Politicians who support pro-abortion legislation are engaging in a new trend: publicly citing their faith while addressing abortion. This easily leads to confusion when a politician’s position on abortion disagrees with his or her religion. It’s a distinction that many in the media all too often miss.
Most recently, these comments tying abortion and faith together are from politicians who identify as Catholic, a religion that recognizes abortion as a grave evil. The latest example comes from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who openly cited her Catholic faith while defending taxpayer-funded abortion.
“As a devout Catholic and mother of five in six years, I feel that God blessed my husband and me with our beautiful family,” she said during a press briefing on July 22. “It’s not up to me to dictate that that’s what other people should do. And it’s an issue of fairness and justice for poor women in our country.”
She’s not the only one. Earlier this month, Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut also pointed to her faith while supporting pro-abortion legislation. Rep. DeLauro spoke as the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, as it voted to advance a spending bill without the Hyde Amendment, which prevents taxpayer dollars from funding abortion.
“I’m committed to making real basic principles that honestly are at the heart of my Catholic social teaching,” she began on July 15. “Helping the poor and disadvantaged, protecting the most vulnerable among us, and ensuring that Americans of every faith are given meaningful opportunities to share in the blessings of this great country.”
“The inability to pay for healthcare services, including abortion, is a matter of choice,” she added a few sentences later.
Back in February, before becoming secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra added to this trend when he refused to name any abortion restrictions that he might support. Instead, he brought up his mother’s daily rosary.
“My mother has blessed me this morning as I got ready to come here, and last night I know when she prayed the rosary, as she does every day – every evening with my aunt – that she said a prayer and included me in that prayer,” he responded during a Senate confirmation hearing.
President Biden’s position also presents a conflict: While he calls himself publicly Catholic, he considers himself privately pro-life. In January, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dodged a question about pro-life policy by pointing to Biden’s faith.
"I will just take the opportunity to remind all of you that he is a devout Catholic and somebody who attends church regularly,” Psaki said of the president.
Many in the media recognize Biden as a Catholic president who backs abortion. But, at the same time, Catholic Church teaching challenges abortion. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which summarizes official teaching, recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of the unborn.
“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception,” the catechism reads. “From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”
“Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion,” it adds.
The Church takes abortion, a “crime against human life,” so seriously that obtaining an abortion – and helping someone else get one – are grounds for automatic excommunication.
“Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law,” the catechism says, and “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.”
That said, the Church also emphasizes forgiveness for those who have obtained abortions.
“The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy,” the catechism continues, but instead “makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.”
In his Evangelium Vitae encyclical, Pope St. John Paul II specifically addressed the topic of abortion and politics.
“I repeat once more that a law which violates an innocent person's natural right to life is unjust and, as such, is not valid as a law,” he wrote. “For this reason I urgently appeal once more to all political leaders not to pass laws which, by disregarding the dignity of the person, undermine the very fabric of society.”
The “Church encourages political leaders, starting with those who are Christians, not to give in, but to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the re- establishment of a just order in the defence and promotion of the value of life,” he added.
A doctrinal note on “The Participation of Catholics in Political Life” by The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith elaborated on the late pontiff’s stance.
“John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life,” it read. “For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them.”
As for Speaker Pelosi, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco responded directly: “Let me repeat: 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.”
As the leader of Pelosi’s home diocese, he added, “The right to life is a fundamental – the most fundamental – human right, and Catholics do not oppose fundamental human rights.”
It’s a difference the media should note: Just because a politician ties his or her faith to abortion, doesn’t mean they belong together.