By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 3, 2008 ( – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released another statement yesterday condemning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s defense of her avowedly “Catholic” pro-abortion views, this time outlining Church history in detail to prove that abortion has always been considered a grave evil, at any stage of human development.

Pelosi first drew ire from Catholic officials when, after Tom Brokaw of NBC’s Meet the Press asked her when life begins in the womb, she claimed that as an “ardent, practicing Catholic” she discovered that the Catholic Church “was not able to make that definition.”  She said that “St. Augustine said at three months” and “we don’t know” when life begins.  She then went on to explain that the question doesn’t matter anyway, because “it shouldn’t have an impact on a woman’s right to choose.”

In response to the ensuing outrage of bishops and Catholic laypeople, Pelosi’s spokeswoman released a statement three days later acknowledging that the Church does teach that life begins at conception, but insisting that Pelosi legitimately cited St. Augustine in support of her answer.

The statement by the USCCB cites the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which observes, “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.” 

The statement provides a detailed historical outline of Catholic teaching on abortion in support of the Catechism, in order to respond “to those who say this teaching has changed or is of recent origin.”  

Although “knowledge of human embryology was very limited until recent times,” says the USCCB, now-antiquated theories about when life began “never changed the Church’s common conviction that abortion is gravely wrong at every stage.”

The USCCB notes that St. Augustine’s teachings never condoned abortion, contrary to Pelosi’s suggestion, but along with the Church considered abortion an evil whether or not the embryo had yet been vivified. 

“[St. Augustine] knew of theories about the human soul not being present until some weeks into pregnancy. . . . But he also held that human knowledge of biology was very limited, and he wisely warned against misusing such theories to risk committing homicide.”

The statement concludes: “Given the scientific fact that a human life begins at conception, the only moral norm needed to understand the Church’s opposition to abortion is the principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with the respect due to a human person.”

Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, commented on the confusion that Pelosi’s statements have fostered: “It is precisely because of people like Morton Kondracke of the Fox News Channel, Anthony Stevens-Arroyo of the Newsweek-Washington Post ‘On Faith’ blog site, and anti-Catholic groups such as Catholics for Choice, that the confusion continues to rage. All of them defend Pelosi’s ignorant remarks.”

Despite nineteen Catholic members of the House petitioning the Speaker to correct her statements, she has refused, and Donohue said, “Her steadfast refusal to do so is keeping this matter alive.

“One wonders what it will take to get her to retract her comments before more damage is done to the Catholic Church, to her and to the Democratic Party.”

To read the USCCB’s statement, go to:

See related coverage:

“Catholic” Speaker Pelosi Denies that Catholicism Condemns Abortion

Cardinals, Bishops and Congressmen Slam Pelosi on Abortion

New York Cardinal – Pelosi Not Worthy of “Providing Leadership in a Civilized Democracy”

Pelosi Spokeswoman About-face: Catholic Church “Clear” on Life Teaching After All – But Catholics Need Not Listen


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