Vice Presidential hopeful Joe Biden and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi have been told by the Washington and Denver archbishops to not take communion because of their statements and record regarding their belief in Catholicism, particularly on abortion and on when life actually begins.
Archbishop of Washington Chides Pelosi; Dencer Archbishop Warns Biden to Skip Communion
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
By Bill Sammon
Irked by pro-choice Democrats who tout their Catholicism, the archbishop of Washington is chiding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for misstating church history and the archbishop of Denver is warning vice presidential hopeful Joe Biden not to take Communion.
The unusual public rebukes come as both Pelosi and Biden are talking up their faith in a bid for swing voters as Democrats stage their national convention in Denver. In an interview Sunday, Pelosi claimed to be an expert on the church’s abortion stance.
“As an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time,” Pelosi told NBC’s Tom Brokaw, who had asked her when life begins. “And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And St. Augustine said at three months. We don’t know.”
When Brokaw pointed out that the Catholic church “feels very strongly” that life begins at conception, Pelosi said: “I understand. And this is like maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy.”
In an interview with FOX News on Tuesday, Archbishop Donald Wuerl said people need to reflect more before they start talking about church doctrine. He also issued a statement calling Pelosi’s explanation of the church’s abortion stance “incorrect.”
“The current teaching of the Catholic Church on human life and abortion is the same teaching as it was 2,000 years ago,” Wuerl noted. “From the beginning, the Catholic Church has respected the dignity of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death.”
Wuerl cited a passage from the church’s catechism that condemns abortion as “gravely contrary to moral law.”
“Since the first century the church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion,” the catechism states. “This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.”
In an afternoon response, Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said that as mother of five, the speaker appreciates the “sanctity of family.”
“While Catholic teaching is clear that life begins at conception, many Catholics do not ascribe to that view. The speaker agrees with the Church that we should reduce the number of abortions. She believes that can be done by making family planning more available, as well as by increasing the number of comprehensive age-appropriate sex education and caring adoption programs. The speaker has a long, proud record of working with the Catholic Church on many issues, including alleviating poverty and promoting social justice and peace,” said spokesman Brendan Daly.
Biden too has disagreed with the catechism, as evidenced by a 2006 interview he gave to C-SPAN, which asked him about abortion.
“That debate in our church has not morphed, but changed over a thousand years,” Biden said. “It always is viewed by the church as something that is wrong, but there’s been gradations of whether it was wrong. You know, from venial or mortal sin, as we Catholics say, and versions of it.”
But Biden added that since Pope Pius IX’s reign (1846-1878), “it’s been pretty clear that’s been automatic — moment of conception.”
Over the weekend, Biden’s pro-choice views raised the ire of Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput.
“I presume that his integrity will lead him to refrain from presenting himself for communion, if he supports a false ‘right’ to abortion,” Chaput told The Associated Press.
As for Pelosi, Chaput called her “a gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills. Regrettably, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them.”
Chaput added that abortion “is always gravely evil, and so are the evasions employed to justify it.”
During that 2004 presidential campaign, Chaput and a dozen other bishops called on Democratic nominee John Kerry to refrain from taking Communion. The church has also objected to former GOP presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani taking Communion.
“I think some of it is regional,” said Pelosi, whose district encompasses San Francisco, in a recent interview with C-SPAN. “It depends on the bishop of a certain region and, fortunately for me, Communion has not been withheld and I’m a regular Communicant, so that would be a severe blow to me if that were the case.”
On Saturday, when Obama introduced Biden as his running mate, both men made a point of mentioning Biden’s Catholicism. Obama has struggled to win over Catholics, 52 percent of whom voted for President Bush in 2004.
Bill Sammon is Washington Deputy Managing Editor for the FOX News Channel.