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August 26, 2008

Comments

SDG

Archbishop Chaput rocks hard. So, apparently, does Bishop Conley, with whose name I'm less familiar.

And hey! From the USCCB -- The bishops teach! A joint statement from the cardinal chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities and the bishop chairman of the Committee on Doctrine. Excellent.

Thank you, your Excellencies. (And thank you, Amy, and thank you, Tim J!)

P.S. Washington Archbishop Donald Weurl's comments are also good. [Edit: At first I thought Archbishop Weurl might have misread Mrs. Pelosi's comments, but upon closer reading I see he got her right and I got him wrong. He even cites the Didache. Carry on, episcopal dudes!]

SDG

Confidential to Nancy Pelosi: Please, keep it up! Say more, Madam Speaker! Push the envelope!

The more you do so, the more our shepherds will feel obliged to clarify the situation. Perhaps one of these days we'll even arrive at clarity on the applicability of Canon 915 (most recently mentioned by Ed Peters here).

labrialumn

Well, the bishop is the church is the magisterium, and her bishop has no problem, apparently, with her communing regularly. Good to see how human authority clears up any disagreement on doctrine.

bill912

1) What human authority? The Catholic Church exercises Christ's Authority.

2) What "disagreement on doctrine"? What we're seeing here is disagreement on discipline.

Tim J.

"Well, the bishop is the church is the magisterium"

You lost me, here... What?

"her bishop has no problem, apparently, with her communing regularly"

And everyone knows that's how we establish doctrine for the Church. Don't bother with the Catechism, just ask anyone in line at Communion...

"Good to see how human authority clears up any disagreement on doctrine"

A bishop's authority is not human in origin.

By all means, let's turn this into a Protestant/Catholic debate while the unborn die by the thousands.

bill912

Cardinal Egan just issued a powerful statement about Pelosi. Some of our bishops seem to have contracted cases of steel-spine.

JohnE

Cardinal Egan's response:
http://www.archny.org/news-events/news-press-releases/index.cfm?i=8803

Barbara

Cardinal Egan actually spoke out?!

Took a while, but better late than never.

Thomas E. Vaughan

Although I agree completely with Cardinal Egan's response, I have to wonder whether his last sentence is appropriate:

'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.'

This is, of course, a true statement, but is it right for the Cardinal to issue such a statement publicly and, at least apparently, ex cathedra?

Brian Walden

Thomas, what specifically is the problem with it? Do you feel he's crossing the Church/State line? Do you feel it's too much of an attack on Pelosi?

Thomas E. Vaughan

Well, it seems that there is a code by which officials of the Church,
and bishops in particular, ought not to instruct the faithful on whether
to vote for or against a particular candidate or party in an election.
There seems to be a line that should not be crossed. I'm not sure that
I've ever seen a clear discussion of the line, but perhaps it has to do
with the tax-exempt status of a church or something like that.

The Cardinal has arguably crossed the line.

Of course, one could argue that he has not crossed it.

And, I suppose, one could argue that there is really no line.

Anyway, I'm just wondering if anyone else sees the Cardinal's comments
as pushing the edge of permissible discourse. It's almost as though he
said, "No Catholic should vote for Pelosi."

I happen to think that no Catholic should vote for Pelosi, but I'm not
sure that a Cardinal of the Church ought publicly to say that as a
Cardinal, or even come close to saying that.

Brian Walden

I guess I don't see how Cardinal Egan's statement is substantially different than saying Catholics cannot vote for pro-abortion politicians. I guess the "should not be providing leadership" part is what may cross from making a moral statement to a political one. But Catholics believe that any political leader must first have a moral platform, in this sense a leader who supports abortion is automatically unfit regardless of their political views.

Maybe another way of looking at it - do you think these statements would cross the line:

Anyone who dares to defend that people may be legitimately killed because of the color of their skin or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.

Anyone who dares to defend that people may be legitimately killed because of their religious beliefs or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.

Thomas E. Vaughan

I think that neither the Cardinal's final sentence, taken by itself, nor the sentences that you offer cross the line. The problem as I see it---if indeed there is any problem at all---is that the Cardinal's message as a whole can hardly be mistaken. To me, he is clearly calling specifically for the removal of Pelosi.

Perhaps I am reading too much into it. You might quickly read through the Cardinal's whole message again. Is it not clear? If it is clear, then does it cross any line?

The Masked Chicken

I don't watch broadcast tv, so could someone put this in context. Tim J. said:

Witness the recent spectacle of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi waxing theological on Meet the Press, and clarifying for the audience why it is that the Catholic Church really has had no consistent position on abortion.

What question came up that she felt she needed to clarify? To whom?

Really, if she is this inept at doing document analysis, then how can we count on her to read and correctly interpret the intentions in long complex legislation? The position in the CCC with regards to abortion is very plain and no matter how many Church Fathers she has read, she still should have humbly asked for other opinions to make sure she was reading these documents with the mind of the Church instead of with the mind of Pelosi.

Unfortunately, some Catholics are either poorly informed or rationalizing on "choice" issues. When the Speaker of the House attempts to explain a point of ethics or morality, I am afraid that some people will think that she has done due diligence in trying to understand and explain the issues. Not only has Pelosi sinned in usurping the office of moral teacher (something reserved to Bishops and the Magisterium), she may have committed scandal in misleading some ill-informed Catholics into thinking that pro-life matters are less clearly defined than they are. She should have said something like, "I have studied this issue. I may be wrong. This is my opinion, but I am open to being corrected."

The sad thing is, in a well-regulated society (not that ours is), her actions would be grounds for correction or impeachment, but instead, I suspect she will only hear the compliments.

The Chicken

SDG

It's almost as though he said, "No Catholic should vote for Pelosi."
...
I guess I don't see how Cardinal Egan's statement is substantially different than saying Catholics cannot vote for pro-abortion politicians.

He isn't quite saying that.

The Cardinal does clearly indicate that being pro-choice is a grave disqualification to the fitness of a candidate to lead, and that for such deficient candidates to achieve high office is a grave indictment for our democracy.

However, it's not necessarily the case that this indictment extends to any and all specific voters voting for specific candidates in specific races.

The Cardinal's statement could be interpreted to mean something like: "In any civilized democracy worth the name, any race for public office should produce qualified candidates who stand for what is right, including the right to life -- and, in any civilized democracy worth the name, such candidates should win over deficient candidates who do not stand for what is right."

This doesn't necessarily entail that, in any actual specific race between two actual specific candidates, there will always be someone less deficient than Nancy Pelosi to vote for, or that, granted a choice between Nancy Pelosi and someone even more gravely deficient, no Catholic should vote for Pelosi as the lesser of two evils.

However, we should not gloss over the extent to which the Cardinal construes being pro-choice as a grave impediment to the candidate's fitness. No Catholic can bracket that as of negotiable or minor importance, or consider it anything other than a serious criterion weighing against voting for the candidate.

The Masked Chicken

That should be:

...she still should have humbly asked for other opinions to make sure she were reading these documents with the mind of the Church instead of with the mind of Pelosi.

The Chicken

SDG

...she still should have humbly asked for other opinions to make sure she were reading these documents with the mind of the Church instead of with the mind of Pelosi.

Forget the mind of the Church or the mind of Pelosi. She should have double-checked her facts to make sure that she was reading these documents in a way consistent with having half a mind.

The Masked Chicken

I have a question and I think I may be too close to it see the correct answer, so I ask for comments.

I wrote, above:

...she still should have humbly asked for other opinions to make sure she were reading these documents with the mind of the Church instead of with the mind of Pelosi.

Given that I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to reading "just enough" articles to support "my" opinion (called, confirmation bias), when should I remove the beam from my own eye before commenting and when do I know that I have removed enough of the beam before removing the speck in my brother's eye? I say that because some day I might be guilty of thinking that I have done enough research to offer an informed opinion and be wrong (I try to be diligent, but sometimes I can get caught up in the excitement of my own position). What is the best way for people (me) to safeguard themselves against this temptation? What is the best way to correct people when they have made this mistake? Does it depend on circumstances very heavily? If we are to engage the culture, these are some of the questions I would like discussed. Maybe here is a good place (maybe not).

This should be a teaching moment not only for pro-life issues, but related issues, as well. This issue rightly involves the U. S. bishops (and most specifically, Pelosi's bishop), but for other issues in the home or work place, where we may have to be the mouth of moral reason, when do we know enough to comment? Is it better to speak with good intent and be wrong than to not speak at all.

Some tough questions. Comments?

The Chicken

Sleeping Beastly

Chicken, you wrote:
What question came up that she felt she needed to clarify? To whom?

Really, if she is this inept at doing document analysis, then how can we count on her to read and correctly interpret the intentions in long complex legislation?

...and I about choked! I am glad to see the bishops giving her a good threshing. These last few years, I've seen our bishops really step up to the plate to bat for us and for the truth. They're really going to need all our support and prayers in this, because the opposition is in the process of stepping it up as well.

It's funny, I've been daydreaming about someday actually getting a political leader who's something more than a politician- perhaps a president like Ron Paul or Alan Keyes. But that's really not going to happen, and dreaming about it has made me a little blind to the fantastic leaders we already have: our clergy. I feel kind of like the Jews of Jesus' time: wishing for a political leader, and getting the Lord himself instead...

Jamie Beu

I am so glad that the bishops have started to call out some of these dissenters-in-catholic-clothing. I'd be very interested to see if any of them back up their words with actions (or rather non-actions, as in NOT giving them the Eucharist).

When http://www.comcast.net/articles/news-politics/20080827/CVN.Democrats.Faith/>other faith groups are also challenging Democrats on life issues - well, it makes me feel like we're finally starting to win this culture war.

Unfortunately, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/7754772>Pelosi is not backing down. (I forget - who elected her Pope of the Americas?)

Keep up the pressure. Keep up the pro-life donations. And, most importantly, keep up the prayers!

BobCatholic

What we need is a real wall of separation of Mirror and State.

The minute a politician ego-trips, we can invoke the wall against them.

David B.

Well, the bishop is the church is the magisterium, and her bishop has no problem, apparently, with her communing regularly. Good to see how human authority clears up any disagreement on doctrine.

labrialumn,

If Pelosi has taught us one thing, it's that one would be well-advised to abstain for talking about that which one does not have adequate knowledge. :-)

The Masked Chicken

Arrg!

Pelosi said (from the link, above, from Jamie Beu):

Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Pelosi, said in a statement Tuesday that she ``fully appreciates the sanctity of family'' and based her views on conception on the ``views of Saint Augustine, who said:'... the law does not provide that the act (abortion) pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation ...'''

What a lousy way to insult St. Augustine. Since the body is know known to have sensation when the very first neuron develops, St. Augustine would agree with modern assessments about when sensation begins. St. Augustine said, "for there cannot yet be said to be," which indicates a lack of knowledge about when sensation begins, not a lack of knowledge of when a soul is infused. When sensation is known to begin, definitely, in the fetus, this clause in his argument ceases. Then, the actual question arises: does the presence of sensation indicate the presence of a soul? He actually did not actually answer this question. Rather, he said that one could not ask this question, sans sensation.

More than that, he did not say the act of abortion was not sinful and should not be avoided. His discussion only goes to whether or not it pertains to homicide. By this logic, Pelosi should allow wife abuse, short of killing the wife, since it is not homicide and therefore should not be forbidden. That seems to be the logic she is trying to argue, here.

The Chicken

ToddC

Senor Chicken said, "Given that I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to reading "just enough" articles to support "my" opinion (called, confirmation bias), when should I remove the beam from my own eye before commenting and when do I know that I have removed enough of the beam before removing the speck in my brother's eye?"

I think this calls for some discernment as each situation will demand different things on your part as well as your brothers. From what I have read from you on here you seem the type to already take that seriously, so...in all things charity. Deny yourself (ego, pride, etc.) and you will go a long way towards making sure your motives are good. Just remember our Lord has promised that the measure we use will be the measure we get.

"This should be a teaching moment not only for pro-life issues, but related issues, as well. This issue rightly involves the U. S. bishops (and most specifically, Pelosi's bishop), but for other issues in the home or work place, where we may have to be the mouth of moral reason, when do we know enough to comment? Is it better to speak with good intent and be wrong than to not speak at all."

Again discernment of the situation. A normal well-catechized adult should have the wherewithal to know when he knows enough to be helpful or not and more importantly what his motives are. The key, of course, is that if you comment and you are shown to be wrong, you have the grace and goodwill to admit your mistake. Which Ms. Pelosi seems to have decided not to do.

Dan

What this proves to me is that the laity should never get involved in discussing the faith because 99% of the time they're wrong. And, no, the clergy are not interfering in politics. It's their job to correct the idiot laity when they get it wrong.

The Masked Chicken

Well, if 99% of the laity should not discuss the faith 99% of the time, then who's left to stand on the street corner?

The solution is to educate the laity. The famous publisher/apologist, Frank Sheed, who started the Catholic Evidence Guild in England, would not let a lay apologist do apologetics work in Hyde Park until the person had passed both a written exam and an oral exam by a priest. The laity is hungry for information, but they have been hurt by the emotion-based theology of the last forty years. Organizations like catholic Answers are countering this trend, but there is a long way to go.

The Chicken

The Masked Chicken

That should be, Catholic Answers.

The Chicken

Tony Sidaway

I addressed this fuss in a recent article: Nancy Pelosi is right on the history of Catholic thinking on when human life begins. The bishops are putting up a smokescreen to conceal the long history of uncertainty within the Catholic tradition about when life begins. The question of how the Church arrived at the current untenable position probably deserves some investigation.

SDG

The bishops are putting up a smokescreen to conceal the long history of uncertainty within the Catholic tradition about when life begins.

The bishops haven't ignored the history you cite -- on the contrary, you've ignored their clear and direct discussion of that history, most recently and clearly in the fact sheet issued two days ago, which your narrative of "the bishops' smokescreen" conveniently omits.

What's even more absurd is your treatment of a question that Catholic theology hadn't historically definitively answered (when does human life begin?) which has now been definitively answered by science -- and the scientific answer authoritatively embraced by the Church. You sneer at the Church's belief in angels and demons, which science has not refuted, yet blithely ignore the plain scientific facts about the beginning of human life.

CT

The fact sheet is more or less correct as far as I can tell, but it is also somewhat one-sided insfoar as it omits things that could have been concluded but which the including of would have disadvantaged their goals. One cannot expect the committee however to provide a "fair and balanced" presentation; they will provide a presentation which endeavors to persuade unto their agenda -- be it an admirable agenda or otherwise -- even while being faithful to the truth subordinated as such to the agenda but not in contradiction as regards sheer veracity to what happens to be present in the presentation itself. I think that previous sentence was convoluted even for me. Basically, they will be like a defense lawyer advocating for his client as an officer of the court ... more or less -- that's a rough analogy.

CT

"could have been concluded" should be "could have been included"

SDG

The fact sheet is more or less correct as far as I can tell, but it is also somewhat one-sided insfoar as it omits things that could have been concluded but which the including of would have disadvantaged their goals.

Any specific things you might have in mind?

CT

Well I think a few have been mentioned on this blog and some (taking Tony's website's post at face value) by Tony. In addition it doesn't confront issues which are at best ambiguous and at worst lacunas in the Catholic position. The way things are phrased in it -- cautiously but potentially misleadingly -- may give one the impression for example that:

the Catholic Church is expressly (this does not mean solemn definition -- this is just the ordinary English meaning of "expressly") committed to the notion that the rational soul exists at fertilization.

Now there are several problems with that impression. One: that impression appears to be inaccurate as I noted previously. Two: substantively what would that exactly mean? Is a rational soul present the moment the sperm is in physical contact with the egg? Or is it when the sperm actually penetrates that the rational soul is present? Or is it at some later point after the penetration when some kind of further union within the egg takes place that a rational soul is present? And are the problems associated with indeterminate individuation something that can be overcome here?

And now replace the whole "rational soul" thing with "person"

But the fact sheet doesn't even say that a person exists at fertilization. It says that at fertilization (or conception) -- or whatever it says I don't recall specifically at the moment -- that it must be treated with the respect due a person. Now that doesn't logically entail that it actually *is* a person. A child perhaps must be treated with the respect due an adult but that doesnt mean the child *is* an adult. A foreigner (say in a country where foreigners have the exact same legal rights as regards criminal law as citizens) perhaps must be treated with the respect due a citizen in a criminal court, but that doesn't mean that the foreigner *is* a citizen in a criminal court or otherwise.

So that's one problem with the fact sheet. It's a marshalling of facts to persuade, not a true "we report you decide" presentation. It's not even akin to what Aquinas did in presenting what he felt was the best of his opponents arguments and then presenting his rebuttals. It's a fact sheet but it is a "Facts Presented and Selected in a Way Designed to Persuade You Sheet"

SDG

CT: The question as Nancy Pelosi framed it was "When does human life begin?" The fact sheet affirms the "scientific fact that a human life begins at conception." I have already argued that Catholic thought has always understood that a human life = a human soul = a human person. Your argument seems to presuppose the possibility of a "human life" without a "human person" or a "human soul." Can you produce any justification in the history of Catholic thought for such an attempted distinction?

CT

SDG, if the church wanted to expressly say that the rational soul was existent in every case at fertilization or that a human person bears the body of the zygote in every case at fertilization, then it could simply say so. It hasn't. If there were no fear of committing expressly to a potentially philosophically problematic position, then the church could just expressly say "it is a human person" or "it is a human person due the same respect due of any other human person" rather than "it is to be treated with the respect due a human person"

As you can see, to say "it is to be treated with the respect we accord an X" does not entail "it is an X" -- and that's what I took "expressly" to mean in Donum Vitae, not what in my opinion is the misinterpretation that was given by some of that word. And as I am sure you know the language of the Vatican, especially in doctrinal statements, is such that every word has potential significance. I recall JA himself dissecting or parsing words of certain Vatican or other church documents on this blog.

Here is perhaps an illustrative example of the potentially philosophically problematic issues which may motivate (the shift in language where Donum Vitae speaks of express specifically philosophical committments is revealing IMO) the reticence of the church. And as I previously noted, pro-life philosophers may themselves disagree on these thorny issues:

Fission and Zygotes [and drops of water]

P.S. Included also there are some links to more interesting discussion on topics we have discussed such as whether I was once a zygote.

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