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Press Release

For Immediate Release

St. Augustine + St. Aquinas = Nancy Pelosi's Pro Choice position

(RSM News, August 29, 2008) Recently House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempted a Theological defense of her position on abortion. The Rainbow Sash Movement feels the response from the Hierarchy was a typical example of the breakdown between the Magisterium and lay people. Over the centuries Popes have been known to make infallible statements on dogmatic matters, as to what people should or should not believe in. However, no pope has ever attempted to make an infallible statement on a moral matter on what people should or should not do. That would subvert the role of conscience.

Cardinals and archbishops in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Denver are among those who have criticized her remarks. Archbishop George Niederauer, in Pelosi's hometown of San Francisco, will take up the issue in the Sept. 5 edition of the archdiocesan newspaper, his spokesman said. The latest came Wednesday from Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, who said Pelosi, D-Calif., "stepped out of her political role and completely misrepresented the teaching of the Catholic Church in regard to abortion."

Unfortunately the Bishops missed the point of Pelosi's statements. Her statements were not as much concerned with abortion itself; rather they were about the guiding principles that allowed her to come to a moral decision on this matter, the “Primacy of Conscience.”

The Rainbow Sash Movement notes that out of all the Bishops responding that none touched on the part that conscience plays in abortion. This could be one of the reasons Cardinal Francis George, President of the National Council of Catholic Bishops has remained silent on the Pelosi matter. He understands the better people are educated in the field of moral principles, the better they will be able to make moral decisions and the more they will grow.

The Bishops are once again engaged in “fuzzy thinking” much like the Bishops of California on the issue of Proposition 8. Their understanding of the debate is all too often total obedience; a position that is dead end and does not allow for moral growth. The role of the Church authority in the moral field is that of assisting consciences. To quote the words of Pope John Paul II “The Church puts herself always and only at the service of conscience.”

When Pelosi referenced St. Augustine she was clearly alluding to the division between St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas on the principle of conscience. St. Augustine concluded that, if our conscience and church teaching are in conflict, we must obey church teaching. On the other hand St. Aquinas concluded that, if our conscience and church teaching are in conflict, we must obey our conscience. Both positions are held by the Church that is why there is confusion.

While the Rainbow Sash Movement agrees that Nancy Pelosi is no moral Theologian, the same can be said of most of the Bishops. It is important to realize that this ambiguity on conscience was reflected in Vatican II's “Gaudium et Spes” paragraph 16, and paragraph 50. It would be wrong for any bishop to quote either side as the Teaching of the Catholic Church without recognizing the tension that exists within the Magisterium on this matter.

How did Pelosi answer the question “What should I do when the teaching authority of the church says one thing my conscience tells me the opposite?” The rest is history. This controversy goes back to the beginning of Christian era. It is clearly the major difference between Augustine and Aquinas on the matter of Conscience verses the Teaching Magisterium.

Finally for individual Catholics, there has been a loss of trust in the authority of the Church in moral matters, and this has left many people without real guidance in their moral lives. It reflects a breakdown of dialogue between the teaching authority and many Catholics as is reflected in the Bishops responses to Nancy Pelosi. To find out more or join the Rainbow Sash Movement please visit www.rainbowsashmovement.com.


Contact Person:
Joe Murray
US Convener
Rainbow Sash Movement


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