Face Off Could Be A Great Catechetical Moment

August 27, 2008

From Ignatius Press:

Biden: “My views are totally consistent with Catholic social doctrine…”

Yet another catechetical moment arrives. This from today’s Christian Science Monitor:

Against long odds, Senator Biden aims to be No. 4. He sees faith and values, as well as his own deep experience in public policy, as a key to that race.       

“The animating principle of my faith, as taught to me by church and home, was that the cardinal sin was abuse of power,” he said in an interview with the Monitor. “It was not only required as a good Catholic to abhor and avoid abuse of power, but to do something to end that abuse.”

The issues that have most engaged Biden in public life draw on those teachings, from halting violence against women to genocide. At a personal level, his faith provides him peace, he says. “I get comfort from carrying my rosary, going to mass every Sunday. It’s my time alone,” he says.

But the interface of faith and policy has long been problematic for Catholic presidential hopefuls. Governor Smith faced withering criticism over whether Catholic politicians are obliged by their church to take policy orders from Rome. John F. Kennedy famously disavowed “outside religious pressures or dictates,” swept the Catholic vote, and won the presidency. By the time another J.F.K. from Massachusetts ran for president in 2004, the ground had shifted. Sen. John F. Kerry lost the Catholic vote because many of his faith questioned whether he was Catholic enough, given his strong support for abortion rights.

But Biden believes he can bridge much of that divide. “My views are totally consistent with Catholic social doctrine,” says Biden, a six-term Democratic senator from Delaware. “There are elements within the church who say that if you are at odds with any of the teachings of the church, you are at odds with the church. I think the church is bigger than that.”    

If abortion isn’t an abuse of power, I’m not sure what else qualifies. Who are more powerless than unborn children in the womb who, in the poignant words of Cardinal Egan, “smile and wave into the world outside the womb”? And does it really need to be pointed out that the Church is not bigger than the One who founded her? And that the Church was not founded as some sort of political “big tent,” but is the household of God, and as such adheres in love and obedience to the teachings of her head, Jesus Christ, and to those He granted authority to teach, shepherd, govern, and guide?As we well know, anybody trying to find where the Church says that abortion is morally acceptable, or can be allowed in certain situations, or is just another issue open to debate, is going to fail miserably. Which is probably why Biden and Co. don’t bother to quote from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, which leaves no doubt about the Church’s stance on the issue of abortion: 

155. The teachings of Pope John XXIII,[314] the Second Vatican Council,[315] and Pope Paul VI [316] have given abundant indication of the concept of human rights as articulated by the Magisterium. Pope John Paul II has drawn up a list of them in the Encyclical Centesimus Annus: “the right to life, an integral part of which is the right of the child to develop in the mother’s womb from the moment of conception; the right to live in a united family and in a moral environment conducive to the growth of the child’s personality; the right to develop one’s intelligence and freedom in seeking and knowing the truth; the right to share in the work which makes wise use of the earth’s material resources, and to derive from that work the means to support oneself and one’s dependents; and the right freely to establish a family, to have and to rear children through the responsible exercise of one’s sexuality. In a certain sense, the source and synthesis of these rights is religious freedom, understood as the right to live in the truth of one’s faith and in conformity with one’s transcendent dignity as a person”[317].

The first right presented in this list is the right to life, from conception to its natural end,[318] which is the condition for the exercise of all other rights and, in particular, implies the illicitness of every form of procured abortion and of euthanasia.[319]

The CSM article provides some helpful hints as to why Biden thinks of himself as a good Catholic who has no problem denying core Catholic social teachings:

“My idea of self, of family, of community, of the wider world comes straight from my religion. It’s not so much the Bible, the beatitudes, the Ten Commandments, the sacraments, or the prayers I learned. It’s the culture,” he writes.

“I was raised at a time when the Catholic Church was fertile with new ideas and open discussion about some of the basic social teaching of the Catholic Church,” Biden says. “Questioning was not criticized; it was encouraged.” 

“I don’t think I have the right to impose my view – on something I accept as a matter of faith – on the rest of society,” he writes in his autobiography.

Without taking a position on how Catholics should vote, Biden makes a case for staying connected to the church and its culture. “If I were an ordained priest, I’d be taking some issue with some of the more narrow interpretations of the Gospel being taken now,” Biden says. “But my church is more than 2,000 years old. There’s always been a tug of war among prelates and informed lay members.”

As if all Catholic priests believe and preach exactly what the Church teaches while “informed lay members” are restless free-thinkers pushing at the rigid boundaries of traditional doctrine. Hardly. This is both simplistic and misleading. The line of tension lies elsewhere: between those who accept and understand that certain matters of faith and morals are settled and those who think that it is one’s all-powerful conscience that makes the final decision about such matters, even while paying lip service to loving the Church and so forth. The Catechism is quite clear that the latter approach is not the one taken by Catholics seeking to be disciples of Christ and loyal sons and daughters of His Church:

Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct. …

A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith, for charity proceeds at the same time “from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith.” (CCC 1792, 1794)

Perhaps Biden, Pelosi, and others do suffer from invincible ignorance. Or perhaps they are simply denying or ignoring what they know the Church does clearly teach. Regardless, any child receiving decent catechesis and anyone capable of reading the English language should recognize that Senator Biden’s beliefs are not “totally consistent with Catholic social doctrine.” One suspects, however, that the approach taken by Biden, Pelosi, and Co. will continue, which means the issue of abortion, Catholic politicians, and Church authority will continue to be a major story throughout the 2008 election.


So far, Six Bishops Speak Against Nancy Pelosi

August 27, 2008

From the Washington Times:

Here’s the latest from the Archdiocese of San Francisco: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, whose church history lecture on “Meet the Press” last Sunday has been condemned by six bishops, will not get a scolding — yet — from her own bishop. 

Instead, Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco wants to write “a larger, more thoughtful look on the issue,” his press people tell me. The date it will go up on the archdiocesan Web site Sept. 5.

Mediawise, that’s light years down the road. The Republican convention will be wrapping up at that point, and maybe everyone will have forgotten Mrs. Pelosi’s thoughts on how St. Augustine did not consider abortion to be homicide. 

Why the San Francisco archbishop is going the leisurely route while six other bishops could not wait to paste their objections, Wittenburg-door style, up on their sites within two days of the House speaker’s remarks is a mystery. Last I talked with her press people, Mrs. Pelosi was pretty defiant, insisting her read of fourth-century patristics was correct.

Earth to Nancy:

Do not mess with the bishops. Do not suggest your understanding of church doctrine trumps theirs, especially when your only academic claim to theological expertise is a B.A. from Trinity College. If anything gets a bishop going, it’s someone trying to supplant his traditional role as teacher of the faith.

Sen. John Kerry would be happy to inform you of what happens when you defy church officials. Not only can they deep-six your political career by telling you not to receive Communion at their altars, they can do serious damage to one’s presidential aspirations. Remember Ohio.

When I called around yesterday asking why six bishops in a space of 18 hours issued statements condemning you, starting with Monday’s salvo from the Denver bishops, well, there were a number of factors. Said one person at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “The bishops were taking advantage of a teachable moment in the culture to correct the misrepresentation of church teaching on abortion.” In other words, if it’s already being splashed around cable TV, it’s time to put those church Web sites to use. Starting Monday night, this popped up on the Archdiocese of Washington’s site, followed by this on the USCCB’s site and then this on the New York archdiocese’s site. Only the pope gets a faster reaction than that. 

You are fortunate to have a bishop who moves kind of slowly on these issues. Everyone thought that the “wafer watch” of 2004 would not repeat itself. You and Sen. Joe Biden have helped resurrect that. Which is great for us religion reporters. But it might not be so helpful for you.

USCCB Bishops respond to House Speaker Pelosi’s misrepresentation of Church teaching against abortion

August 27, 2008


From the USCCB website:

WASHINGTON–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, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion.

 In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “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.” (No. 2271)


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 Church’s 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 teaches that from the time of conception (fertilization), each member of the human species must be given the full respect due to a human person, beginning with respect for the fundamental right to life.


More information on the Church’s teaching on this issue can be found in our brochure “The Catholic Church is a Pro-Life Church”.  PDF  Text

Cardinal Egan’s Comments on the Unborn

August 27, 2008

“They are Human Beings With an Inalienable Right to Live.”

NEW YORK, AUG. 26, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the statement Cardinal Edward Egan of New York released today in which he clarifies the stance of the Church against abortion.

* * *

Like many other citizens of this nation, I was shocked to learn that the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America would make the kind of statements that were made to Mr. Tom Brokow of NBC-TV on Sunday, August 24, 2008. 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.

We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb.

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. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.

Edward Cardinal Egan
Archbishop of New York

August 26, 2008

Archbishop, in speaking about Democrats: ‘It’s always important to know what our faith actually teaches’

August 27, 2008

From WorldNetDaily:

DENVER – Denver Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput says Democrats simply don’t know Christianity if they insist on continuing to spin the Bible’s teachings on abortion.

“It’s always important to know what our faith actually teaches,” he said in a “clarification” for Catholics in northern Colorado as Democratic National Committee members met in Denver this week to hear a speaker from the National Abortion Rights Action League promote Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, as the next “pro-choice” president.

Chaput’s also appeared at a pro-life prayer vigil outside the massive new Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Denver, reportedly the largest abortion megaclinic in the nation.

“The future of a community, a people, a church and a nation depends on the children who will inherit it,” he said at the event. “If we prevent our children from being born, we remove ourselves from the future. It’s really that simple. No children, no future.

“We need to remember two basic truths. Here’s the first truth. Society has an obligation – and Christians have a Gospel duty – to provide adequate and compassionate support for unwed and abandoned mothers women facing unintended pregnancies; and women struggling with the aftermath of an abortion. It’s not enough to talk about ‘pro-life politics,’ The label ‘pro-life’ demands that we work to ensure social policies that will protect young women and families, and help them generously in their need. In the archdiocese of Denver we try very hard to do that through the Gabriel Project and other forms of outreach and support.

“Here’s the second truth. Killing an unborn child is never the right answer to a woman’s or society’s problems. Acts of violence create a culture of violence—and abortion is the most intimate form of violence there is. It wounds the woman, it kills the unborn child and it poisons the roots of justice and charity that bind us all into one human family,” he said.

In his clarification for church members, he denounced the “spin” among politicians seeking to justify abortion and appease militant pro-abortion interests, including the billion-dollar Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest player in its abortion industry.

“Catholic public leaders inconvenienced by the abortion debate tend to take a hard line in talking about the ‘separation of church and state.’ But their idea of separation often seems to work one way. In fact, some officials also seem comfortable in the role of theologian. And that warrants some interest, not as a ‘political’ issue, but as a matter of accuracy and justice,” he wrote.

“Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills. Regrettable, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them,” Chaput continued.

The archbishop pointed to Pelosi’s interview Sunday on the NBC’s “Meet the Press” when she was asked when human life begins. The House speaker said:

I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition … St. Augustine said at three months. We don’t know. The point is, is that it shouldn’t have an impact on the woman’s right to choose.

Chaput said Pelosi, because of her “study,” must know the conclusions from Jesuit John Connery’s “Abortion: The Development of the Roman Catholic Perspective.”

Connery concludes with: “The Christian tradition from the earliest days reveals a firm antiabortion attitude … The condemnation of abortion did not depend on and was not limited in any way by theories regarding the time of fetal animation. Even during the many centuries when church penal and penitential practice was based on the theory of delayed animation, the condemnation of abortion was never affected by it. Whatever one would want to hold about the time of animation, or when the fetus became a human being in the strict sense of the term, abortion from the time of conception was considered wrong, and the time of animation was never looked on as a moral dividing line between permissible and impermissible abortion.”

Chaput continued: “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 has bestowed on this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.'”

He said the church’s early fathers held abortion was homicide; “others that it was tantamount to homicide.”

“None diminished the unique evil of abortion as an attack on life itself, and the early church closely associated abortion with infanticide,” he said.

Members of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy also agreed with Chaput, issuing a statement that not only were Pelosi’s statements inaccurate, “Catholics, especially politicians, who publicly defend abortion should not receive communion, and … ministers of communion should be responsibly charitable in denying it to them if they ask for it, ‘until they have reformed their lives.'”

“Abortion (including the willful destruction of human embryos) and euthanasia are always intrinsically evil since they involve the intentional killing of innocent life,” the group said.

Such issues hit home with the Democratic Party in this 2008 campaign, since Obama, who has called himself a Christian, opposed a measure as an Illinois state senator to protect babies who survive abortion procedures, because, among other reasons, it would be too burdensome on abortionists.

“From the beginning, the believing Christian community held that abortion was always, gravely wrong,” Chaput said. “Of course, we now know with biological certainly 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,” he said.

“Abortion kills an unborn, developing human life. It is always gravely evil, and so are the evasions employed to justify it,” he said. “The duty of the church and other religious communities is moral witness. The duty of the state and its officials is to serve the common good, which is always rooted in moral truth. A proper understanding of the ‘separation of church and state’ does not imply a separation of faith from political life. But of course, it’s always important to know what our faith actually teaches.

At the vigil in front of the Planned Parenthood business, where he was joined by Alveda King, Chaput said the project “would offend every African-American and Latino family, and all of us, because every child lost to abortion here subtracts one more life, one more universe of possibilities and talent, from the future of this community. … The business of Planned Parenthood is the prevention of the future – and business is good, and very profitable, at the expense of this community.”

A report by the Associated Press highlighted the faith of  Sen. Joe Biden, Obama’s pick to be vice president. The report told how he underwent brain surgery for a life-threatening aneurysm in 1988 and asked if doctors would allow him to tuck his rosary beads under his pillow.

But Chaput told AP Biden should refrain even from taking communion because of his support for abortion.

While Obama has been documented as being more pro-abortion than even NARAL, Biden has said he’ll “accept” Catholic church teaching that life starts at conception. However, he said allowing virtually unlimited abortions under Roe vs. Wade “is as close” as society can get to respecting different religious views.

Chaput has stated that such deviancy from church teachings disqualifies those individuals from partaking of communion, which in the Catholic church is believed to involve the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Obama OK’d ‘Live Born’ Abortion

August 27, 2008

From NewsMax:

Sen. Barack Obama’s pick of Sen. Joseph Biden, a pro-choice Catholic, will most certainly raise the abortion issue to a new level in the campaign.

Obama’s own record on abortion is steeped in controversy.

Barack Obama not only has a perfect record in opposing pro-life legislation, he even fought against a bill protecting the right to life of a baby born alive.

Author David Freddoso chronicles Obama’s radical pro-abortion record in his best-selling book “The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media’s Favorite Candidate.”

In March 2001, a bill was introduced in the Illinois Senate, where Obama was then serving, that stated in part: “A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law.”

The bill came following an investigation of a Chicago-area hospital that left babies born alive to die without medical care.

“This bill was not an abortion law,” Freddoso writes. “It did not confer any right or legal status upon any baby not yet born. This bill had no legal conflicts with Roe v. Wade … Born and living survivors of abortion would be unambiguously considered ‘persons.’ Medically, scientifically, empirically, they were no different from the many premature babies who are born in American hospitals each year.”

Nevertheless, Sen. Obama spoke against the bill on the Senate floor.

He was the only senator to do so.

Arguing against the bill, Obama declared: “This is probably not going to survive constitutional scrutiny. Number one, whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to … a nine-month-old child that was delivered to term. That determination, then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place … This would be an anti-abortion statute.”

According to Freddoso, Obama’s stance disregarded language in the bill that clearly stated it applied only to babies that have already been born.

Obama voted “present” on the bill. It passed the Senate, but later died in a House committee.

In 2002, the legislation was reintroduced in three separate bills. Obama voted against the two bills that received a vote and, once again, spoke in opposition on the Senate floor.

Obama also has opposed restrictions on partial-birth abortion, a late-term abortion that kills a partially delivered living fetus and is considered by some to be tantamount to infanticide.

Freddoso writes: “Obama has also voted ‘present’ (again, effectively a ‘no’ vote) on requiring parental notification (not parental consent) when minor children obtain abortions…

“I could find no instance in his entire career in which he voted for any regulation or restriction on the practice of abortion.”

Freddoso also quotes conservative columnist Terence P. Jeffrey: “Barack Obama is the most pro-abortion presidential candidate ever.”

And if elected, he would likely become the most pro-abortion president ever. In July 2007, Obama spoke before the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and said: “The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.”

Freddoso observes: “This bill would effectively cancel every state, federal, and local regulation of abortion, no matter how modest or reasonable. It would even, according to the National Organization of Women, abolish all state restrictions on government funding for abortions….

“In promising to sign this bill, Obama is promising to abolish state laws that protect doctors and nurses from losing their jobs if they refuse to participate in abortions. He is promising to abolish requirements for parental notification and informed consent for mothers who consider the procedure…

“Politicians’ promises are often empty, but this one deserves to be taken seriously.”