No doubt the fires of Hell burned a little warmer and brighter at the Vatican this weekend as Pope Francis met with U.S. speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
The geriatric speaker, 81, and the daughter of a mobbed-up family of Baltimore politicians whose brother Franklin D. Roosevelt d'Alesandra was once arrested for statutory rape, and of course skated on both that charge and another for perjury, was lucky in her choice of popes. Although Francis has called abortion "murder," as the Church has long taught, he has also resisted the notion of some American bishops to deny the sacrament of communion to nominally Catholic politicians who support it.
Indeed, Pelosi was recently criticized by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, her place of residence, after the Speaker claimed to be a devout Catholic who supports a woman’s right to have an abortion.
No one can claim to be a devout Catholic and condone the killing of innocent human life, let alone have the government pay for it,The right to life is a fundamental—the most fundamental—human right, and Catholics do not oppose fundamental human rights. To use the smokescreen of abortion as an issue of health and fairness to poor women is the epitome of hypocrisy: what about the health of the baby being killed? What about giving poor women real choice, so they are supported in choosing life? This would give them fairness and equality to women of means, who can afford to bring a child into the world.
There are really three distinct ways to look at human life. One, that human life is unique and involves a God-given soul that is given to each person at the moment of conception. Anyone who believes that cannot and should not support abortion in any way. If you are of this frame of mind, then no one has a “right” to an abortion any more than any person has a “right” to blow away an annoying two-year-old.
We should certainly be tolerant of women who choose abortion, as we should be tolerant of all sinners since, after all, we too are sinners. But to love the sinner does not mean one should approve of the sin.
The second way to look at human life is to say that we are uncertain of its significance. Perhaps it is unique and perhaps it involves a soul. Perhaps it is neither. Perhaps one applies, but not the other. We simply do not know and it is up to each person to figure out what he or she believes.
This is of course the classic path that justifies the legality of abortion. Since people can disagree about when human life begins and what makes human life different, each prospective mother should be able to make a choice that is consistent with her beliefs.
Speaker Pelosi is free to be an advocate of this line of thinking, but she needs to be crystal clear that to a Catholic – specifically the “devout Catholic” she claims to be – this reasoning is completely and unalterably inconsistent with the Catholic faith. It is as inconsistent as claiming to be a devout Catholic who supports a communicant’s “right” sell the Eucharist to devil-worshipers.
Catholics believe some things are sacred, such as the Eucharist and human life from the moment of conception. There is no “wiggle room” that allows us to say its all right for someone to abuse or destroy what is sacred.
It is worth noting that the original Roe v. Wade decision recognized that medical advances would make the life of a fetus outside the womb more and more possible at earlier and earlier stages of pregnancy as medical science advanced. Thus the “trimester formula” was part of the decision: no abortions allowed in the third trimester, abortions possible but limited in the second trimester, and abortions allowed in the first trimester. (And yes, I’m over-simplifying, but this is a column, not a legal treatise).
So why are late term abortions routinely performed? Because there were two escape clauses incorporated in Roe: 1) the court said that a fetus is not a person and thus not entitled to protection under the 14th amendment (thanks Potter Stewart), and 2) if the health of the mother was at stake, then abortions could happen at any time. In a subsequent decision the court decided that the “health of the mother” essentially included her emotional state, ergo if being pregnant made a woman sad, she could have an abortion whenever she wants, ergo any woman can have an abortion whenever she wants.
There is third way to look at human life: that it is neither unique nor involves a soul. It is a mere accident of nature. This is the depressing view of the atheist, a materialistic doctrine that values human life no more than that of a rat or a stalk of corn. It holds that we blinked into existence for our short stay in the material world and will blink out of it, never to manifest any other form of existence. We just disappear.
This mindset not only finds abortion a perfectly reasonable proposition, it eventually leads to the horrors of eugenics and euthanasia. Indeed, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger was primarily interested in using birth control as a means to prevent the spread of what she considered to be “mongrel races” like our black- and yellow-skinned brothers and sisters. It is an evil way of thinking that spawns systems like Nazism and Communism.
As a Catholic, I fully recognize the problems my church has had and the mistakes that it has made. It is a human institution and human beings are fallible. But there is no mistaking the Catholic view that abortion is the taking of a human life and no Catholic should support it. Pelosi, like Joe Biden -- another nominal Catholic -- needs to pick a lane.