A Galileo Moment for Nancy Pelosi

The former Speaker of the House and self-professed “devout” Catholic, Nancy Pelosi, was queried by the press rather closely last week about late-term abortions (i.e., after 20-22 weeks) – which, two days earlier, the Republican-controlled House voted to ban. She refused to answer, a good tactic for her side. Because there is no plausible answer why viable children in the womb can be legally killed.

She was put on the spot over why what is done legally under current law is morally different than what was done illegally by Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the abortion/butcher of Philadelphia. All the rhetoric in the world about a women’s right to choose, about privacy between a woman and her doctor, about the “war on women,” about Pelosi’s loopy and oft-repeated line that her Catholic faith teaches that women have been endowed by God with the intellect and will to make their own choices, etc. does not take away anything from some plain scientific facts.

In the seventeenth century, Galileo was famously forced, after a complex process with fault on both sides, to recant his position, but is then said to have muttered, eppur si muove (“And yet, it [the earth] moves.” Nancy Pelosi and all like her who self-righteously have spoken of bringing back science-informed public policy have now reached a Galileo moment of their own. Party politics may dictate that you pretend the science is not indisputable, but we’re waiting now for someone prominent with a D for party affiliation to mutter: “And yet, it’s alive.”    

Actually, six virtually unknown House Democrats voted with the vast majority of Republicans last week to ban late-term abortions. But this is not, or rather should not, be a matter of partisan politics.

It’s just the facts, ma’am. Denying that a child in the womb is a human being at five or more months is about as obtuse as denying that the earth goes around the sun. If you’re going to get irate, as Pelosi did, about taking away food stamps from poor families with children, how about a little indignation about taking away the very lives of children.

As that witty gal Flannery O’Connor once put it in the title of one of her stories, “You can’t be any poorer than dead.”

Last week, before this whole fiasco occurred, I spoke at a conference in Rome and participated in a candlelight procession dedicated to Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical on the Gospel of Life — the famous text in which he named the new offenses against human life in the bio-medical arena as a “culture of death.” The Pontifical Council on the New Evangelization sponsored the events and the other speakers were Cardinal Burke and TCT’s own Francis Beckwith of Baylor University.

By contrast with the tongue-tied, I’m-taking-the-fifth Pelosi, we laid out a rational, consistent case for a culture of life, one that we are all quite prepared to defend publicly as respectful of the proper findings of science, but also committed to preserving the very best in our Western tradition of respect for human persons – all persons, not the ones who happen to be favored by this or that political coalition. (You can read part of Professor Beckwith’s presentation here and you can watch Cardinal Burke’s keynote here.)

I myself focused on the new evangelization that now needs to take place, even of so-called Catholics like Nancy Pelosi. It’s curious, but she and a large swath of Catholics, insofar as they think about it – which is admittedly not much or very deep – really think they are the culture of life, much more so than Catholics and others who openly profess their reverence for life from conception to natural death.

To be quite blunt, what they mostly favor is maintaining an unruffled bourgeois life-style for the better off and eliminating troublesome burdens like children for the poor. They’ve talked themselves into this by various rationalizations, but the day is coming when the science won’t allow it any more.

We should be clear that this is not a matter of moral relativism either. Their view is incoherent and absurd on the facts. But the relativism applied to the older moral principles is merely the first phase in a two-tiered effort, which does not end in denying moral truths exist, but in the strict enforcement of a new sexual ethic about which there is to be no debate. It’s dogmatism disguised as pluralism and freedom. That’s why Pelosi, to the astonishment of many, pronounced a woman’s right to choose “sacred ground.” 

After my talk, an elderly Croatian came up and begin explaining to a small group of us who were continuing the conversation that it’s quite possible not only to teach people the facts about life in the womb, but to convince people to live by those truths. He and his wife had been engaged in pro-life education for years and claim that after Communism fell in the former Yugoslavia, Catholics and others helped reduce abortion from 45,000 annually to 3,500, fewer than a tenth of what they had once been.

Then he took out this coin. And we all kind of gasped in amazement.Description: http://rover.ebay.com/roverns/1/711-13271-9788-0?mpvl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F&mpcl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fitm%2FCROATIA-25-kuna-2000-g-MILLENIUM-COIN-FETUS-BABY-COIN-UNC-%2F150904687374&mpt=1371928477804

It’s a normal 25 kuna coin, minted in 2000 specially for the new millennium, but you can use it as you use any other money to pay for something.  And it’s not merely meant to affirm the child in the womb, but all of humanity, radiating out, as you can see on the coin’s edge, from that beginning. 

Just imagine, such things are still possible in the modern world. Sad that self-styled sophisticated San Francisco and power-drunk Washington have lost sight of the fundamentals of respect for human life. And still developing places like Croatia have to preserve those deep human things and remind the rest of the world about them. Because you can say what you will, “And yet, it’s alive.”



Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent books are Columbus and the Crisis of the West and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.