On August 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Tom Brokaw on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the Catholic Church has not been able to decide when life begins; she was quickly criticized by many bishops and lay Catholics (including the Catholic League) for misrepresenting the Church’s teaching. No source of criticism was more important than that of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Three days later, Pelosi’s office issued a statement acknowledging that the Church teaches that life begins at conception. However, it also said that St. Augustine offered a different perspective and opined that “many Catholics do not ascribe to that [the Church’s] view.”

Yesterday, the USCCB issued another statement: it was a two-page reply that offered a historical account of the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion. The release makes it clear that the Church has always been unequivocally opposed to abortion. The new statement was written to “help end confusion caused by recent misrepresentations of Catholic Church teaching on abortion,” a process that was “prompted by misleading remarks by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.”

Catholic League president Bill Donohue weighed in as follows:

“Nancy Pelosi continues to give currency to the idea that the Church’s teaching on abortion has evolved over time, and that in any case there is more than one legitimate Catholic position on this subject. She is twice wrong. It is precisely because of people like Morton Kondracke of the Fox News Channel, Anthony Stevens-Arroyo of the Newsweek-Washington Post ‘On Faith’ blog site, and anti-Catholic groups such as Catholics for Choice, that the confusion continues to rage. All of them defend Pelosi’s ignorant remarks.

“Nineteen Catholic members of the House have publicly asked Pelosi to ‘correct the public record’ on this issue. Her steadfast refusal to do so is keeping this matter alive. One wonders what it will take to get her to retract her comments before more damage is done to the Catholic Church, to her and to the Democratic Party.”

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