Thu 23rd Oct 2014 | Last updated: Thu 23rd Oct 2014 at 14:34pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo
Hot Topics

Comment & Blogs

Now we have a Catholic Speaker of the House who actually believes what the Church teaches

His Catholic predecessor, who did not, has done untold harm

By on Thursday, 4 November 2010

John Boehner, the new Speaker of the House, is guided by the teaching of the Church (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts)

John Boehner, the new Speaker of the House, is guided by the teaching of the Church (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts)

Now the dust has settled over the mid-term congressional elections in the US, some interesting facts are emerging. First, representative John Boehner, who is to be the new Speaker of the House (an office, of course, of great political power in the American system) is a Catholic. Well, you may say, so was the wretched pro-abortion Nancy Pelosi. No, but John Boehner is a Catholic (he is, it seems, guided by the Church).
 
He is given, it seems, to choking with emotion during speeches; he did it on Wednesday morning after emerging clearly as Speaker. He also did it (bless him) on receiving the 2010 Henry J Hyde Defender of Life Award. The pro-life group Americans United for Life gave it for his “extraordinary leadership in the fight to prevent taxpayer-funded abortion and for his work to protect women’s health in his own state of Ohio”.
 
We may well now see Congressional attempts to choke off the funding for abortion which is authorised in President Obama’s healthcare law (as it is, unhappily, in our own NHS): this will need legislation which Obama will be inclined, as a committed pro-abortionist, to veto. This would, however, add to his unpopularity. Obama says he wants to co-operate with the new House, which is, according to LifeNews.com, predominantly pro-life. So, we shall see what we shall see. At least there will be a fight.
 
It is perhaps worthwhile at this point to cast a final valedictory glance at the departing Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, a figure not without interest here, for we have our own quota of pro-abortion lay Catholics, most notably, perhaps, Tony and Cherie Blair (Tony consistently voted in favour of it, including one vote for abortion up to term).

Pelosi’s argument is simple. It’s only during the last 50 years that the Church has been against abortion; in fact, she says, it’s always been controversial. So for Catholics it’s a matter of individual “conscience”.  This is how she once argued it in front of a senatorial hearing:

“I would say that as an ardent, practicing [sic] 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 …. 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…. this [anti-abortion Church teaching] is like maybe 50 years [old] or something like that.”
 
So, Pelosi has studied this for a long time? Not long enough, Nancy. From the beginning, Christians have been against abortion. The first century document known as the Didache (perhaps the earliest attempt at a catechism of Christian doctrine) is unambiguous:
 
“You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child” (Didache 2:1–2).
 
Tertullian, towards the end of the second century, expresses it in remarkably modern terms: adjusting the vocabulary and phrasing, this could be a Catholic bishop speaking in the 21st century:
 
“In our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the foetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed” (Apology 9:8).

So, come off it, Pelosi. And goodbye. But Pelosi’s departure from office will not solve the problem, in the US or here, of Catholic politicians (or even, I fear, some bishops) who try to be what I have heard called “nuanced” about their attitude to abortion: false prophets who lead other Catholics astray. It is absolutely not for me to issue moral condemnations. But I fear for them. It was not I who said that: “If anyone causes one of these little ones [meaning believers, not children] who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.” (Mark 9:42) Your “conscience”, Nancy Pelosi, is not just a matter for you.

  • Athanasius Kircher

    Dr. Oddie, you say that Mr Boehner is loyal to Catholic teaching. I don't dispute the man may be exemplary on pro-life matters, but we must not mistake life and sexual issues for the whole of the Catholic faith's social teaching. As a Republican as well as a Catholic, where does Mr Boehner stand on, for example, the issues raised by Rerum Novarum et al.?

    Too often it seems to me (as a non-American), that American Catholics are American first and Catholic second, in that they divide rigidly between pro-life Republicans (who nevertheless support the death penalty and deny Catholic Social Teaching as put forward in Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno, and Centesimus Annus), and 'pro-choice' Democrats, who are hot on Social Teaching but deny the Church's position on sex and life issues.

    Undoubtedly, abortion is a burning issue at the moment. But even as it stands as an essential, we cannot and must not neglect the poor while pursuing this issue, and this is why I am concerned by the suggestion that a man is a 'proper' Catholic on the basis of his pro-life stance alone. I do not know Mr Boehner's stance on social issues and do not wish to slander him, but I do feel it needs to be raised.

  • GFFM

    Boehner also is gracious and is not at all triumphalist at the drubbing that Obama and minions received on Tuesday. He struck the right tone and said that the win for the Republicans was not a time for celebrating, but a first step in pushing back the intrusion of government in Americans' lives. He has shown class and charity; something we have seen little of for the last two years. As for Boehner's acceptance of Church social teaching I can say this; he is not what Americans call a cafeteria Catholic; he does not pick and choose the Church teaching he agrees with or does not agree with like many of his so called Catholic colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Pelosi being the most outstanding example of this. I would also strongly suggest that he sees the life issues and social justice and human rights issues much in the same way that Mother Theresa, John Paul II and Benedict see them. Boehner would completely agree with the Pope that democracy is profoundly diminished by an abortion on demand policy. There is little doubt that this president wants to extend this into every facet of American culture. In sum Boehner is principled and possesses and formed conscience in the correct sense of that word.

  • W Oddie

    A good point. It should indeed be raised: but I have the impression that your worries are unfounded. According to GFFM (above), for instance, “he is not what Americans call a cafeteria Catholic; he does not pick and choose the Church teaching he agrees with or does not agree with like many of his so called Catholic colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Pelosi being the most outstanding example of this. I would also strongly suggest that he sees the life issues and social justice and human rights issues much in the same way that Mother Theresa, John Paul II and Benedict see them”. We shall see; in the meantime, I think we can give him the benefit of the doubt.

  • Kraiha

    There is no doubt that Mr. Boehner does not see social justice and human rights issues the way Mother Theresa saw them. She cared for the poor. Mr. B wants to privatise social security, abolish the Obamacare that was designed to help poor people get healthcare they need, abolish regulations on financial reform, abolish environmental regulations, lower taxes for the rich and raise them for the poor, support of stupid wars, and I could go on and on. There is no, I repeat no benefit of doubt! It is sad that in your ignorance you find him a Catholic model to make a point about abortion.

  • AMDG71

    The Church's teaching on caring for the poor/needy is very clear: she has ALWAYS been a proponent of subsidiarity – that is, NOT having BIG government provide everything for Americans but rather allowing states, cities, and neighborhoods to both determine and provide for their own needs. Obamacare/the welfare state is everything the Church teaches against: taking away a person's dignity by not enabling him or her to work. For indeed, since the fall of man, God has told us we must WORK for our food. Forcing taxpayers to pay for abortions and birth control also are heinous in the eyes of God. Lastly, the Church has made it very clear that the issues of abortion/euthanasia are the first issues we must examine in a political figure – if a person has no dignity at their conception or natural death, we cannot recognize/support their dignity properly at any time any between.

    And just for the record, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was NOT a political figure. She cared for the poor with her hands…and if Obamacare were in force in Calcutta when she began, she would have been forced to stop helping b/c she didn't support abortions and taught NFP instead of handing out condoms.

  • Scherreycardwell

    So you think that you're “pushing back the intrusion of government in Americans' lives” by refusing a woman's right to choose whether or not to have a child no matter what the reason: even if she is the victim of rape or incest? I think you'd better take another look at who's “picking and choosing the . . . issue he agrees with”. Is he opposed to the death penalty? Does he support labor unions? Does he support universal health care? All of those forms of social action have been supported by popes going back to the 19th Century.

  • http://www.actsoftheapostasy.blogspot.com LarryD

    There is room for discussion on issues such as the death penalty, labor unions and health care amongst faithful Catholics. The Church does not call the death penalty an intrinsic evil as She does abortion. Unions are fine, as long as they operate according to the law and don't abuse their rights or their members – union leadership has on many occasions taken advantage of their position, and sometimes contributes money to causes and politicians that many of their members object to. And there are different ways that health care can be appropriated – Catholic teaching in no way holds that it must be provided for via any government. As AMDG71 mentioned earlier, the principle of subsidiarity has to be applied.

    But issues such as abortion, embryonic stem cell research, so-called gay marriage, euthanasia – these are all intrinsic evils that must be opposed by those who profess to be Catholic. The fact that Boehner is pro-life, where Pelosi was most certainly not, is a good start.

  • RJ

    On the matter of rape and incest: the question is: is it right to help one person by killing another, that other being a person who does not bear any guilt and has not committed any aggression (although I know that some people twist the concept of aggression to try and justify abortion).

  • DisturbedMary

    Nancy Pelosi is morally condemned, not by you or me, but by virtue of her own words, deeds and evasions that have been fouled by her lies and and damn lies. That conscience of hers is not a deluded innocent — it is quite careful and keen on survival. At a press briefing in August, she was asked by a reporter: “So, when was the Word made flesh? Was it at the Annunciation, when Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, as the Creed says, or was it at the Nativity when he was born of the Virgin Mary? And when did the Word get the right to life?”

    Her reply? “Whenever it was, we bow our heads when we talk about it in church, and that's where I'd like to talk about that.”

  • GFFM

    You might look into Mr. Boehner's private record of helping poor children get an education. He has worked on providing education for poor children with Ted Kennedy for years and continues to do so after Senator Kennedy's death. Secondly. Obamacare has increased many middle class premiums and will continue to do so. But what is more telling about your comments is their materialistic and purely ideological basis. The poor are not simply those who don't have enough money, they are those who are not protected, or respected, and who are marginalized by the society. This would include the unborn, the profoundly ill, the elderly. Mother Theresa often pointed out that poverty wasn't merely economic, but also there is poverty of belief. I would also add that Boehner has been consistent in his support of unborn life and the profoundly ill. It would behoove you to inform yourself instead of accusing others of not being informed.

  • GFFM

    You have hid the nail on the head. This is the greatest intrusion of all and the most raw use of power over another human being I can think of, so yes I am guilty and the American people are guilty of not wanting abortion on the demand. The great news is this: abortion is waning in this country, because young people know now what it is; it's no longer a romanticized as this liberating experience for women. And it's no longer seen as the centerpiece of women's liberation, at least for the younger generations.

  • Kraiha

    As an expert on Church teaching, did the Church teach Boehner to get the military plant in his electoral district to build extra parts that are not required by the military in order to boast employment. What an honour man!

  • Kraiha

    It is interesting that you call me materialistic and yet premium increases bother you.

    I am proudly guilty of subscribing to the ideology of social justice as thaught by Jesus.

    I admit I did not know about Boehner's private record. Pardonnez-moi for not respecting other peoples' privacy.

  • GFFM

    Yes they do bother me. I would be considered lower middle class, have members of my family, including my children, who have been gravely ill. You are far removed from the real problems regular people face with this health care debacle. Your rhetoric makes this abundantly clear. Boehner's record is not private; he does not tout it. The mainstream press in the country would not want him looking like a human being with any kind of compassion so it is not something you will find in the New York Times. This would not fit their narrative or their stereotyping.

  • paul

    In support for this man and in turn for the cause of the Republican Party, the Catholic Herald and anyone in the Catholic Church who supports them I believe are totally morally bankrupt.

    This man for the last 2 years has been trying to derail a healthcare plan for all Americans, and now publicly calls it a 'health-care monster' which he wants to destroy. This is the same bill the Catholic Bishops came out in Support on. This guy disgusts me to the very core of my being. Lets remember that prior to healthcare system changes in America an estimated 45,000 Americans died because of lack of health insurance.

    In trying to stop this bill, the moral effect in my opinion is simply as bad as a mass murderer. Catholic Herald you disgust me.

  • http://tonylayne.blogspot.com/ Tony Layne

    Responding as an American, no doubt it appears that way, and to a certain extent, you're right. But the platforms of the two parties are not written, in the main, by Catholics. Having only two parties with any significant political effect, Catholic voters who are faithful to the Church are too often faced with a Hobson's choice. We need a sort-of Christian Democrat party over here, capable of breaking the Demopublican hammerlock on the government.

  • Athanasius Kircher

    “The Church's teaching on caring for the poor/needy is very clear: she has ALWAYS been a proponent of subsidiarity – that is, NOT having BIG government provide everything for Americans but rather allowing states, cities, and neighborhoods to both determine and provide for their own needs. Obamacare/the welfare state is everything the Church teaches against”

    AMDG71, you have evidently got as far as Rerum Novarum. Congratulations. I hope you will now continue on to Quadragesimo Anno and Centesimus Annus.

  • paul

    John Boehner the perfect Catholic? Lets compare his moral behaviour with that of the last speaker trashed in this article. You only focused on abortion, which as you admit many Catholics have differing opinions on, lets have a look at policies that affect those Americans outside of the womb too shall we?…

    Whilst Mrs. Pelosi stood up for the poorest with a legislation to prevent against house foreclosures, a economy stimulus bill to create jobs through government spending and a healthcare bill to cover all Americans, Mr. Boehner was opposing ALL of these changes having a 100% voting record against the Democrats in the house.

    Lets remember that a study for Forbes magazine predicts that 45,000 Americans die every year because of lack of healthcare coverage. This number is around the amount of Americans that died in the Vietnam war over a decade from 65‘-75‘. Or if you prefer a more recent example – equivalent to fifteen 9/11s each year. Real living people with lives and families.

    Nancy Pelosi is not pro-life as far as abortion is concerned, granted. However I can’t see how Mr. Boehner is much pro-life either – he supports the Death Penalty, he doesn’t have a plan to care for the 45,000 who die because of the lack of healthcare in the US, he voted for both the Afghanistan and Iraq war and he distributed political donations in the form of cheques from the tobacco industry on the Congress floor before the House voted on legislation regarding the Tobacco industry.
    Now bear in mind that in America 440,000 die from Tobacco related deaths each year (higher than whole population of Luxembourg ), so who is it then Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner who is truly ‘pro-life’?

  • james

    John Boehner the perfect Catholic? Lets compare his moral behaviour with that of the last speaker trashed in this article. You only focused on abortion, which as you admit many Catholics have differing opinions on, lets have a look at policies that affect those Americans outside of the womb too shall we?…

    Whilst Mrs. Pelosi stood up for the poorest with a legislation to prevent against house foreclosures, a economy stimulus bill to create jobs through government spending and a healthcare bill to cover all Americans, Mr. Boehner was opposing ALL of these changes having a 100% voting record against the Democrats in the house.

    Lets remember that a study for Forbes magazine predicts that 45,000 Americans die every year because of lack of healthcare coverage. This number is around the amount of Americans that died in the Vietnam war over a decade from 65‘-75‘. Or if you prefer a more recent example – equivalent to fifteen 9/11s each year. Real living people with lives and families.

    Nancy Pelosi is not pro-life as far as abortion is concerned, granted. However I can’t see how Mr. Boehner is much pro-life either – he supports the Death Penalty, he doesn’t have a plan to care for the 45,000 who die because of the lack of healthcare in the US, he voted for both the Afghanistan and Iraq war and he distributed political donations in the form of cheques from the tobacco industry on the Congress floor before the House voted on legislation regarding the Tobacco industry.
    Now bear in mind that in America 440,000 die from Tobacco related deaths each year (higher than whole population of Luxembourg ), so who is it then Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner who is truly ‘pro-life’?

  • Greg Hall

    Hi,

    Very thoughtful. However, there is another side to his character as it would appear that he has been captured by the US Big business interests, having received millions of dollars of funding from oil, insurance, and Wall street special interests. The NZ political process of state funding and MMP representation is a far superior democracy. Sending $4 billion on a election is a travesty in light of the Lord's call to care for the poor.

  • Dyz

    A morality that is based on wishfull thinking will always conflict with nature.

    If catholics were always about protecting life can one of you explain the inquisition, the crusades and witch hunts? Appearently if a life is considered evil, it suddenly does not deserve to live according to catholics. How else could catholic soldiers justify their sins?

    Sounds more like catholics are pro-suffering.

  • paul

    John Boehner the perfect Catholic? Lets compare his moral behaviour with that of the last speaker trashed in this article. You only focused on abortion, which as you admit many Catholics have differing opinions on, lets have a look at policies that affect those Americans outside of the womb too shall we?…

    Whilst Mrs. Pelosi stood up for the poorest with a legislation to prevent against house foreclosures, a economy stimulus bill to create jobs through government spending and a healthcare bill to cover all Americans, Mr. Boehner was opposing ALL of these changes having a 100% voting record against the Democrats in the house.

    Lets remember that a study for Forbes magazine predicts that 45,000 Americans die every year because of lack of healthcare coverage. This number is around the amount of Americans that died in the Vietnam war over a decade from 65‘-75‘. Or if you prefer a more recent example – equivalent to fifteen 9/11s each year. Real living people with lives and families.

    Nancy Pelosi is not pro-life as far as abortion is concerned, granted. However I can’t see how Mr. Boehner is much pro-life either – he supports the Death Penalty, he doesn’t have a plan to care for the 45,000 who die because of the lack of healthcare in the US, he voted for both the Afghanistan and Iraq war and he distributed political donations in the form of cheques from the tobacco industry on the Congress floor before the House voted on legislation regarding the Tobacco industry.
    Now bear in mind that in America 440,000 die from Tobacco related deaths each year (higher than whole population of Luxembourg ), so who is it then Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner who is truly ‘pro-life’?

  • paul

    Pick and choose? Well my friend that is what he certainly is doing, think about the Catholic Social Doctrine and you will find that he is the leader of a party that opposed the introduction of social-security, opposed the introduction of Medicaid (healthcare for the very poorest citizens), Medicare (healthcare for all citizens over 65, was on the wrong side of the black civil-rights movement, the majority of whom agree with the death penalty, many of whom see no need for the state whatsoever, the majority are pro-war on defence issues. Also on the issue of poverty and fairness of wealth distribution they fail. The Republican Party's economic policy stem from the ideas of economist Milton Friedman who's insight onto running a good economy was 'greed is good' – hardly a Catholic message you would agree.

    John Boehner certainly isn’t there to protect the health of the people or the health of your children, as he has received large campaign contributions from the tobacco industry, and before the day of a vote in congress on the regulation of big-tobacco he openly distributed cheques to other members of congress from the tobacco lobbyists.
    He also voted against the healthcare reform bill in congress, as did all of his party. This bill provides near 100% coverage to all citizens and an end to pre-existing conditions – which means if you are born with a pre-existing condition you may never be able to find coverage because insurers will not be willing to insure you.
    Bear in mind that an estimated 45,000 Americans die from America’s poor (lack of) healthcare system each year – equivalent to 15 9/11s each year he is hardly 'pro-life’.

  • paul

    Correct, he follows Catholic teaching on Homosexual rights and abortion, (which many lay Catholics question). Christ didn't talk about gays and abortion, he talked about social justice, treating others as we would like to be treated and he talked about the evil of greed.
    Mathew 35-40 is a good illustration of how Boehner falls at all the hurdles and shows that if you look closely it is in fact the Democrat Party under Nancy Pelosi that are the true Christians

    Mathew 35-40 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat' – Social Security/Food-stamps
    'I was a stranger and you invited me in' – Black and gay rights
    'I was sick and you visited me' – foundation and support for healthcare for the poorest (Medicaid), and healthcare for the over 65s (Medicare) and Obama's healthcare reform legislation that guarantees healthcare coverage for every American
    'I was in prison, and you came to me' John Boehner and his party support the death penalty, whereas Democrats generally propose more lenient sentencing, more support programmes in and after jail, and many oppose the death penalty.

  • paul

    She agrees with separation of Church and state, 14th amendment to the US constitution. It would be unprincipled and unconstitutional for her to comment on a journalist's question with her own belief as a member of Congress.

    The crusades happened when the Church and state were one, and countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia in which a proper separation of Church and State does not exist, have stonings, veils for women in public, be-headings and showing of love in public ie. kissing in public are an arrestable offense. Also blasphemy against the state religion or dissent from its beliefs can result in being locked away.

    Pelosi obviously doesn't want to go down this road and it being responsible whilst fulfilling her oath to the US constitution.

  • paul

    sure like that famous parable were Jesus criticizes the power of 'big-government' and talks about the need for states rights.

    The Church here in England was pivotal in getting the welfare state set up and it conforms to Jesus's teaching, think Mathew 25-35 'I was sick and you cared for me' — not 'I was sick but you cared for me but only if I didn't have any pre-existing conditions'

  • aisake040188camaibau

    I must remind us as Catholics to live our faith and we should oppose the abortion that whatsoever legislation,bills, rule and regulation anyone or government try to bring about we must be firm to against it. It is the murder of innocent lives who doesn't know anything, Please Go Against It!

  • paul

    yes but catholic teaching and the bible say that healthcare should be provided. Look at Mathew 25-35, these are teachings you cannot ignore. The government isn't the way that healthcare must be provided, if you can find an alternative system that offers the same lowering of prices, universality of care and the end to pre-existing conditions then please tell.

    Jesus didn't say 'when I was sick you cared for me (providing I paid my premiums; did not discover or was born with a pre-existing condition; did not lose my job; or did not become sick because of specific condition or replacement body-part not covered)'

    It's not as if the private sector has been doing a good job of healthcare- creating monopolies, raising premiums upwards of 30% year-on-year and leaving 30-45 million uninsured with a resulting death of 45,000 per year. To add to this we are below most industrialized countries in healthcare standing, we are close to third world countries such as Cuba in-fact, and we pay around double in GDP 16% that the average EU country pays to provide universal care with better outcomes.

    To add to this the valuations of HMO's have been rising exponentially with massive growth of profits and CEOs paid tens of millions. To do this they deny more and more care through small-print and loopholes in their contract with you, whilst they constantly increase premuims.