Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco addressed on January 13, 2010 a free will defense of abortion by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House:
In a recent interview with Eleanor Clift in Newsweek magazine (Dec. 21, 2009), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about her disagreements with the United States Catholic bishops concerning Church teaching. Speaker Pelosi replied, in part: “I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have the opportunity to exercise their free will.”
Embodied in that statement are some fundamental misconceptions about Catholic teaching on human freedom. These misconceptions are widespread both within the Catholic community and beyond. For this reason I believe it is important for me as Archbishop of San Francisco to make clear what the Catholic Church teaches about free will, conscience, and moral choice.
Catholic teaching on free will recognizes that God has given men and women the capacity to choose good or evil in their lives. The bishops at the Second Vatican Council declared that the human person, endowed with freedom, is “an outstanding manifestation of the divine image.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 17) As the parable of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, makes so beautifully clear, God did not want humanity to be mere automatons, but to have the dignity of freedom, even recognizing that with that freedom comes the cost of many evil choices.
Last week I posted a reaction to House Speaker Pelosi’s interview in Newsweek (cross-posted to First Things‘ “First Thoughts”). Perusing the comments, I discovered that the author of No Hidden Magenta — a blog with the daunting task of “bridging the gap between ‘Red and Blue State’ groupthink” — has responded with fury and dismay:
At least one reason why neither the Pope nor the Archbishop have denied Pelosi Holy Communion–despite having ample opportunity to do so–is because prudential judgments about how best to reflect a moral principle in public policy involved technical considerations of practical reason that do not go to the heart of what it means to be a Roman Catholic; in other words, they are not about the central value at stake. If Speaker Pelosi believes that abortion is a positive good that should be promoted by the state (rather than as a privacy right for all women) that is one thing (and her recent actions with regard to Stupak suggest that she doesn’t think this), but there are any number of good reasons for supporting less-than-perfect public policy as she claims to be doing in trying to reduce the number of abortions while not supporting an abortion ban. …
Now, we can and should have debate about this question–and I think Pelosi is profoundly mistaken in her position on public policy–but let’s be clear: both the Pope and her Archbishop do not think such a position puts her status as a Roman Catholic or as a communicant in jeopardy. And those who think it does would do well to follow their example in distinguishing between ‘moral principle’ and ‘public policy.’
I’m relieved that the author believes Pelosi is “profoundly mistaken” in her position on public policy. I’m less convinced, however, that “the Pope and her Archbishop do not think such a position puts her status as a Roman Catholic or as a communicant in jeopardy”, and the author’s explanation for why they allegedly do not think so.
When Cardinal George requested that pro-life Republicans vote for the Stupak amendment to the health care bill, he was shaming conservative American legislators that they need to stand up for what they claim in public. Cardinal George discounted reasonable Republican objections that this was just a ploy by Nancy Pelosi to get pro-life Democrats on board knowing full well that all pro-life language would be stripped in the joint chambers conference committee.
Was Cardinal George this naive to fall for this parliamentary trick? Can we assume he isn’t this naive?
No, Cardinal George is not this naive because why would the Vatican choose him to lead a diocese? The Vatican certainly takes its time to make wise and knowledgeable decisions don’t they? The Holy Spirit guides them in their work, granted that this is done primarily through the teachings of the Church. Though we can be reasonable enough knowing that the Vatican wouldn’t choose someone who is incompetent to be a shepherd to his flock.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was interviewed in a recent edition of Newsweek, in which she had the opportunity to set the bishops straight on the participation of Catholics in public life.
I think you have had some brushes with [church] hierarchy.
I have some concerns about the church’s position respecting a woman’s right to choose. I have some concerns about the church’s position on gay rights. I am a practicing Catholic, although they’re probably not too happy about that. But it is my faith. I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that is that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have that opportunity to exercise their free will.
Is it difficult for you to reconcile your faith with the role you have in public life?
You know, I had five children in six years. The day I brought my fifth baby home, that week my daughter turned 6. So I appreciate and value all that they want to talk about in terms of family and the rest. When I speak to my archbishop in San Francisco and his role is to try to change my mind on the subject, well then he is exercising his pastoral duty to me as one of his flock. When they call me on the phone here to talk about, or come to see me about an issue, that’s a different story. Then they are advocates, and I am a public official, and I have a different responsibility.
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf applies the necessary fisking and muses: “I cannot fathom why she hasn’t been told she must not receive Holy Communion. How much more public scandal does she have to give before the bishops of the places where she resides take concrete action?”
My thoughts exactly. Note that she has already received an admonishment from the Holy See and an invitation to “converse” from San Francisco Archbishop George H. Niederauer.
(Biretta Tip: Lucianne)
Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama continue to spend, spend, spend away money we don’t have. With the public option now firmly established in the current Senate version of the health care bill, Election 2010 comes to mind.
Kick the bums out.
(Biretta Tip: Glenn Foden of NewsBusters)
With the recent scandals rocking the Catholic Church here in America as in President Obama receiving an honorary degree at the University of Notre Shame to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claiming that abortion is an open-ended issue in the Church, we have seen a reemergence of ecclesial leadership on behalf of our shepherds. Many bishops have awoken to the fact that being “pastoral” has been a remarkable failure in resolving the deviancy emanating from Catholics and Catholic institutions.
The upsurge of young adults rediscovering their faith to the excellent parenting of Catholic families in raising fine orthodox Christian children, we have seen what is only the beginning of a Catholic renaissance here in America. And let us not forgot the ever faithful cradle Catholics among us that have contributed in keeping the faith in the tumult arising from the Second Vatican Council to today.
Last night all but one, who voted present, of the House Republicans voted in favor of the Stupak Amendment in spite of knowing that its passage made likely the final passage of ObamaCare. Here is a statement of the House Republican Leadership issued last night before either the Stupak amendment or ObamaCare was passed:
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH), House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN) issued the following statement in support of an amendment offered by Representatives Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA) that would prohibit federal funding of abortions under the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) health care plan: “We believe in the sanctity of life, and the Stupak-Pitts Amendment addresses a moral issue of the utmost concern. It will limit abortion in the United States. Because of this, while we strongly and deeply oppose the underlying bill, we decided to stand with Life and support Stupak-Pitts.
“THE FROGS WHO WISHED FOR A KING
The Frogs were tired of governing themselves. They had so much freedom that it had spoiled them, and they did nothing but sit around croaking in a bored manner and wishing for a government that could entertain them with the pomp and display of royalty, and rule them in a way to make them know they were being ruled. No milk and water government for them, they declared. So they sent a petition to Jupiter asking for a king.
Jupiter saw what simple and foolish creatures they were, but to keep them quiet and make them think they had a king he threw down a huge log, which fell into the water with a great splash. The Frogs hid themselves among the reeds and grasses, thinking the new king to be some fearful giant. But they soon discovered how tame and peaceable King Log was. In a short time the younger Frogs were using him for a diving platform, while the older Frogs made him a meeting place, where they complained loudly to Jupiter about the government.
To teach the Frogs a lesson the ruler of the gods now sent a Crane to be king of Frogland. The Crane proved to be a very different sort of king from old King Log. He gobbled up the poor Frogs right and left and they soon saw what fools they had been. In mournful croaks they begged Jupiter to take away the cruel tyrant before they should all be destroyed.
“How now!” cried Jupiter “Are you not yet content? You have what you asked for and so you have only yourselves to blame for your misfortunes.””
Like most conservatives, after last year’s election I thought that Obama would prove a President Crane as far as conservatives were concerned. With large Democrat majorities in the House and Senate I assumed that Obama would implement changes in this country to send it on a left-ward trajectory. Instead, other than passing the Bankrupt the Nation Act of 2009, sometimes erroneously called the Stimulus bill, Obama has accomplished virtually nothing, a fact which even Saturday Night Live is now mocking. This is astonishing considering the size of his victory last year and the strength of his party in Congress. Or is it? I believe there were clear clues from the background of Obama that this might occur.
Yesterday Rush Limbaugh said that Democrats should be denied health care. No, no, wrong radio personality! If Rush had said anything that stupid, rest assured that you wouldn’t have had to wait to read about it on this blog to learn of it. The networks would have been shouting the news and condemnatory editorials would have been thundering from newspapers coast to coast. Instead it was just Garrison Keillor, National Public Radio’s Mark Twain wannabe, who decided that there are just too darn many Republicans and by gosh something should be done about it. (As they would doubtless phrase a call for gopcide in Lake Wobegon.) Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Keillor has this charming sentiment:
When an entire major party has excused itself from meaningful debate and a thoughtful U.S. senator like Orrin Hatch no longer finds it important to make sense and an up-and-comer like Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty attacks the president for giving a speech telling schoolchildren to work hard in school and get good grades, one starts to wonder if the country wouldn’t be better off without them and if Republicans should be cut out of the health-care system entirely and simply provided with aspirin and hand sanitizer. Thirty-two percent of the population identifies with the GOP, and if we cut off health care to them, we could probably pay off the deficit in short order.
Denying health care on the basis of political ideology. Nice guy. Of course Keillor was merely joking. He has a long history of hating Republicans, but I am sure he merely jokes, and perhaps fantasizes, about the deaths of those who have the temerity of disagreeing with him politically and in reality he would never harm a fly. At least a Democrat fly.
At this point it is almost irrelevant what President Obama thinks, says, or does.
As long as former Presidents Carter and Clinton keep calling Americans racists…
As long as Speaker Pelosi refers to Patriots as violent, swastika wearing, un-Americans…
As long as the extreme left on the Democratic Party insist on ignoring a movement that not only contains conservatives and Republicans, but pretty much everyone else in America…excluding most liberals.
Then it really doesn’t matter what the Obama Administration and their proxies continue calling ordinary American patriots.
Thus the only relevant question that can be asked is how badly will the Democrats continue to shoot themselves in the foot?
…It depends on how radical a health care bill they pass.
In the meantime an insignificant handful of crazies the rest of America will wait for another round of insults as they continue to turn a deaf ear to the rhetorical platitudes of an ever increasingly irrelevant presidency.
“I have concerns about some of the language that is being used because I saw … I saw this myself in the late ’70s in San Francisco,” Pelosi said, choking up and with tears forming in her eyes. “This kind of rhetoric is just, is really frightening and it created a climate in which we, violence took place and … I wish that we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm in some of the statements that are made.” Continue reading
Father Roger J. Landry concludes here that the strategy of the Church to privately persuade Catholic pro-abort pols of the errors of their ways has been a flat failure.
“Let us take an honest look at the numbers. When we survey the long list of pro-choice Catholic politicians from both parties — Kennedy, Kerry, Giuliani, Schwarzenegger, Daschle, Dodd, Durbin, Leahy, Mikulski, Pelosi, Delahunt, Capuano, Markey, McGovern, Meehan, Granholm, Sebelius, Pataki, Richardson, Cellucci, Cuomo, and Biden to name just a handful — is it possible to say that the strategy has worked with any of them? Over the last three and a half decades, can we point to even one success story?
Another way to assess the results of the education-alone strategy is to measure the direction that pro-choice Catholic politicians have moved over the years. Even if they haven’t experienced a total conversion, have they moved closer toward limiting abortions or toward making abortions easier to access? The facts show that the vast majority of personally opposed, publicly pro-choice Catholic legislators have become far less personally opposed and far more publicly in favor over the duration of the strategy.
In the initial years after Roe versus Wade, publicly pro-choice Catholic legislators generally whispered their support for abortion. They displayed a palpable sense of shame, letting their abortion position out just enough so that it wouldn’t cost them the votes of abortion supporters. That discomfort began to dissipate after Governor Mario Cuomo’s 1984 pro-choice defense at Notre Dame. We’ve now come to a situation when pro-choice Catholic legislators vigorously curry the favor of Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Emily’s List; scores of Catholics in Congress have the chutzpah to co-sponsor the Freedom of Choice Act, which would eliminate almost every abortion restriction ever passed at the federal or state level; and 16 out of 25 Catholic Senators vote against conscience protections to prevent their fellow Catholics in the medical field from being forced to participate in abortions and sterilizations.”
Father Landry ends by suggesting a new approach, perhaps we might call it the “more than hot air” approach:
“Jesus spoke of a different way in the Gospel (Mt 18:15-18). It involves not merely general educational statements that we hope offenders will apply to themselves in conscience, but the type of one-on-one instruction traditionally called fraternal correction. If that fails, and fails repeatedly, Jesus enjoined us to regard the offender as someone who no longer belongs to the community, who is no longer a member in good standing. This may seem harsh, but we should remember that Jesus always seeks nothing but the best for his Church and for individual sinners, even obstinate sinners. Implied in Jesus’ strategy is that education involves not just information, but formation, and that you can’t form disciples without discipline. This is a lesson that, after four decades of the undeniable failure of another approach, we need to consider anew.”
Hattip to my friend the ever vigilant Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia, and please go here to read his comments on Father Landry’s argument.
On the surface this would seem a fair evaluation but if you dig a little deeper, those on the Left may well be making another crucial misdiagnosis of the source and cause of this reaction.
First lets examine the prism that those on the Left have viewed this reaction.
President Obama will be dropping the socialistic Public Option from his government-run health care plan. This will certainly anger the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and make for some interesting showdowns with both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (emphasis mine).
“…Obama’s willingness to forgo the public option is sure to anger his party’s liberal base. But some administration officials welcome a showdown with liberal lawmakers… …The confrontation would allow Obama to show he is willing to stare down his own party to get things done.”
Today Senator Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said that senators are excluding a provision on end-of-life care from the House bill. This is a major victory for ordinary Americans.
As senior citizens voice their displeasure with “death-panels” and other provisions in the House bill, the Democrat leaders are grudgingly realizing that maybe, just maybe, some provisions in their House bill will not pass with the American public.
The most recent polls show that the demonizing tactics of President Obama and Speaker Pelosi have failed to cover the growing grassroots activism that is rising among ordinary Americans.
There are two observations I have noticed during this health care debate that President Obama and Congressional Democrats have been pushing.
One, there is anger from the American people concerning the direction and the destination of health care ‘reform’. Genuine anger. The unfortunate problem is that a small minority have chosen to shout down congressional leaders in Town Hall meetings that have proven to be a distraction at best and a public relations disaster at worst. Those that oppose any health care ‘reform’, especially the socialist laden package that is currently being drafted, should respect the opposition and engage in constructive dialogue. Showing anger and disrespect to your elected officials is simply wrong and uncalled for and should be stopped now.
Which leads to my second observation and the accusations that this grass roots opposition to health care ‘reform’ is being labeled as astroturf. Due to the cooperation of the mainstream media in failing to provide unbiased programming of the health care debate in addition to leading Democrats from President Obama to House Speak Nancy Pelosi having mislabeled genuine American concern of government intrusion via health care ‘reform’ as artificial. If leading Democrats continue to mischaracterize the opposition as such, they will do this to their own detriment. Meaning a possible loss of one or both chambers of congress in the 2010 Congressional Elections and possibly the executive branch in 2012. They need to take the American people seriously, not ignore the problem.
Just my two cents worth.