Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pelosi was right

REP. PELOSI: 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--St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child--first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester. There's very clear distinctions. This isn't about abortion on demand, it's about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and--to--that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god. And so I don't think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins. As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who've decided...

The claim is being made repeatedly that Pelosi is incorrect in these statements. The reality is whatever one's current opinion may be her knowledge of history and doctrine is accurate. For example in Summa Theologica Aquinas unequivocally rejects the opinion that semen carries with it some supernatural force that causes ensoulment. Rather in his opinion ensoulment occurs almost 2 months after coitus / fertilization. He separates off the sensitive soul, that is the soul capable of responding to sense input from the intellectual soul, that is the soul capable of engaging in reason. So in his view sex produces a human like animal by itself but the creation of an actual human requires the work of God and has a non material component. He goes so far as to consider the current right to life position (that the intellectual soul is created by fertilization), traducianism, a heresy:
I answer that, It is impossible for an active power existing in matter to extend its action to the production of an immaterial effect. Now it is manifest that the intellectual principle in man transcends matter; for it has an operation in which the body takes no part whatever. It is therefore impossible for the seminal power to produce the intellectual principle.

Again, the seminal power acts by virtue of the soul of the begetter according as the soul of the begetter is the act of the body, making use of the body in its operation. Now the body has nothing whatever to do in the operation of the intellect. Therefore the power of the intellectual principle, as intellectual, cannot reach the semen. Hence the Philosopher says (De Gener. Animal. ii, 3): "It follows that the intellect alone comes from without."

Again, since the intellectual soul has an operation independent of the body, it is subsistent, as proved above (Question 75, Article 2): therefore to be and to be made are proper to it. Moreover, since it is an immaterial substance it cannot be caused through generation, but only through creation by God. Therefore to hold that the intellectual soul is caused by the begetter, is nothing else than to hold the soul to be non-subsistent and consequently to perish with the body. It is therefore heretical to say that the intellectual soul is transmitted with the semen
. (Summa I.118.2.0)
Doctor Hogan of International Catholic University translates into modern language:
The soul is the substantial form of the human being. A substantial form requires matter capable of receiving it. In the case of the human being this means that the human soul can exist only in a highly organized body. What is being presented here is a theory of serial ensoulment -- first a vegetative soul, then a sentient soul, and finally a rational soul. The animation of the new being is immediate at fertilization. But the soul that animates the body is commensurate with the kind of life lived by the body and the degree of organization of the body. So in the early stages the body of the human being is animated by a vegetative soul which organizes the operations of nutrition and growth -- vegetative activities. As the new being develops in complexity and activities, such as sensation a new soul, an animal soul, replaces the vegetative soul. As the development in complexity continues and as the development of sense organs and nervous system progresses, another threshold is crossed. When the material substratum is sufficiently disposed, the rational soul appears and the human being as human being is constituted. (Medical Ethics / Abortion)
The Catholic Encyclopedia gives a very good description of how diverse the opinions have been on Creationism (soul is created by God and exists apart from the body) vs. Traducianism (fertilization creates a soul).
So much for the philosphical or purely rational aspect of Creationism; as regards the theological, it should be noted that while none of the Fathers maintained Traducianism -- the parental generation of the soul -- as a certainty, some of them, notably St. Augustine, at the outbreak of Pelagianism, began to doubt the creation by god of the individual soul (there was never any doubt as to the created origin of the souls of Adam and Eve), and to incline to the opposite opinion, which seemed to facilitate the explanation of the transmission of original sin. Thus, writing to St. Jerome, St. Augustine says: "If that opinion of the creation of new souls is not opposed to this established article of faith [sc. original sin] let it be also mine; if it is, let it not be thine" (Ep. clxvi, n.25). Theodorus Abucara (Opusc. xxxv), Macarius (Hom. xxx), and St. Gregory of Nyssa (De Opif., Hom., c. xxix) favoured this view. Amongst the Scholastics there were no defenders of Traducianism. Hugh of St. Victor (De Sacr., VII, c. xii) and Alexander of Hales (Summa, I, Q. lx, mem. 2, a. 3) alone characterize Creationism as the more probable opinion; all the other Schoolmen hold it as certain and differ only in regard to the censure that should be attached to the opposite error. Thus Peter Lombard simply says: "The Catholic Church teaches that souls are created at their infusion into the body" (Sent. II, d. xviii); while St. Thomas is more emphatic: "It is heretical to say that the intellectual soul is transmitted by process of generation" (I, Q. cxviii, a. 2). For the rest, the following citation from the Angelic Doctor sums up the diverse opinions: "Regarding this question various opinions were expressed in antiquity. Some held that the soul of a child is produced by the soul of the parent just as the body is generated by the parent-body. Others maintained that all souls are created apart, moreover that they are united with their respective bodies, either by their own volition or by the command and action of God. Others again, declared that the soul in the moment of its creation is infused into the body. Though for a time these several views were upheld, and though it was doubtful which came nearest the truth (as appears from Augustine's commentary on Genesis 10, and from his books on the origin of the soul), the Church subsequently condemned the first two and approved the third" (De Potentiâ, Q. iii, a. 9). Others (e.g. Gregory of Valencia) speak of Generationism as "certainly erroneous", or (e.g. Estius) as maxime temerarius. It should, however, be noted that while there are no such explicit definitions authoritatively put forth by the Church as would warrant our calling the doctrine of Creationism de fide, nevertheless, as a recent eminent theologian observes, "there can be no doubt as to which view is favoured by ecclesiastical authority" (Pesch, Præl. Dogm., V, 3, p. 66). Leo IX (1050), in the symbol presented to the Bishop Peter for subscription, lays down: "I believe and profess that the soul is not a part of God, but is created out of nothing, and that, without baptism, it is in original sin" (Denzinger, Enchir., n. 296). That the soul sinned in its pre-existent state, and on that account was incarcerated in the body, is a fiction which has been repeatedly condemned by the Church. Divested of this fiction, the theory that the soul exists prior to its infusion into the organism, while not explicitly reprobated, is obviously opposed to the doctrine of the Church, according to which souls are multiplied correspondingly with the multiplication of human organisms (Conc. Lat. V, in Denzinger, op. cit., 621). But whether the rational soul is infused into the organism at conception, as the modern opinion holds, or some weeks subsequently, as the Scholastics suppose (St. Thomas, Q. i a. 2, ad 2), is an open question with theologians (Catholic Encyclopedia)
The fact of the matter is that Nancy Pelosi is absolutely 100% correct in her assessment of Catholic history. Quite simply to hold the currently fashionable position that ensoulment occurs at fertilization is to deny that identical twins have unique souls. A position that was until recently absolutely denied by the church.

The argument is (again quoting Hogan):
First because the soul is the substantial form of the body, the rational soul cannot be present until there is a body present that is significantly complex and organized to receive the soul. Second, a formal cause is present only in a finished product. An actual human soul cannot be united with a virtual human body. Third, there is no human body in the zygote. Fourth inasmuch as all the positive features of the human body derive from the soul, until the soul is present there is no human being.

See also:


Will said...

Pelosi is pretty clueless. A believing Catholic can not selectively sort through church father's to find something that agrees with her murderous politics. A believing Catholic must accept the infallble teaching of the church.

As an evangelical, I would say to justify such murder, you would need to do so from Scripture. There has to be an authority other than your own opinion (selectively looking through the writings of past Christians does nothing to correct opinion). I am guessing Pelosi (or you for that matter) doesn't accept much of Thomas Aquinas but since that one (in my opinion misunderstood) line it helps her abhorant position (although if Aquinas said 2 months she is still a baby killer).

Maybe that makes her feel better but it doesn't make it true. As John Lennon said, whatever gets you through the night.

CD-Host said...

Will --

I wouldn't say I consider Aquinas an authority in the sense you mean it. But I'm a big fan of Aquinas you'll see him cited here quite frequently on this blog. For example in Defense part 5, the series you started debating when I get to him chronologically I state:

"A church such as this needs a clear statement of doctrine , and this comes in the mid 13th century when Saint Thomas Aquinas pens Summa Theologica (the sum of theological knowledge). As the title indicates, the book is intended as a reference of basic Catholic theology on all topics. .Its authority is immediately recognized, and then continues to grow so that by the Council of Trent Summa is given official status as being second only to the bible in its authority. In terms of our interests Summa contains an extended discussion of the variety of opinion on the nature of love, marriage, virginity, the sacraments. As we had mentioned in the introduction (part 1) it is here were we hit the single most damning piece of evidence in our entire study; if patriarchy had been the dominant religious teaching of the church through time then the greatest Christian philosopher ever writing a text specifically addressing the issue of the varieties of religious teachings would be expected to mention it. "

Further as mentioned, the view I expressed on your blog that fetus aren't meaningfully human is in line with Aquinas' position. As for Pelosi she is a religious Catholic, who is upholding his opinion and avoiding the heresy of traducianism (the belief that human souls are created by fertilization / coitus). The question for Pelosi, as it was for Luther is whether the Church has moved so far away from tradition and teaching for political reasons (in Luther's case money in Pelosi's case anti-contraception) that a catholic is obliged to defend reason, tradition, experience and scripture against authoritative teaching. I would assume you consider Luther's critique valid?

Rene'e said...


I responded to your question over at Bryan's Blog.

CD-Host said...

For lurkers Rene is talking about this blog/thread (I think). The blog is moderated so I can't see new posts, so at this point I don't know what the answer is (or even what the question is). I have one post pending. That blog is about Christian unity, from a Catholic perspective.

Rene'e said...

No its over there. It was the question you ask who speaks for the authority of God. I think that is what you said. I do not think you will agree with my answer though.


CD-Host said...

Rene'e --

Gotcha. Well my feeling was you were sort of speaking rhetorically. If you were trying to answer I'd say that you were begging the question. Saying "God speaks for the church" doesn't really answer how we have knowledge of what God said. So then saying "the church" speaks for God just converts to: the church speaks for the church which doesn't really answer the question either.

To quote the original, "Certainly but what Pelosi is contesting is who speaks authoritatively for the Catholic Church, the membership or the leadership. In her opinion, and not unreasonably the body of Christ consists of more than a hundred or so top officials." The issue of contraception works even better for US Catholics because there you have 70% Of US Catholics disagreeing with the Church's position. A clear majority, who are familiar with the arguments in humanae vitae and still reject them.

Then what? This is actually very similar to issues like nationalism and indulgences from 500 years ago.

Will said...

So now you are comparing Pelosi to Luther? Luther made his stand on scripture. What is Pelosi making her stand on....the need to chop up babies?

Seriously, you proved my point. Either you are catholic and you take the official church teaching as infallible (which bans abortion from conception on). Or you are an evangelical and accept Scripture as your inerrant rule of faith. Anything else is your own authority.

If you pick and choose (ie I like what scripture says here but not here) there is no correcting authority. There is nothing to tell you you are wrong.

Do you think you are always right? When you are wrong, who can correct you? What if the parts of scripture you don't like turn out to be true? Would you submit?

CD-Host said...

So now you are comparing Pelosi to Luther? Luther made his stand on scripture.

Not in the beginning he didn't. That came later. At first he argued within the church in terms of catholic doctrine and reason as well, for example, "Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church? The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial” the defense based on scripture and scripture alone came after the disputation with Cardinal Tommaso de Vio.

But regardless of history the key point is that Pelosi is asserting her right to examine her holy works and draw from them those conclusions as she is compelled to by force of reason not by blind obedience. Luther asserted that the belief that the ex cathedra are without error and unquestionable was Spiritus Antichristi est Papa (the spirit of the antiChrist). So yes I do think the comparison quite apt. In both Luther's case and in Pelosi's the papacy is attempting by authority to assert what should only be asserted by common consent.

Rene'e said...


You and "A clear majority, who are familiar with the arguments in humanae vitae and still reject them."

Are not hearing God's words.

"Thou shall not kill"

I think those four words are cut and dry.

Yes, the Church defends these words. As for the people who chose to ignore them, Catholics and others. God will be their judge. But for Catholics, there will be consequences within the Church. Because Nancy chooses to remain a Catholic by her choice, therefore she will removes herself from being in communion with the Church and Catholics. As do the others.

Basically, Nancy is a Catholic. I am a Catholic. She is not in communion with me. Neither are the other Catholics you mentioned.

Irregardless, if they think they are or not.

This is what the church points out.

Thou shall not Kill.

If you support killing, assist in killing, defend killing. You are not Catholic. You can go around the rest of your life saying you are. But the Catholic Church and Catholics such as myself will tell you if we are aware of your position or actions, the truth.

You are not Catholic, if you support killing of life. Period...

Will said...

you didn't address correction. If you sort through the fathers to find opinions that match your or if you pick and choose the bible passages you like, what corrects you when you are wrong?

CD-Host said...

If you sort through the fathers to find opinions that match your or if you pick and choose the bible passages you like, what corrects you when you are wrong?

If I sort through the periodic table of the elements and decide that Nitrogen has 8 protons and not 7 what corrects me? Reason, experience, experimentation, tradition (i.e. other texts) .... Same thing.

Rachelle said...

Theology is not empirical. You can't put God under a microscope to see if you are right or wrong. Without God's revelation, you devolve into opinion. If you said that about Nitrogen, I could show you various tests and calculations to disprove your claim. What is the equivalent in theology for you?

CD-Host said...

Hello Rechelle welcome to the blog! No theology is not empirical but history of theology is. Pelosi is making a claim about an earthly institution teachings not about God. That is verifiable in the same way one verifies any piece of historical information. Will was asking me a question about how correction can work in the absence of authority. I gave an example.

Hannah C. said...

Regardless of what the church fathers said, the Catholic Church's current position is that life begins at conception, and that Catholics cannot vote for any pro-choice person. I think there might be something about pro-choice people in office being automatically excommunicated, but I may very well be wrong on that.

The real point of that is today's Catholics must, according to today's Church, be pro-life. So if she is anything but pro-life, she is going against her Church.