- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 30, 2008

Nineteen Roman Catholic Republican members of Congress have written to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urging her to “correct the public record” on remarks she made a week ago on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion.

“As fellow Catholics and legislators, we wish you would have made a more honest effort to lay out the authentic position of the Church on this core moral issue before attempting to address it with authority,” said the letter, delivered to the speaker on Tuesday.

“Your subsequent remarks mangle Catholic Church doctrine regarding the inherent sanctity and dignity of human life; therefore, we are compelled to refute your error,” it added.

Mrs. Pelosi had said the Catholic Church has been divided over abortion and only in the past 50 years has taught that life begins at conception. The remarks were quickly condemned by the bishops of New York, Washington, Denver and Pittsburgh as well as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Catholic officials have stressed that despite different understandings over 2,000 years about when life begins, their church has always considered abortion a grave moral evil.

The signers of the letter asked Mrs. Pelosi to “rectify your errant claims and apologize for misrepresenting the Church’s doctrine and misleading fellow Catholics.”

All the signers, including Minority Leader John A. Boehner, of Ohio, are Republicans. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, who spearheaded the effort, said that was a deliberate decision so as not to put pro-life Democratic lawmakers in an awkward position.

“We will leave them to act according to their consciences,” he said.

Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Mrs. Pelosi, said the speaker will not respond beyond noting a statement she released Tuesday afternoon citing the 4th-century teaching of St. Augustine as support for her original comment.

Mr. McCotter called Mrs. Pelosi’s Tuesday response “totally off the point of church teaching.”

“She does not understand the issue nor appear to want to,” he said. “Saint Augustine was talking when the soul enters the body. She was talking about the church’s position on abortion.

“I’d have understood if she confused the two initially, but now the record has been corrected by others. There seems to be a willful refusal by her to say her argument was wrong.”

Mr. McCotter said he felt an obligation to clarify the church’s teaching because Catholics are the largest single religious denomination in the House with 43 Republican and 89 Democratic adherents.

The other 17 signers are: Reps. Steve Chabot, Ohio; Virginia Foxx, North Carolina; Phil Gingrey, Georgia; Peter T. King, New York; Steve King, Iowa; Dan Lungren, California; Devin Nunes, California; John Sullivan, Oklahoma; Pat Tiberi, Ohio; Phil English, Pennsylvania; Jean Schmidt, Ohio; James T. Walsh, New York; Jeff Fortenberry, Nebraska; Michael McCall, Texas; Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin, Walter B. Jones, North Carolina and Mike Ferguson, New Jersey.

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