Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Clear or Cloudy Beliefs?

Father John J. Lombardi

One of the most prominent Catholics in the United States, Nancy Pelosi, and Speaker of the House of Representatives appeared last Sunday on "Meet the Press" and she was asked when life begins. She recalled St Augustine said at three months, and then she added that doctors of the Church over centuries had made no definite conclusion about when human life begins in the womb.

Interviewer Tom Brokaw, then said, "But the Church feels very strongly that life begins at conception," to which Pelosi responded "this is an issue of controversy."

Perhaps Speaker Pelosi doesn't know that for the last 150 years scientists have taught that a human life begins at conception; and that sonograms today clearly show human life forming from earliest stages.

Some folks rightly got on the Speaker's case saying she is misrepresenting the Catholic Church's teaching. How so? Well, for one thing by pointing to St Augustine who lived sixteen hundred years ago, didn't have the scientific knowledge we have today; and wasn't teaching authoritatively for our Church.

Mrs. Pelosi also seems to be obfuscating by implying that issues of when life begins and abortion are "still up for grabs." It is not the prerogative of Mrs. Pelosi to interpret the teachings of the Church, in fact, she has blurred those teachings. Public officials, especially Catholic lawmakers, should be well-informed about natural law. Those laws which are certain truths that are "written in our nature" by God and knowable by all

So, here are top three facts the Catholic Church teaches and we should remember: 1. Abortion is gravely immoral 2. Human life begins at conception. 3. Killing the innocent is wrong and that it is a duty to defend and protect the most defenseless.

This is what our country is about, defending the most innocent and poor. Just as today hopefully no one would defend slavery, sex trafficking or child abuse. These are obviously evil and against common sense and basic human life 101. So too, should we defend the unborn and challenge abortion.

However, it is also a very serious issue when a politician or anyone begins to cloud the issue, inappropriately speaks for others, or rationalizes and misleads others.

Here's a case that's just the opposite: St. Thomas More, a public official in the 1500's in England was challenged by King Henry to give him a divorce and basically turn the Catholic Church over to him as the King. Thomas said no; said no again, and at death, a final "no." Thomas knew what Henry wanted was wrong, immoral and impossible. It was against Natural law to marry many times and betray the Pope by revolting against him. So, Thomas More, a married man and father of five, was then beheaded. Now, he's a saint and inspires many. We need more courageous politicians like him today.

Many say today that abortion is a debatable issue and there are many sides a Catholics can take on it. These are erroneous opinions. There are many important debatable issues today from war to poverty to education, but abortion, stem cell research or euthanasia are not debatable. They are always gravely immoral; they are non-debatable. Both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI have re-stated this teaching and any Catholic public official involved in morality and legislation should know this.

The issue of our time is abortion because:

  1. there is one about every twenty seconds in the USA;
  2. minority populations are targeted for abortion mills and services;
  3. the right to life it is a human rights issue-
  4. it deals with social justice-how we treat others;
  5. it deals with social justice-how we treat others;
  6. Abortion involves a slippery slope towards a "culture of death" and the disintegration of family and civic life.

Catholic politicians must stop misrepresenting the Church and creating disharmony and should be courageous enough to defend the most defenseless. We should remember Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who performed 70,000 abortions himself before he realized these victims were babies, not just "fetuses." Dr. Nathanson repented, became a Catholic and now travels to spread this message. Here's an "expert" who is clear about when life begins, not only at conception but also when you change your cloudy ways.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi