A secular radio host called my cell phone while I was busy at a conference, asking me to explain to his non-Catholic listeners whether the Church really considered abortion “sacred.” I was, for a rare moment, speechless. He pointed me to the news piece reporting Nancy Pelosi’s statement to a
Weekly Standard reporter John McCormack, summarized as follows by The Blaze
on June 13:
McCormack asked the California Congresswoman how she reconciles her professed disgust for Gosnell with her condemnation of a bill that would prohibit abortionists from terminating the life of a child moments before birth.
Prominent Catholics, such as Priests for Life president Fr. Frank Pavone, have responded
The former House Speaker was not at all pleased with his line of questioning.
“You’re probably enjoying that question a lot, I can see you savoring it,” Pelosi said in response. “What was done in Philadelphia was reprehensible and everybody condemned it. For [the drafters of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act] to decide to disrespect a judgment a woman makes about her reproductive health is reprehensible.”
“Next question,” she added.
McCormack wasn’t finished: “So what’s the moral difference? I just asked a simple question. … What’s the moral difference then between 26 weeks elective abortion and killing of that same infant born alive?”
“This is not the issue. They are saying that there’s no abortion. It would make it a federal law that there would be no abortion in our country,” she responded.
As mentioned in the above, the bill doesn’t ban “all abortions.”
“As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this,” she added. “This shouldn’t have anything to do with politics.”
forthrightly to what Pelosi said:
With this statement, you make a mockery of the Catholic faith and of the tens of millions of Americans who consider themselves "practicing and respectful Catholics" and who find the killing of children -- whether inside or outside the womb -- reprehensible.
But I didn’t even have time to read Fr. Pavone’s sound and principled statement. I had to go on the air in 5 minutes to respond to this gruesome scandal, so I was forced to wing it. I answered
Whatever Catholic faith you claim to respect and practice, it is not the faith that the Catholic Church teaches. And I speak for countless Catholics when I say that it's time for you to stop speaking as if it were.
, in essence, as follows:
If Nancy Pelosi says that partial-birth abortion is something “sacred” in her religion, I think it’s only right that we take her at her word. There have been a number of religions throughout history that relied on human sacrifice, some of them associated with quite advanced civilizations. (Think of Aztec Mexico.) A few of these civilizations have even practiced infant sacrifice, such as Carthage. Indeed, G.K. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man
saw the Punic Wars as goaded by a healthy Roman disgust for their enemies’ annual slaughter of every first-born infant, offered to their gods in return for guaranteed wealth and success. Which those gods duly provided. More modern religions that practice or advocate such sacrifices include some wings of Satanism. I’m not sure which of these religions Nancy Pelosi practices. The one thing we do know is that she isn’t a Catholic. There is nothing Christian or Judaeo-Christian about a practice that the Jewish prophets denounced—preparing the way for Jews and Christians to rescue unwanted, abandoned infants from the walls of Rome itself.
To be fair, Nancy Pelosi probably does not belong to a cult that sacrifices children to a god or gods in the hope of gaining prosperity or conquering Rome. But there is a strange religious impulse at the heart of the pro-choice ideology she represents so ably in the Congress in defiance of Catholic teaching. And she does seem to have shoehorned what tenets of Catholicism she still accepts into this new religion she practices—rendering whatever creed Pelosi holds a kind of syncretistic mish-mash like Santeria. Her creed maintains that individual choice is absolutely sacred in certain matters and not in others. She isn’t a libertarian who wants to legalize drugs and prostitution, to peel back minimum wage laws or bans on racial discrimination—all of which would follow from a consistent belief in absolute private autonomy. No, as a modern progressive
she believes that the common good can trump a person’s decision, to work for $1.00 per hour, snort cocaine, or refuse to hire minorities.
But there is one area that Pelosi regards as completely sacred, and that is sexual acts. Here we see a superficial resemblance between her beliefs and what Catholics hold: we also see sex as sacred. But the Catholic view is that its sacredness rests in the
entire action in context: an action that unites two married people while remaining open to the creation of a new immortal soul. Pelosi, instead, finds sacredness in just one narrow segment of the act: at the moment one whispers, “Yes!”
Now Catholics can agree with her up to a point: No one wants the state to regulate which adults can consent to sex. Thomas Aquinas taught that not even every action which breaks the natural law is prudent for us to punish. There is a very large realm of autonomy that the government prudently leaves us, to avoid imposing a tyranny that might damage the real goods of personal liberty and family life.
Where Pelosi’s religion is different is that she elevates this state-free gray zone into a mystical good in itself, and extends the aura of sacredness for nine long months. The holy autonomy of a woman’s sexual choices is so transcendent and inviolable that she is
exempt from accepting any consequences for her actions. She retains even the right to end the life of a nearly newborn baby complete with a heartbeat and brainwaves. That is a very large sanctuary Pelosi has built to the god of Sex-Choice, and its altar is daily splashed with innocent blood. So maybe Pelosi was right to invoke religious language; there is no rational case she can make for what she believes.
If human life is cheap enough that it can snuffed out at the brink of birth, then no human choice is logically sacred. The woman whose Sex-Choice Pelosi worships was once a silent, pre-born infant fit for destruction, fair game for her mother to terminate at will. At what point did that girl attain some supernatural dignity, which renders her choices too sacrosanct for the state to mess around with, or for a
Weekly Standard reporter even to ask about? It wasn’t birth—a newborn is not medically different from the late-term fetuses Pelosi would let men like Kermit Gosnell destroy. Given that Sex-Choice is the only area where Pelosi does not support the government stepping in to corral individual citizens’ activities in support of the common good, I think we have our answer: Personhood begins at puberty, at the moment when we gain the power to say yes or no in bed.
From all this we can conclude the nature of Nancy Pelosi’s religion. Described in anthropological terms, it is a sex cult—but not a fertility religion. Instead it centers on pleasure, happy feelings, and multiplying the sheer
quantity of moments when a person feels upbeat and chipper before she dies. Helping the average Jane feel as many such moments as possible before she keels over (or is euthanized) is the purpose of the government, and the job of civil servants is to help benighted citizens who have trouble doing the math to really, really maximize the number of happy moments. Thus does Rep. Pelosi interpret the Founders’ phrase, “the pursuit of happiness.” The average person need not be given too much freedom in most matters—economic, medical, or even political. The only area from which (for religious reasons) the government must step back is in women’s Sex-Choice—which is for some mystical reason, sacrosanct.
I would like to thank Rep. Pelosi for sharing with us her religious beliefs. I leave it to her local bishop to decide whether they qualify her for receiving Holy Communion.
John Zmirak is the author, most recently of, The Bad Catholics Guide to the Catechism and blogs regularly at The Bad Catholics Bingo Hall.