Liberal Politicians Turn to Dead Theologians

by Sharon Mahler
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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was on Meet the Press discussing her views on abortion. Host Tom Brokaw asked her when she believed human life begins. She replied:

I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator -- Saint. Augustine said at three months. We don’t know. ... And so I don’t think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins.

Rep Nancy Pelosi, on Meet the Press

Just two weeks later, Senator Joe Biden was on the same news program. When asked a similar question, he gave a very similar reply:

There is a debate in our church, as Cardinal Egan would acknowledge, that's existed. Back in "Summa Theologia," when Thomas Aquinas wrote "Summa Theologia," he said there was no -- it didn't occur until quickening, 40 days after conception.

Sen Joe Biden, on Meet the Press

Thomas Aquinas was a monk who lived from AD 1225 to 1274. He theorized that the unborn child becomes human when he or she begins to move. This happens at about 40 days after conception. Aurelius Augustine was a theologian who lived from AD 354 to 430. He suggested that the unborn child becomes human when he or she has recognizable sex organs, which he put at 40 days after conception if male and 80 days if female.

Modern biologists have concluded that the unborn child becomes human when it possesses a unique set of human genetic material. At this point it has distinct DNA from either parent, and this DNA will pass any genetic test for "humanness" that adult DNA would pass. This happens at conception. (See our article, When Does Human Life Begin?.) Many biologists defend abortion on various grounds, of course, but there is little debate among serious biologists about when human life begins.

So what Pelosi and Biden are saying is that they take the speculations of theologians who died hundreds of years ago over the discoveries of modern science.

Wow. Wow. Wow. Liberals routinely ridicule the Christian Right for taking the words of the Bible over the ideas of modern intellectuals. But at least the Christian Rightist could reply that they believe the Bible is the word of God, and God presumably has known all about biology since he created the world. No one is claiming that Augustine is God or that his words were a direct message from God. He was an intelligent man, but it should not be much of a surprise that he was not familiar with technical scientific discoveries that were not made until 1400 years after his death.

But Pelosi and Biden quote Aquinas and "Senator Saint Augustine" as if their words trump modern science. Wow.


Feel free to read the full transcripts of the interviews. The two replies are so similar that you have to wonder if this argument wasn't worked up as a "talking point" in some strategy meeting.

Pelosi had previously established her credentials as a Biblical scholar. On Earth Day 2008, she gave a speech in which she said, “The Bible tells us in the Old Testament, ‘To minister to the needs of God’s creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us.’ On this Earth Day, and every day, let us honor the earth and our future generations with a commitment to fight climate change.”

Curiously, there is no such verse in the Bible in any English translation. Nor has anyone been able to find a statement similar enough that you could say she just mixed up a few words. Apparently she just made it up.

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Posted Sep 13, 2008

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