians. Is this true, and if so, why?

Wasnt this really a money lenders in the Temple situation? I think so.Sean,Isn't it money changers? And I don't think we know why Jesus drove them out. In any case, I don't. My understanding was that they were absolutely essential to the operation of the temple, since only one kind of currency could be used for temple business, but people came from many different places and had to be able to exchange currency. Some have suggested the money-changers must have been giving unfair exchange rates, but that's certainly not in the text.

With all due respect to Theologians, at the end of the day, we are not called to be trained Theologians, we are called to believe.

David,Just because a statement could have been made by a non-Catholic doesn't mean it is not a "Catholic idea."I believe the point Cardinal Egan is making is that abortion is an offense against natural law. That is a very Catholic idea.As Catholics, we can point to many things that tell us that abortion is an abomination without relying on theologians or Church teachings. This is because the Church does not make abortion an offense against nature by declaring so, the Church declares it because it is so.Just look at the reality of abortion. In countries like China and India they are facing a situation where there will be millions upon millions more men than women in a few decades. What will that do to their cultures, how will that affect men and women psychologically and spiritually? Every year in the US thousands of healthy and viable pre-born infants are slaughtered every year. You don't have to be shown a picture or sonogram to know that dismembering an eight month term infant is horribly wrong - and you don't have to have a bishop tell you it is either.No - I think Cardinal Egan is taking a very Catholic approach.

Nancy - i've caught on to your methodology. You wait until you think the thread has finished and then you throw in some 1950ish EWTN !$#%^.Enlighten yourself - read the last autobiography and biography of Sister Teresa where she talks about years of struggle with her dark night of the soul.....her unbelief. My guess is - she died with more unbelief than belief but her loving faith carried her to Christ. We are called to faith; not belief. Belief belongs to catechism, institutions, etc. Faith goes to the heart and soul and is something we can not prove nor guarantee - we can only love and trust.This blog started with: Teachable Moment? There have been 90+ responses ...and surprisingly I think we did have a teachable moment. Pelosi's comments; the DNC abortion revisions; the counter response from various bishops; Chaput's single minded call have only served to heighten folks awareness of these issues; hopefully, caused some to actually think about the issues; hopefully, broadened both the party and individuals when considering the common good. Not sure it needs to be a - who won issue? Rather, it appears that folks actually tried to move toward the center and toward a common good (notice, I did not say perfection; the absolute fulfillment of Catholic teaching, canon law, etc.)

No - I think Cardinal Egan is taking a very Catholic approach.He did not in any way correct what she said about the Doctors of the Church. Anyone who looks up what Augustine or Aquinas had to say will find that Pelosi was right. In fact, she is right about the Church not defining the moment ensoulment takes place. Egan did not defend the teachings of the Chuch. He made an argument based on pictures. (Reminding me of a grade school nun's story in which a Communist surgeon said he'd done thousands of operations on human beings, and never seen a soul.)Nancy Pelosi garbled and misapplied Catholic doctrine. Let others make the case that films and pictures of the unborn are proof positive that personhood begins at conception. (It is a very weak argument, by the way.) You would expect a Cardinal to mention Catholic teaching, not dismiss it. He could have made a powerful argument about Church teaching and natural law, but he didn't. I could write a better response than he did, and so could you, and so could most of the people on this blog. But I am guessing that, like Catdinal Egan, many people were angry with Nancy Pelosi, so they find an angry response from Egan satisfying. I would have to say that if this were a debate between Pelosi and Egan, so far Pelosi would be the winner. I thought she made a poor and misleading statement, but it seems to me all Egan was interested in doing was smacking her down. He will score points with people who already agree with him, but he failed to "teach." On the other hand, the USCCB has a brief, noninflammatory statement, and a link to further information, which I will read, since I am a skeptic, but I am open to learning. What I am not open to is hearing, "You bloody fool! It's all so blindingly obvious that that anyone can see it!"

This is because the Church does not make abortion an offense against nature by declaring so, the Church declares it because it is so.And that's true of all Church teachings about morality that are not based on revelation. And, plus, although these are arrived at through human reason, the Church can't be wrong! And we know that because they tell us so, and since they can't be wrong, they must be right about that, too. So of course anyone who wants to live according to objective, natural law need only accept everything the Church teaches. How could anyone argue with that?

As to the authority of the Catechism [from the preface of John Paul II]:"For these reasons too, the Commission seriously considered the suggestions offered, carefully examined them at various levels and submitted its conclusions for my approval. These conclusions, insofar as they allow for a better expression of the Catechism's contents regarding the deposit of the Catholic faith, or enable certain truths of this faith to be formulated in a way more suited to the requirements of contemporary catechetical instruction, have been approved by me and thus have been incorporated into this Latin typical edition. Therefore it faithfully repeats the doctrinal content which I officially presented to the Church and to the world in December 1992".Anent "Commonweal Catholics", I now prefer the more accurate "Semi-Catholics".The sermon [homily] may be an integral part of the Mass, but it is not a necessary part. [I think it has a penitential aspect]. Indeed were it a necessary, more than half of the fabled "ordinary Catholics" [like others, I make up these percentages] would likely burn in Hell for their somnolence and inattention. It is said that at the end of his life the Cure d'Ars tended to mumble his way through his sermons. It didn't much matter to his parishioners. By then they knew what he wanted to say.

"As to the authority of the Catechism [from the preface of John Paul II]:"The pope and bishops are most effective when they come from a position of service. The Western church made a huge error by condemning half the church at the millenium. When the popes and/or the bishops do the wrong thing they must be held accountable. Blind obedience is never justifiable.

David,First, I saw nothing in Cardinal Egan's statement that "dismisses" Catholic teaching. He simply is making a point from other evidence.Second, Peolisi did not garble and misapply Church teaching, she misrepresented it. Whether this was from ignorance or purposeful, who knows. That she has been corrected can't be doubted, and yet she still "stands by" her statement. Given the tendency of politicians like Ms Pelosi to repeatedly display their "ardent" Catholicism for political advantage, this very public stance was a scandal, and a vigorous and even outraged response was entirely appropriate.Finally, if you believe the Catholic Church is not the Church established by Christ - the foundation of its authority and the reason we can trust it - why do you even care what these bishops say or do? I know I wouldn't.

"Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.Anent Commonweal Catholics, I now prefer the more accurate Semi-Catholics.The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, 'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity--greedy, dishonest, adulterous--or even like this tax collector.I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.'But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.'I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Jumbled message above should be as followsAnent Commonweal Catholics, I now prefer the more accurate Semi-Catholics. Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanitygreedy, dishonest, adulterousor even like this tax collector.I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, O God, be merciful to me a sinner.I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

Bill, in order to have Faith, one must believe. My guess is that Mother Teresa always believed, although sometimes she lacked faith in her belief because she did not always understand.

Folks,we've reached the century mark; perhaps it's time to call a halt to this teachable moment lest we arouse the "irrisio infidelium!"

Thank you,Cathleen. I don't know Raz's work. I appreciate your mentioning it.As for conceiving of abortion "as an unwillingness to provide bodily life support," I think that I could make a good case for for rejecting such a conception as appropriate for either moral or legal purposes. But this is not the place for me to make it and I do admit that the case I'd make would probably not find universal acceptance. Let me simply note that if the pregnant woman does not provide this support, then nothing else can be done for the embryo or fetus in question. Deliberately to abort is deliberately to kill. Often, this killing is supposedly justified by nothing more than the preference of the aborting mother. Again, Cathleen, thanks for the clarifications.

If there is one word that might describe the overall tenor of this thread, it is "detachment" --- detachment, that is, from the living reality of unborn human offspring. After all, we're not talking about goats, pigs, rabbits, birds, etc.I don't have THE answer to the abortion issue anymore than does anybody else. I have no reason to believe that a constitutional amendment would be a realistic approach. I do believe that those who value human life as ultimately a gift from God should support programs to help women with unplanned/unwanted pregnancies. I do believe that women --- and their male partners --- should take responsibility for resulting pregnancies. I think we need to leave the morality of abortion to God when it is medically necessary to save the life of the mother. Protecting the life of the unborn should be seen as just one element in a much larger effort to protect all human life.I'm not against intellectual engagement (God knows there are too many Catholics --- fundamentalists, if you will --- opposed to such informed and critical thinking in the church). Nonetheless, the underlying subject of this entire thread, intended or not, is the fruit of human reproduction, and I find detached comments about "ensoulment," "personhood," etc. rather disturbing.In the final analysis, the subject is human life, nothing more, nothing less.

My point was to challenge Stuarts blatantly incorrect claim that any theory other than libertarianism would make short shrift of individual autonomy as a value.I made no such claim. I was merely responding to the muddled implication that anything short of homicide can't be prohibited in a "liberal pluralistic democracy," which would imply quite a staggeringly strict libertarian view of the world.

Finally, if you believe the Catholic Church is not the Church established by Christ - the foundation of its authority and the reason we can trust it - why do you even care what these bishops say or do? I know I wouldnt.I know there are some Christian apologists who say Jesus had to be either crazy, a liar, or God Incarnate (no other choices allowed) but I don't buy that. And you seem to be saying if the Church is not exactly what it says it is, it's not worth bothering with. I don't buy that either. Certainly the Church should not be thought of as a house of cards, where if there's one problem, everything collapses. That strikes me as a kind of fundamentalism.Years ago a dissenting theologian named Charles Davis wrote a book called Temptations of Religion, and the first temptation (and chapter) was called The Lust for Certitude. It has always stuck in my mind. I just found this quote in the Time Magazine article about the sensation he caused leaving the priesthood and the Church:

Davis explained that he still considers himself a Christian, although he has no plans to affiliate with any other church. As for Catholicism, he declared: "I do not think that the claim the church makes as an institution rests upon any adequate Biblical and historical basis. I don't believe that the church is absolute, and I don't believe any more in papal infallibility. There is concern for authority at the expense of truth, as I am constantly shown by instances of the damage to persons by the workings of an impersonal and unfree system.",9171,901944,00.html

"As to the authority of the Catechism [from the preface of John Paul II]:For these reasons too, the Commission seriously considered the suggestions offered, carefully examined them at various levels and submitted its conclusions for my approval. These conclusions, insofar as they allow for a better expression of the Catechisms contents regarding the deposit of the Catholic faith, or enable certain truths of this faith to be formulated in a way more suited to the requirements of contemporary catechetical instruction, have been approved by me and thus have been incorporated into this Latin typical edition. Therefore it faithfully repeats the doctrinal content which I officially presented to the Church and to the world in December 1992."Gabriel --Notice that the Pope does not claim infallibility for all that is said in the CCC. So your argument is not a sound one.It is you who are claiming more orthodoxy that the Church itself requires. Maybe we should call you a Hyper-Catholi ??

"I find detached comments about ensoulment, personhood, etc. rather disturbing.In the final analysis, the subject is human life, nothing more, nothing less."Mr. Jaglowicz --Those philosophical terms are nor more "detached" than such philosophical terms as "moral good" amd "conscience". Perhaps they are somewhat more abstract or less familiar. But abstractions, when appliesd truly, are hardly something to disturb anyone.. Perhaps you just need to become more familiar with the ethical vocabulary.

I go away for one day (to the State Confernce on Aging) and the beat goes on and on with some good stuff and a lot of repetitive hazari, especially from Mr. Austin.An interesting theme at the conference yesterday was that seniors should concentrate not on their biological life and how they can live to many, many years, but live each day now well, responsibily, with laughter and help for their fellow citizens.What health advice was comingled from our state office speaker in view of this: the two famous dicta of Dr. Hodge:1)exercis regularly2)don't eat crap.

Gabriel,Has the Church decided definitely [infallibly] about its stance on Torture? I only write this because the CCC includes an admission of wrongdoing in regards to Torture - under the 5th Commandment.Specifically, 2298: In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.

Ms. Olivier,I agree with you on dotC most of the time --- maybe even as much as 99.9% of the time :)With respect to my concerns raised on this thread, however, I suspect we'll have to agree to disagree. Fact is no philosopher, theologian, scientist, lawyer, or other authority will ever be able to resolve the questions and issues posed by our fellow bloggers.In the meantime, human life (at some stage of development) is at stake, and such life is not ours. True, natural processes will disrupt and terminate many pregnancies before childbirth, and there are the so-called "hard" cases that, at best, we perhaps leave to God to handle when all is said and done: rape, incest, life of the mother.Anyway.........

empathy the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.I think there are two large groups, although I wouldn't claim everyone falls into one of the two. One. Group A, is the passionately pro-life group, whose members appear to have great empathy for the unborn and are deeply concerned with their experiences and possible suffering and deprivations if they should be aborted. Then there's Group B, the group that I am in, that is basically bewildered by Group A, because the people in Group B not merely fail to empathize with the unborn, but believe it makes no sense to empathize with fertilized eggs, or embryos in cannisters in labs, or fetuses too young to have anything resembling thoughts and feelings. Some of us could accept the death of all the embryos in fertility clinics in one huge calamity (were such a thing possible), and find it difficult to imagine why people care about eggs and fetuses when there are things like this:

Five-year-old Youssif is scarred for life, his once beautiful smile turned into a grotesquely disfigured face -- the face of a horrifying act by masked men. They grabbed him on a January day outside his central Baghdad home, doused him with gas and set him ablaze. am moved by human suffering, and I don't believe aborted babies suffer, and even if they do, it is ever so briefly. Whereas little boys who are doused with gasoline and set on fire suffer terribly, and also they know they are suffering.Now, this doesn't necessarily mean all the people in Group B don't think abortion is wrong, since if people believe a fetus is a person, even an unthinking, unfeeling one, then it would be wrong to kill it. But the people in Group B don't grieve on behalf of the aborted fetus. They just believe abortions break one of God's rules.

Bernard,I actually think Catholics have an important case to make that some abortions are not intentional killing--that's the doctrine of double effect or indirect abortion. An interesting paper to write would be to compare Germain Grisez (a conservative Catholic philosopher) and JJ Thomson on this point. Much turns on the account of intention that you adopt. Take a look at Grisez's The Way of the Lord Jesus, vol 1 or 2.The key problem in American law is that there is simply no duty for anyone to provide bodily life support to anyone--no matter what the consequences. So a parent doesn't have a duty to donate blood, or a kidney, to save a child --even if the child will die. So you end up having to argue that a woman has a special obligation to carry a pregnancy to term, despite the fact that pregnancy is significantly more burdensome than giving blood. On what grounds?Here the arguments get a little like the church's argument about women's ordination. Before, it was straightforward "women's role"--Women are ordained by God to be pregnant and to bring for their children in sorrow and suffering. Women, are inferior to men--can't be priests. So the challenge is to place the moral prohibition (and the cultic prohibition) on a non-sexist basis.

Double effect has 4 conditions:1. A good (or at least neutral) action2. The good effect outweighs the bad effect3. The bad effect must be achieved indirectly (Grisez misses this point sometimes)Very few abortions meet any of the above criteria, actually. Some might meet the 4th condition, but according to the Tradition, all must be met.4. The bad effect is permitted but not willed (eg, the death)

Mr. Nickol,To clarify, I'm not referring to empathy here. If anything, I'm suggesting that out of respect for basic human life, we let nature take its course, nothing more, nothing less. I am not "passionately pro-life" if, by your use of this description, it means a single, fixed focus on the abortion issue to the exclusion of other issues affecting human life and welfare. Politically, I consider myself moderate to liberal on most issues. I support Obama.Your bringing up references to embryos, fetuses, fertilized egges, etc. suggests a misplaced preoccupation with stage of human development rather than with the underlying reality of human life itself. At the risk of perhaps mischaracterizing your views here, it appears that your focus is on what can be seen with microscope or naked eye rather than with the marvel of, and respect for, all human life. Furthermore, you know as well as I that mention of sensateness or lack thereof merely serves to obfuscate the issue. So does mention of the child with the disfigured face.As I mentioned earlier, there are some facets of the abortion issue that are perhaps best left to God: the pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, the mother facing certain/probable death if her pregnancy is carried to term. I suspect most induced abortions today, however, are merely for the convenience of irresponsible biological parents.Showing concern for little kids doused with gasoline and set on fire does not preclude concern for all human life --- even the lives of human offspring not yet out of their mothers' fallopian tubes! We are talking fundamental respect for human life here, not grieving, not politicizing, not moralizing, not obfuscating.

Bernard, another interesting article to compare with Grisez's material on this is an article by Patricia Beattie Jung, entitled Abortion and Organ Donation. It's reprinted, I think, in the very interesting volume entitled Abortion and Catholicism. Another interesting volume for those who want to move beyond polemics is Abortion: Understanding Differences, edited by Dan Callahan (pro-choice) and Sydney Callahan (pro-life).

I haven't kept up with moral theology literature lately, but friends who have say that the principle of double effect is in fact very often proposed in life issues with precisely the impoverishment I mentioned: the multi-faceted conditionality is reduced to simply "intention." Intentionality is insufficient grounds to invoke the principle of double effect.

Cathleen, your comments provide important bibliographical references for reflecting on the moraal and legal issues associated with abortion. Thank you. I myself have to face up to my personal and situational limitations that make it unlikely that I will be in a position to avail myself of many of these references. I know that this means that anything I say about abortion will not be based on thorough research. But maybe some of my fellow bloggers may find soething of interest in the elements of the kind of position I presently hold. These elements are:(a) every human person comes to be through a process that begins with the fertilization of an egg; (b) Each fertilized egg can survive and grow into a fully developed child only if it has bodily support from its mother (original or surrogate).; (c) assume that the mother is a normal mature woman who ha had consensual sex or has agreed to serve as the surrogate.I'd conclude that the uniqueness of the relation between the zygote, or embryo, or fetus and its mother whose bodily support it needs to survive places a moral obligation opon the mother to provide that support, unless she has some publicly defensible reason, other than her mere preference, to cease providing bodily support.I can see good reasons why American laws do not require anyone to supply bodily support. This is a legal matteer. Accordingly, it makes sense that, in our legal system thee be no criminalization of abortions. That is a political judgment, based on sensible political reflection. Bodies of positive law are constitutive parts of political societies. Whether and under what conditions those laws forbid cessation of bodily support is at bottom a political question. How and under what circumstances I as a citizen work politicall to change my society's laws is a political application of the moral principles I hold.I don't htink I have anything else to say. I have profited from this discussion, particularly from Cathleen's comments.

Cathleen, if you are saying that a Mother is not obligated to nurture her child, than the lives of all children are at risk. I know of no infant, who, if left on their own, could survive.The Womb was created by God so that Human Life could be protected and nurtured during the most delicate stage of Human development.

Nancy, you are misconstruing Cathleen's comments.Cathleen wrote that there is no American law that requires a person "to provide bodily life support to anyone...[such as donating] blood, or a kidney, to save a child..." Therefore, such being the legal reality in the United States, how can one "argue that a woman has a special obligation to carry a pregnancy to term, [when, in fact,] pregnancy is significantly more burdensome than giving blood"? If I may add, if there is no likelihood that Roe v. Wade will be overturned anytime soon, what legal argument (as Cathleen asks) can be made to require a woman to provide bodily life support in this legal context?I'm pro-life, by the way, but even I recognize the current constitutional limits within which any legal resolution of the issue must be worked out. I should also remind you that the U.S. constitution is silent on the abortion issue. The rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, which is not part of the constitution and has, so far as I know, no constitutional/legal standing in courts of law.From a legal standpoint, Nancy, we are working with "what is," not with "what should be" (in anyone's thinking).

Parents have all sorts of legal duties to their children. They have to feed them (which may in extreme circumstances requre them to take less food for themselves) and clothe them (with similar potential sacrifices). They have to provide for their medical care, even when this means going to the hospital in the middle of the night. Parents miss sleep because of their kids from day one.From what I hear mothers don't have time to shower from birth to eight months, and child support is due even if it means baloney sandwiches for dad."Bodily life support"--sacrifices of one's own health and well-being for another's--are implicit in the laws against parental neglect.

Kathy, although I'm not a lawyer, I suspect your observation would not persuade a judge or jury to expand the notion of "bodily life support."

Joe - resonate with your comments and starting points. Again, Fr. Imbelli started this by asking the question: Is this a teachable moment? After 120+ responses, it appears to me that neither certain bishops nor Ms. Pelosi used this as a teachable moment.In business, teaching, and in homiletics, the best are those who start with a story, testamonial (think about the recent convention), and the starting point is the community and its current experience. Joe - your words articulate that well and that is why I found the response of Egan, Wuerl, Chaput (a book on a single issue that ignores a lot of context - it is more like a research monograph), even the USCCB statement had no life, no passion, it did not connect with Catholics, much less the nation. Quoting early church fathers does not do it (in fact, Fr. K demonstrated well the difficulties in quoting - what was the original language, writer's intent, who translated, what did certain terms mean) - I found Pelosi and to a greater extent the hierarchy picking and choosing and thus misrepresenting the history of the church's thoughts.It is obvious especially since 1930, that the church has tried to articulate a new position about abortion pulling from its history but with a much more forceful emphasis. Would suggest a couple of alternative approaches for those looking for a "teachable moment":a) would have been helpful if some of our bishops had paralleled the RCIA approach to the issue of politicians, Catholics, and abortion. Primarliy, RCIA enacts Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi - as we gather and pray, we then believe. How we pray is what we believe. This models the adult education models that are used by corporations today in educating adults - you start with where folks are at; you use the language and tools of that audience; you do not start with the end point e.g. creed, catechism, canon law, infallible dogmas.....this respects the dignity & freedom of each of the faithful and then calls them to consider the rest; (hopefully, it avoids polarization or partisanship & does not sound like a parent correcting a child)b) finally, Vatican II by Paul VI's decision stopped before any type of moral theology could be considered. This left us with a truncated approach - ecclesiology, liturgy, scripture, etc. have been impacted by change but not moral theology. We did move from the old manualist approach and most of us were trained for years in Kathy's excellent detail around proportionalism. (Aside - during the June USCCB mtg, some bishops attributed proportionalism as one among many causes for the increase in priest pedophilia - can you believe it?). This truncated approach has difficulty laying out differences between contraception; abortion, euthanasia - how these are dealt with in a moral context - and then, how a country politically deals with these issues. As Mr. Kmiec and Common Ground have stated so well, changing Roe v Wade will not really address the issue - anti-abortion folks have targeted the wrong thing. It also has left us with a polarized church and nation.c) Leave you with one thought - Vatican II happened because of 50-80 years of research by theologians, historians, exegetes (some of who were considered modernists and restricted from teaching or publishing) were used by the bishops - yes, it was like opening an window. Would suggest that after our lifetime, the next Vatican III will lay out a "new" moral theology using the current research of geneticists, Haring, Curran, etc. It will be guided by the wisdom of other religions, our Eastern division, etc. It will start with the whole context of sexual ethics, natural law, and the more personalist theology to handle distinctions between the stages of development of life; the context of those who face a decision; a natural law that reflects 20th & 21st century advances. Curran's new book outlines the different paradigms that the church and the American church have evolved through - it is time for another evolution.Teachable moment - yes, but the DNC probably learned more from the Kmiecs of this world than the catholic bishops. That is a sad commentary.

Joseph,Maybe. The point that does carry, though, is that parenthood is legally consequential, and the consequences include the physical. The law is hylomorphic whenever responsibilities are considered: ask any soldier, farmer, employer, bus driver, ADA inspector, kindergarten teacher, police officer--anyone who has others' physical welfare as part of their responsibility. I don't see why a special exception should be made for parents. And it isn't. If anyone wants to be a social pariah and legally liable person, all they have to do is hurt or dangerously neglect a child in their care.

Referenced a need for a full vision of moral theology and the tensions that exist in the truncated moral & eithical world we currentlly live in: natural law; public forum; Catholic conscience development; individual issues e.g. abortion, contraception, death penalty, stem cell research, euthanasia, etc.Here is a link to an extensive course on every ethical issue including the public role, USCCB, Vatican statements, theologians (Ms. Kaveny - your works & articles are cited here), McCormick, Curran, Haring, Kavanaugh, etc. are all cited. only every bishop was required to take this course.

Kathy, when a woman has an abortion, she is no longer a parent. Roe v. Wade permits a woman to abort her unborn offspring. There are no legal consequences as long as the abortion is performed within legal and constitutional parameters.Regarding the bus driver, etc., folks entrusted with public safety/welfare are not required to donate their blood or an organ to save someone else's life. If a public servant fails in his or her official duties, legal consequences can include reprimand, job termination, and possible civil and/or criminal prosecution if his/her omission/commission fell outside the scope of official duties and responsibilities.Again, we are dealing with "what is," not with "what should be." The concept of personhood is, in the final analysis, a constitutional and legal one. Theology and philosophy may inform the law, but it is the law --- not the former --- that rules the day.

Joseph,Perhaps you miss my implication. Sometimes bus drivers, etc., must be willing to make physical sacrifices because of their responsibilities.Airline pilots have to go without alcohol for a certain amount of time before flying, for one example.People who run nursing homes have to stay in hurricane-threatened areas until they safely evacuate their patients, for another.

[...] Yes, that does open adult a operation of formidable questions, and they are questions that another former House orator and practicing Catholic, Nancy Pelosi, stumbled over behind in 2008 call a call of critique and ridicule from regressive Catholics, as Bob Imbelli remarkable in a post during a time during dotCommonweal. [...]

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