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September 03, 2008



I agree, the strong episcopal response is a great thing. Here's the trouble. All that Pelosi et al. have to do is say, "that's not what the majority of Catholics believe" and the MSM will eat it up like the bedwetting sycophants they are. The pro-aborts ultimately don't seem to care if they are out of communion. In our fallen nature, we tend to latch on to whatever version of the truth causes us the least discomfort...and so for a person who is pro-abortion, the least uncomfortable version of the truth is Pelosi's version - so she gets the vote, and by extension so does her party.


Hate to turn this into a catholic vs protestant thing, but it's just so obvious: The Catholic Church is not a democracy. Protestant churches ARE democracies: some quite literally, where their stand on moral issues can hinge on a single vote, but also in the sense that there is the expectation that you can always vote with your feet and splinter off into a subvariant of the denomination. With America being majority protestant, it's not surprising that the media would think that the majority opinion of American catholics somehow matters, when it doesn't.


I have to agree with Olav. The authority issue in Protestant Christianity is one of the things that drove my husband and I to convert to Catholicism (the other, being, of course, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist). The idea that each person is his or her own authority in everything, including religion, is a postmodern idea that followed pretty much from the Protestant Reformation and infected democracy. Our society just doesn't get it that there is a moral authority outside of people's opinions, and that people's opinions just do not affect what this moral authority teaches.


It is so encouraging to see this.

Pam Forrester

American Papist has a list of all the responses in a timeline Aug 27



American Papist has a list of all the responses in a timeline Aug 27

But the timeline stops on August 27. AmP has continued to document subsequent statements, but is no longer updating his timeline. I wish he would.


Archbishop George H. Niederauer's response is here.

James Rich

Well, I have to admit that I love the response from our bishops. I am, however, profoundly disappointed by the non-response of Nancy Pelosi's bishop. His non-response, in my opinion, has been quite deafening. I wonder if the bishop would have been as silent if Nancy said something to the effect that slavery of non-whites has been greatly discussed by theologians and has been accepted at various times by the Church.

How many Catholics and Protestants in the Bay area have been confronted with the choice of abortion these two weeks without a word from the bishop? How many women allowed themselves to be deluded by Nancy's muddying of the water?

Sleeping Beastly

Looks like you missed JoAnna's post above.

You write:
How many women allowed themselves to be deluded by Nancy's muddying of the water?

Likely none. This teaching of the Church is universally understood (even as a heathen, I was fully aware of the Church's position re abortion) and the Bishop did post an unequivocal statement regarding the Church's teaching immediately after the Speaker's comments, although he did not address her personally and publicly until yesterday.

I am actually fairly disappointed in the way Catholics have been jumping all over Archbishop Niederauer for not responding quickly enough. I appreciate the responses of bishops like Chaput and Wuerl, but I don't think it's unreasonable for San Francisco's archbishop to take his time to word his public response appropriately. Archbishop Niederauer has been doing a terrific job for his flock here in San Francisco.



I'm going to comment here instead of the older post where the subject came up as regards the "fact sheet"

Here's another "fact" ommitted in the "fact sheet" which I'll let speak for itself as asserted by a "thomist"

On the separate question of personhood, it would be most reasonable to say it happened at birth, since this is the only point at which common observation can definitively establish the separate and separable existence of the fetus, and it is essential to a living self that it exist in a separate and distinct manner from its parents. Aquinas, for example, denies that the unborn are complete members of the human species, and given the observations he had access to it would have been unreasonable for him to do otherwise.

I'm not sure I would agree with that characterization, but my point here is that this acknowledges the full force of the facts and then attempts to address them whereas the "fact sheet" is more 'artful'

On your point regarding IIRC the assertion in the "fact sheet" that it is a scientific fact that the zygote is a member of the human species. The whole gist of that is to argue that the zygote constitutes a unique human individual, but as I noted in the other post in my mention of fission, in some cases it is unclear that a unique human individual exists. And if one doesn't exist in those cases it's unclear what would ground it existing in some but not all cases. So if the "fact sheet" is going to bring in an element not proper to Catholic doctrine but which is "scientific" it would only be fair for it to include mention of these thorny issues.

I don't think my claim that the "fact sheet" does not endeavor to be fair and balanced is really that controversial.

BTW, Biden has said he is prepared to accept that human life begins at conception. I think the key word there is "prepared"; he would be prepared to accept it if it were expressly committed to by the Church as a doctrinal philosophical position as opposed to just observing what the extra-ecclesial scientific community might be saying (I'm taking Biden to be using "human life" in an ambiguous manner)

I think as an outsider it would have been more productive for bishops to have met privately with Pelosi before publicly scolding her. Indeed Archbishop Chaput declined to say whether he would deny communing to a certain politician, saying he would want to talk with the individual first before making any statement on TV. Publicly going to war against Pelosi invites a naturally defensive reaction. Privately explaining her error (assuming it was one) may have resulted in her making her own statement that her explanation was in error or incomplete or perhaps a joint statement with bishop(s)

Reasonable men can disagree on many things, including whether a particular thing is something it is reasonable to disagree on



I do not see that this Thomist is attempting to offer any "facts." He is trying to address philosophical categories of "personhood" and "self" that are not available for empirical observation, and doing so for rhetorical reasons specifically within the context of "13th-century embryology" (thus the reliance on "common observation," which would be an arbitrary defining criterion in a scientific age).

(FWIW, I would at least cross-examine the adequacy of his discussion even on its own terms. For instance, he argues that "it is essential to a living self that it exist in a separate and distinct manner from its parents." That may be true in some important sense, but it is not true, and I suspect your Thomist might agree that it is not true, that the "separateness and distinctness" must be either (a) available to "common observation" or (b) predicated on physical separability. Even given the criterion of "common observation," consider the case of conjoined twins, particularly radically conjoined twins who are not only not separated, but not separable. Are they therefore not two persons?)

The real point, though, is that the bishops' fact sheet does discuss the philosophical ambiguities in Catholic thought regarding "ensoulment" prior to modern embryology, specifically discussing Augustine and Aquinas, and even mentioning variability in canon law penalties and theological speculations regarding the possibility of abortion prior to "ensoulment" in rare and difficult in cases. Since Pelosi had not mentioned these cases, there was no immediate rhetorical burden to raise them here, other than the effort to be -- fair and balanced.

That said, I'm not sure what you mean by "fair and balanced" in this context. This phrase seems to imply either a meaningless standard of "objectivity," or else impartiality between two presumptively equal points of view, which is neither necessary nor desirable. A "fact sheet" on racism would never have all the "facts" that racists would like to see, and a "fact sheet" numerically evenly divided between "facts" constitutive of racist talking points and "facts" constitutive of non-racist talking points, however useful it might be in some contexts such as a formal debate, would not comprise a correct overview of racism, since racism is wrong.

The bishops' fact sheet establishes the context of the history of the Church's thought on this subject in an accurate, adequate, factual way, confuting the false and misleading statements made by Nancy Pelosi. While it is always possible to include more facts, I have yet to see a particular additional "fact" that could be regarded as glaringly "omitted." Your attempt to dredge up such an omitted "fact" in the musings of this Thomist suggests to me the bishops did an excellent job.

The bishops had an obligation to speak publicly and at once. Pelosi's public comments on Meet the Press constituted public scandal, and the shepherds of the Church are obliged for the good of souls to preach the truth and rebut error.

Finally, the thing you keep not addressing is the identity of the concepts of "human life," "human soul" and "human person" in Catholic philosophical thought -- particularly Thomism. Since "the soul is the form of the body," wherever there is a living human body there is necessarily a living human soul constituting a living human person. The ambiguity about "ensoulment" was thus always a discussion about when human life begins. Since this is now no longer in question, St. Thomas himself would regard the question of "ensoulment" as definitively set at conception. If you have any counter-evidence against this, you are welcome to present it.

A thomist

My post has been quoted and critiqued in this thread, but I think the discussion more pertains to the answer I gave to a comment on the post.

The typical abortion dialectic goes like this: a fetus (understood in the broad sense of whatever exists between conception and birth) is either a person or not. If it is a person, we cannot destroy it; and if it is a non-person, then we can. But the second prong of this dilemma as false. First of all, notice that "non-person" is hopelessly vague: fingers, cars, and the color of last Tuesday are all "non-persons". "Non-person" can in fact be said indifferently of what exists and what does not! We need to give a positive account of something in order to get a clear view of whether we can destroy it or not.

When we give a clearer, positive account of the matter, the question of ensoulment is entirely contained within a discussion of whether the fetus is a person, or the complete principle of a person. But a complete principle of a person is defined in relation to someone distinct from either of his parents, and so it cannot be considered either a mere part of his parents, or as their property. The good of the fetus- person or not- cannot be reduced to the good of the parents, but belongs to the person who either exists or will come to be.

Briefly, even if someone stipulates that the fetus is a non-person, what follows is not that abortion is permitted, but that some non-persons cannot be destroyed for the good of other persons.

Thomas E. Vaughan

It may be that everyone already knows about this, but I just read yet another response from the bishops, this time from Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Lori. This response is dated September 09, and it is directed against Senator Biden.


This response from the bishops is particularly good in pointing out, as I have seen Archbishop Chaput point out in a live interview, that a Catholic must *not* regard opposition to abortion as merely a private religious matter, as if such opposition should not be "imposed" on others.

Very heartening.

catholic maverick

The fact that the Coloroda Bishops, including Chaput, refused to endorse a proposition in the November 2008 ballot that would have merely defined personhood to begin at fertilization is a strong indication that they or the members of a subset of the them are well aware of the fact stated in Donum Vitae, that the magisterium has not expressly committed itself to any such proposition, where "expressly" doesn't as outlandish interpretations suggest mean "solemnly or ex cathedra" but means simply as it does in the Latin and in ordinary English, "specifically and explicitly, especially in a committed way". Furthermore, these Colordo Bishops or the members of a subset of them, have stated that it is a matter of "prudential judgment" as to whether to endorse the proposition. This cannot merely be masked as a strategic decision in terms of contesting things in court. The fact is it is likely that they or some of them are aware that the fact of whether a person ontologically exists at fertilization is a matter on which the Church has not ruled or even as Donum Vitae states "expressly committed" herself too.

Let's grant however the ridiculous and discredited assumption that things which the Church has stated, be it in a definitively binding way or not, logically entail that there is ontologically a person with a rational soul at fertilization.

That wouldn't make that derived belief "de fide". It would make it at best "sent certa" as it would be a truth that is deduced by more than one step of reasoning from something definitively taught as dogma. It is "sent certa" that Christ was aware in his created human nature of his divinity and that he possessed in his created human nature the beatific vision from the moment of the Incarnation, at least that is what traditional Catholicism states. Avant garde Catholicism, perhaps supported by some here, and seemingly supported in this respect by the Vatican and Pope who seem open to more modern accounts. It is difficult to see how a zygote would be aware of anything as it has no brain. It is difficult to see how a zygote could be receive a beatific vision.

"de fide" means it must be believed by divine faith and catholic faith. Many Catholics are ignorant of what either of these terms mean. Divine faith means that it is to be believed on the authority of God revealing. This should be stated in any systematic theology text, the "go to" Ludwig Ott Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma text of fervent popular Catholicism would probably stated this as would the Catholic Encyclopedia, part of catholic.com. Catholic faith means that it is believed on the authority of the Church. These two don't always coincide. The Church has the authority to infallibly declare things that are not revealed by God. For example, canonizations.

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