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Health Care, the Sophistry of Nancy Pelosi and that 'Conscience Thing'

By Deacon Keith Fournier
November 23rd, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Not only do our consciences need to be formed, they can also become deformed and regularly need to be re-formed. That is all too evident when we look at the way in which some Catholics, like Nancy Pelosi, approach political participation.She intentionally confuses others about what the Catholic Church teaches concerning conscience. Consciences are "good" when they are properly formed in the truth which leads the person to do what is good. Pelosi does not understand that "conscience thing"

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Over the last several years Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi has intentionally misrepresented that her position opposing the fundamental human right to life for children in the womb fell within the prerogative of a Catholic exercising her "conscience". She has flagrantly misrepresented the unbroken teaching of her own Church for over two millennia concerning its opposition to all procured abortion.

She has been corrected by her Bishop, reminded of the true teaching of the Church by the Pope himself and repeatedly exposed in her error by other Catholics. Her incorrect claims concerning Church history and her overt dissent from the teaching office of the Catholic Church is irrefutable. Yet, she persists in her subterfuge.

Recently, the Lifestyle Section of the Washington Post interviewed the Congresswoman. She was asked about efforts by the leadership of  her own Church to ensure that there are conscience provisions in place to prevent Catholic Hospitals and Doctors from having to dispense contraceptives, (some of which are abortifacients) or perform abortions under the Obama Health Care legislation.

She once again claimed "I'm a devout Catholic and I honor my faith and love it - but they have this conscience thing".  She went on to assert that Catholic medical professionals who opt out of performing abortions would be "letting women die on the floor." She said that efforts to protect health care providers from violating conscience were "savage." 

This all happened after Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the President of the United States Bishops conference, made these very dangers eminently clear at the recent General Assembly of the Bishops. He also personally visited with the President of the United States to argue for conscience protections! Nancy Pelosi knows this but persists in her public sophistry.

One of the great scandals of our age is Catholics in public life being unfaithful to the teaching of the Church. The Council Fathers in Lumen Gentium (Light to the Nations) used a phrase which has been repeated many times since then in numerous teachings from the contemporary Popes and is a favorite of our own U.S. Bishops. They warned of the "separation between faith and life." They called it one of the "greatest errors of our age". Clearly, it is advanced by Nancy Pelosi. 

Let's cut to the chase, killing our first neighbors in the womb in the name of "choice" is evil, sick and unlawful. It also violates the Natural Law even if the current positive law allows it. It is barbarism. As Catholics we agree that humans are "free" to choose. However we insist that some choices are always wrong. Perhaps the most obvious example is treating an entire class of human persons as property to be used - and killed- rather than a gift to be received. 

As Catholic citizens in the United States of America, we have been able to flourish. That is because the founding documents of this Nation, (even if it took centuries to understand their implications in certain areas), articulated truths derived from the classical Natural Law thinking of Western Christendom.

These truths were set forth in the great philosophical tradition of the Latin Church in St. Thomas Aquinas and derived from the teachings of the early Fathers of the Church. They are the fruit of the tree of liberty whose roots are sunk deeply in the Biblical texts, Old and New Testament.

The American founders insistence upon the existence of "unalienable rights" which are "endowed by a Creator" on every person was inspired by this Jewish and Christian patrimony. The Declaration is the Birth Certificate of the American Republic. Our assertion that there are universally recognized rights, truths and obligations has informed the foundation for the Western understanding of the Rule of Law. It is the source of our liberties.

There is a "Natural Law" which is written on our conscience. That Natural Law is a participation in God's law. It is knowable through the exercise of reason by all men and women, whether they acknowledge God's existence or not. It is that Natural Law which is the measuring stick for any truly just "positive" or "civil" law. When we fail to recognize this we lose our way and we lose our freedom. Our history attests to this.

The words of Section 1733 of the Catholic Catechism remind us "There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom.." A little later in this profound text, the Catechism reminds us that "From its outset, human history attests the wretchedness and oppression born of the human heart in consequence of the abuse of freedom."

Nancy Pelosi seeks to mislead fellow Catholics about the clear teaching of the Catholic Church. She has the arrogance to pretend that in so doing she is acting as a faithful Catholic. She disparages the claim of conscience exemptions for those who refuse to perform abortions or dispense contraceptives - but then tries to take refuge behind the same claim when she opposes the Right to life.

She intentionally confuses others about what the Catholic Church teaches concerning conscience. Consciences are "good" when they are properly formed in the truth which leads the person to do what is good. Freedom "perfects" a human person only when it is exercised in accordance with what is truly good.

Not only do our consciences need to be formed, they can also become deformed and regularly need to be re-formed. That is all too evident when we look at the way in which some Catholics, like Nancy Pelosi, approach political participation. They seek to refer to such words as "intention" to somehow justify their errant behavior in supporting intrinsically evil acts such as procured abortion.

St Paul addressed the early Christians in Rome concerning the implications of misusing the concept of intention in the process of making moral choices. He cautioned them about an approach which argues that evil may be done as long as there is a good intention. "There are those who say: And why not do evil that good may come? Their condemnation is just' (Rom 3:8) Catholics are called to form their consciences in accordance with what is true and then to act morally, that is to act in accordance with that truth.

People like Nancy Pelosi seek to take refuge behind the claim that they support the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church. However, social Justice is an expression of social charity. It affirms the truth concerning our obligations in solidarity to one another. "One another" includes the littlest human persons, children in the womb. There is nothing even remotely "just" about legalized abortion, period.

The Catechism summarizes the duties of both civil authorities and of good citizens in its Section entitled "Life in Christ" at Sections 2234-2246. The problem is that many Catholics do not understand that we must educate our consciences in order to ensure that they conform to the truth as revealed in the Natural Law and expounded upon in Revelation.

There has been some poor teaching in the arena of moral theology which has left the faithful confused on subjects of profound importance to living as Christians. It has led to people speaking as though our "conscience" somehow equates with our "feelings" or is an aspect of our own opinion.

Not only do our consciences need to be formed, they can become deformed - and regularly need to be re-formed. That is all too evident when we look at the way in which Catholics like Nancy Pelosi approach political participation.

She supports policy positions which are directly at odds with the teaching of her Church and the Natural Law on the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death. It is time for Nancy Pelosi to understand that "conscience thing", for her own sake - and the common good of the Nation she was elected to serve. 

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