By the time Nancy Pelosi digs herself out of the hole her abortion comments have gotten her into, she’ll likely have reached some of the crude oil she’s keeping off the market.

In defending her utterly baffling assertion that the “doctors of the Church” never were in agreement on when life begins she now cites some lesser commentary by St. Augustine (Questiones de Exodo), which states, “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.” 

One gets the impression that Pelosi had some vague memory about Augustine on abortion and then some poor staffer had to go digging around the endnotes of Michael Gorman’s Abortion & the Early Church (a pretty reliable little book, I might add). I’m now curious to know if Pelosi ascribes to all of Augustine’s positions, or merely those that appear to be convenient to her.  Is it wrong to cry over sad love stories?  Must sex always have a reproductive intent?  What’s the moral status of concubinage?  Is slavery always wrong?

Never mind the fact that Augustine still thought embryonic abortion was immoral (see On Marriage and Concupiscence), and later in life complicated his own earlier views on ensoulment.  The fact is that his alleged support for Pelosi is reliant on incomplete, 5th century science.  His determination on the soul of the embryo/fetus is based on the empirical determination of science: does the early child in the womb have “sensation”?  At the time the answer seemed to be “no.”  Now we know, through advances in embryology, that from conception we have a living human being, animated in its self-directed development from the first instant of fertilization. 

Apparently Pelosi would rather base her political opinions on the natural philosophy of ancient Romans than on modern science.  What’s next, a Medicare Prescription Leach Bill?  A Congressional task force ensuring that the American people have their humors in proper balance?