DENVER (AP) - Under fire from U.S. Catholic bishops, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not backing off contentious comments about abortion she made during a weekend television talk show appearance.
Pelosi said last Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "doctors of the church" have not been able to define when life begins. That prompted swift rebukes from Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl and Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, who said Pelosi was incorrect and that Catholic teaching has consistently condemned abortion.
Cardinal Edward Egan of New York voiced similar sentiment last Tuesday. Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William Lori, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Doctrine, also issued a statement correcting Pelosi.
Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Pelosi, said in a statement last week that she "fully appreciates the sanctity of family" and based her views on conception on the "views of Saint Augustine, who said: '... the law does not provide that the act (abortion) pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation ...'"
The statement from Rigali and Lori said "uninformed and inadequate theories about embryology" in the Middle Ages led "some theologians to speculate that specifically human life capable of receiving an immortal soul may not exist until a few weeks into pregnancy. While in canon law these theories led to a distinction in penalties between very early and later abortions, the Church's moral teaching never justified or permitted abortion at any stage of development."
Daly said that while Catholic teaching is clear that life begins at conception, many Catholics do not agree. He said Pelosi "agrees with the Church that we should reduce the number of abortions" by making family planning more available such as increasing the number of comprehensive age-appropriate sex education and adoption programs, Daly said.
The Catholic Church is opposed to artificial contraception.