August 27, 2008
(RNS) -- Prominent Catholic prelates are accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., of misrepresenting church doctrine on abortion, saying Catholic law on the issue has been settled for centuries.
Pelosi, America's highest-ranking Catholic elected official, said on "Meet the Press" Sunday (Aug. 24) that she isn't sure when life begins, and that "over the history of the church, this is an issue of
Not so, say several Catholic prelates.
"The church teaches that from the time of conception, 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," said Cardinal
Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., in a joint statement.
The two prelates acknowledged that theologians during the Middle Ages disagreed about when the soul enters a human body and that canon law once proscribed different penalties for "very early and later abortions."
But, Rigali and Lori said, "the church's moral teaching never justified or permitted abortion at any state of development."
Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington said the church's catechism is unequivocal on abortion, and it's important to "make this correction for the record."
"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 Catholic bishops," Wuerl said in a statement.
Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput said that Pelosi has "many professional skills. Regrettably, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them."
Pelosi's comments came in defense of her party's presumptive presidential nominee, Barack Obama. The Illinois senator on Sunday (Aug. 24) told megachurch pastor Rick Warren that the question of when life
begins is "above my pay grade."
Obama's selection of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden once again highlights the uneasy relationship between some Catholic Democrats and church leaders. Chaput recently said that Biden, who is Catholic, should not receive Communion because of his support for abortion rights.
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. Used by permission. All rights reserved.