Anthony Stevens-Arroyo, contributing to the Washington Post/Newsweek blog On Faith
demonstrates an extraordinary ability to gravely miss the point of Pelosi's comments, and do so glibly.
First, the glib:
"After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke about the abortion issue in a television interview, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington issued a clarifying statement.
Rather than a put-down as some had expected, however, the Archbishop did a dance with her."
Oh, isn't that cute. They're doing a little dance together. One problem: they're dancing around the issue of abortion.
In the interview, Pelosi had said that the Democratic Party's position reflected the religious pluralism of the country.
Wrong. Pelosi did not make claims about the Democratic Party's position on abortion. She made claims about the Catholic Church's teaching on abortion. If she had made claims about the Democrat Party's position on abortion, there would have been nothing to talk about. In fact, she went beyond that and made (erroneous) claims about the Catholic Church.
That's why the bishops responded. This is a fundamental point, and Stevens-Arroyo completely misses it.
More missing-the-point by Stevens-Arroyo:
The House Speaker had talked about the scientific dimension of the issue: the Archbishop emphasized the theological (or metaphysical) definition. They were moving in lock-step but in different directions - just like partners in a dance.
Wrong again. In regards to abortion and the question of when life begins, part of the theological point is that scientifically one can know that human life begins at conception. They aren't moving in "different directions" - they are approaching the same truth from different perspectives.
Even more missing-the-point by Stevens-Arroyo:
Other bishops continue to repeat the theological opinion, which of course they should do. However, while theologians can speak authoritatively about the need to respect the moment of conception, it is "above their pay grade" to put on a biologist cap and define scientifically when that moment occurs.
First of all, using Obama's infamous "above my pay grade" line isn't going to win you any friends among rational, informed Christians. Second, wrong: this was exactly the point of Cardinal Egan - being Catholic doesn't make you automatically incapable of doing science, no matter that Pelosi tried to claim a disingenuous scientific agnosticism about the time when life begins at the same time as proposing a false theological relativism when confronted with the question of when this life deserves protection. (Honorable-mention third point: Pelosi didn't limit herself to defending early abortions, she also brought in second, and third-trimester abortions.)
Now, not just missing-the-point, but being actively wrong, by Stevens-Arroyo:
Fertility doctors, who are the experts on this matter, distinguish between a "fertilized egg" and "conception." Only when the embryo is implanted in the womb does it achieve conception, they say.
Notice, first, how the opinion of fertility doctors is supposed to be some sort of trump card. Second, this is not a grammatical question of what one considers a "conceptus." The Church defines conception as the moment of fertilization. And Stevens-Arroyo would be hard pressed to argue that the conceptus undergoes some sort of radical change simply by merit of being physically in the womb as opposed to the fallopian tube.
Now, on top of being wrong, being wrong about what the Church teaches, by Stevens-Arroyo:
Now, Catholic teaching instructs us that even if an embryo is not yet conceived, it has that potential.
Show me where the Church teaches that a "conceptus" is not an embryo. You can't. I'll put it another way, more clearly: embryos do not have the potential to be conceived, they are the result of being conceived.
Back to simply missing-the-point, by Stevens-Arroyo:
Unfortunately, this avoids the real issue for bishops and politicians alike: Does Catholic teaching bind non-Catholics?
That, actually, is a separate question. If Pelosi had kept herself to that sort of discussion, no correction would have been immediately and urgently required. Instead, she decided to claim that Catholic teaching does not bind Catholics. (Seriously, how hard is this?)
More missing-the-point, by even wider margins:
Are Catholic voters obliged by their bishops to take away the right of Protestants (or Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc.) to practice their religion (or atheists to be atheists) in the U.S.?
Honestly, this is so far off topic that it's not even worth chasing.
The rest of the essay trails off along these confused lines, but a couple further line do deserve a highlight:
However, so as long as the bishops give theological answers to political questions, they expose our faith to confused charges of infidelity to the American way.
Stevens-Arroyo is here guilty of the tired separation of church-and-state dualism which claims a question can only be theological or political, and never both (i.e., informed by both). In fact it was Pelosi who trespassed into theological territory when she claimed to present the teaching of the church. She was the one who exposed "our" faith to ridicule and dissemination.
Finally, as a laughable conclusion to this travesty of a commentary:
Speaker Pelosi is no dummy: she spoke correctly from her perspective, just as the Archbishop did from his. It would be a service to Catholics everywhere if the bishops articulated more clearly the need to distinguish between theological teaching and political decision-making.
It's like we're talking about a different person, and reading different words uttered by that person. She did not speak correctly from her perspective - because she spoke as a Catholic. How one can possibly take Pelosi-Gate as an example of bishops failing to make distinctions is simply beyond me. It was they who re-established the destinction after Pelosi had made a mess of it all.
The author's flippant sign-off:
Keep Catholic political leaders and bishops on the dance floor of the public square, I say! The public needs to see the careful intricacy we undergo in living within our shared Catholic conviction. I think the two concerns of theology and democracy can make beautiful music together.
It's one thing to be wrong. It's another, worse thing to be flippantly wrong about issues as grave as abortion, the malicious deceits of Catholic pro-abort politicians, and the response of lay people and Catholic bishops who are trying to instruct the Catholic faithful in this atmosphere of ignorance, self-interest and ... joking.
I've refrained from doing much research into Stevens-Arroyo's other published commentaries. This isn't a hit piece, after all. It's simply a point-by-point illustration of the errors in this piece of his writing.
I do have to add, however, that his June 17th column is titled "When Popes Go To Far
" and argues for
women priests against the 1994 teaching of Pope John Paul II. So maybe he makes a habit of missing the point when it comes to Catholic teaching.
... can someone explain to me again why Newsweek/Washington Post goes to him for "Catholic commentary"?
Labels: commentary, outrageous, pelosi, pro-abort politicians, stupid reporting