A Catholic Speaker in the House

In the run-up to last November's mid-term elections, San Francisco Democrat Nancy Pelosi frequently countered the charge that she was the embodiment of radical, West Coast liberalism by reminding the interlocutor that she was a "Catholic grandmother."

With her Party's victory locked up, the pro-abortion, pro-gay "rights" and pro-embryonic stem-cell research politico is now Madame Speaker. Pelosi made it clear that as House Speaker, one of her top priorities in the first 100 hours of Democrat Control would be the introduction of a bill that would ease federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

It was not too long ago that President Bush vetoed a bill passed by Congress that would have lifted the restrictions on such research, restrictions that he put in place back in 2001. In vetoing the bill, President Bush declared, "This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others; it crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it."   Buoyed by the latest election however, Pelosi and the Democrats have placed the issue near the top of their to-do list. So Nancy Pelosi, a practicing Catholic, will be the prime mover and public face of a bill that the Catholic Church clearly opposes. The issue of Catholic politicians placing themselves at odds with the Church's moral teaching is hardly a new one, but with Pelosi's high-profile ascent, it may soon be necessary for Church leadership in the United States to speak with greater moral clarity for the sake of the integrity of the Church's public witness to the defense of the human person.

 It would be helpful to review past statements issued by United States bishops and Pope John Paul II regarding Catholics in the public square and their duty to defend the dignity of human life.

The late Holy Father, in Evangelium Vitae, declared that "[i]t is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are found and from which they develop." Here, Pope John Paul II laid the foundation for any subsequent discussion of human rights — namely the right of the living to live. It sounds simple enough, but the fog, or "tyranny," of relativism so prevalent today has clouded the ability of many to perceive this simple truth. Discussion about one's right to "choose" or one's right to "privacy" is meaningless and even contradictory if the most fundamental and primary right of the person simply to live and enjoy those secondary rights is denied from the beginning.

The United States Catholic Bishops issued a stern statement to Catholic public leaders in 1998. It merits a full quotation:

We urge those Catholic officials who choose to depart from Church teaching on the inviolability of human life in their public life to consider the consequences for their own spiritual well-being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others into serious sin. We call on them to reflect on the grave contradiction of assuming public roles and presenting themselves as credible Catholics when their actions on fundamental issues of human life are not in agreement with Church teaching. No public official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can responsibly advocate for or actively support direct attacks on human life.

In 2004, there was much discussion over Senator Kerry's professed Catholicism and his fervent, decades-long support for abortion. The question presented was whether or not Catholic politicians who support abortion should present themselves for Communion. Clarity was sought from the Vatican, and the future pope, Cardinal Ratzinger, issued a characteristically no-nonsense statement that drew heavily from Evangelium Vitae:

In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to "take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it" (no. 73). Christians have a "grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God's law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil…. This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it" (no. 74).

In addition to reiterating the Church's position on abortion, Cardinal Ratzinger made an important, and often overlooked, distinction between acts that are intrinsically evil (abortion, euthanasia) and acts which allow for a variance of opinion because they are not evil, per se (war and capital punishment). For it is here that Cardinal Ratzinger rejected the so-called "seamless garment" position, which sought to dispense equal weight, in the moral sense, to various social issues. Catholic politicians can, in good conscience, disagree about the death penalty or war and present themselves for Communion. The same cannot be said of those supporting abortion.

As Nancy Pelosi assumes her new leadership role as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, she has a grave responsibility to defend the most basic rights of the person, defined so eloquently in our own Declaration of Independence; "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Our late great pope, John Paul II, reminded us of our heritage when he stated that, "[a]t the center of the moral vision of founding documents is the recognition of the rights of the human person." He went on to say that our greatness as a nation is to be found "especially [in its] respect for the dignity and sanctity of human life in all conditions and at all stages of development."

In a 1995 speech in Newark, Pope John Paul II directly addressed every American. Eleven years later, these very words could now be addressed to Nancy Pelosi: "Your country stands upon the world scene as a model of a democratic society at an advanced stage of development. Your power of example carries with it heavy responsibilities. Use it well, America!" Indeed, use it well, Madame Speaker!

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  • Guest January 6, 2007, 12:55 pm

    Just some questions- where does Nacy Pelosi go to church? Who is the priest she talks with? I know John Kerry was close to some Paulists, but I wondered who Nancy’s bishop is and who her Catholic influences are. Isn’t her old archbishop in Rome now at the same congregation (Doctrine of the Faith) that the Pope used to be at? or does she go to Trinity at Georgetown- is it fair to say that some priests have mislead some Catholics of a certain age?
    Is a Catholic person’s moral responsibility lessened when they have been taught error by churchmen?

  • Guest January 6, 2007, 5:49 pm

    Grand Mother Pelosi is not Catholic. Remember that this lady has excommunicated herself by her DISUNION with her fellow Catholics. She may not receive the Sacraments until she Reconciles with the Church and her fellow Catholics. If she had a tiny bit of integrity, she would embrace one of the religions that allow the sinful behavior she espouses.

  • Guest January 6, 2007, 8:25 pm

    My judgement is going to be terrible enough. I definitely wouldn’t want to be her though…

  • Guest January 6, 2007, 10:07 pm

    I agree with your statement that “it may soon be necessary for Church leadership in the United States to speak with greater moral clarity for the sake of the integrity of the Church’s public witness to the defense of the human personn.” Pelosi has rejected the Church’s teachings on core moral teachings and in essence has created her own truth and subsequently her own god created in her image. The clearest statement the Church could make would be made by officially excommunicating her so that she does not lead others astray. Her blatant defiance of Church teaching proves that she does not want to be a Catholic except in name only anyway.

  • Guest January 6, 2007, 10:44 pm

    Is there a distinction between practicing (ie. living the moral and devotional life taught by the Church) and professing (ie I say I am, so there) Catholics? On second thought, there is more to professing than just saying, “I’m Catholic,” so pretending (making a pretense of) is probably the better term to fit CINO politicians. So what is the difference between a practicing Catholic and a C and E Catholic, between a practicing Catholic and a church potato? We’d better define our terms and correct those who would define “Catholic” by those who are at best Catholics only because their parents (or grandparents, practiced, suffered and even died for the Faith.

  • Guest January 7, 2007, 12:07 am

    Is there a distinction between practicing (ie. living the moral and devotional life taught by the Church) and professing (ie I say I am, so there) Catholics?

    St. Peter’s Second Letter describes the condition of those who fall away from their Catholic faith in the way they choose to live out their lives:

    For if they, having escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of (our) Lord and savior Jesus Christ, again become entangled and overcome by them, their last condition is worse than their first. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment handed down to them. What is expressed in the true proverb has happened to them, “The dog returns to its own vomit,” and “A bathed sow returns to wallowing in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:20, New American Bible)

    My understanding is that no one baptized into the Catholic Faith – or Confirmed in the Faith after having been baptized in another Christian tradition – ever ceases to be Catholic. But the Biblical teaching is clear: to know what you ought to do – and to then fail to do it – is worse than not knowing. In other words, an avowed atheist is better off spiritually than a Catholic who publicly and knowingly opposes Church teaching.

    But that person does not therefore cease to be Catholic. Rather, such a person begins to persecute the Church from within rather than from without. Such a condition is both more dangerous for the person who commits the persecution (i.e. the Catholic politician who openly opposes Church teaching) and more dangerous for the Church.

    It is not for nothing that good Pope Paul VI observed that “the smoke of Satan has entered the Church.”

  • Guest January 7, 2007, 2:01 am

    Well said, HomeschoolNfpDad – definitive moniker, there – as many of your posts are – Can I come and sit in on your family Catholic lessons as sort of an advanced tutorial? I promise to behave . . .

    Marked for Catholicism makes one marked for the most important tests – having received much, much is expected. Hence, too, much should be anticipated of the Catholic – and, a grandmother in age, Nancy Pelosi seems only to anticipate being ‘the most powerful woman’ without much more than a grant-taking and superfluous nod to her heavenly Father and/or His Church.

    What a pitiable creature to have such power . . .

    I remain your obedient servant, but God’s first,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest January 7, 2007, 7:42 am

    My first inclination is to prayer. Prayer that the new Congress will be inspired by the Holy Spirit to lead justly and carry out the Nation’s business in a manner pleasing to God. Therefore, I will pray for Mrs. Pelosi that she gain understanding on the moral issues of our time. If she and other Catholic politicians continue to take positions on these moral issues that are innclear contradiction to our Church’s teaching, then I pray that our Bishops do their jobs and provide stern fraternal correction and an clear warning of the consequences should these politicians continue to support these issues. If they do not change their opinions then I believ our Bishops must follow through and separate these people from the Church while we all continue to pray for them.

  • Guest January 7, 2007, 9:37 am

    Great comments. In my opinion, this current situation has come about due to the reluctance of the American bishops to crack down on dissenters. These politicians need fatherly guidance and fathers do not allow spoiled children to become spoiled adults. If the first pro-abortion politicians were corrected in the 1960’s and 1970’s, we would not have so many pro-death individuals.

    My own bishop would not implement a policy to forbid Catholic pro-abortion politicians from speaking at archdiocesan buildings and events. This request followed an attempt by the principal of my son’s Catholic elementary school to invite our pro-abortion Catholic governor to speak at a retreat. After, much networking and threats to protest, the visit was cancelled. The bishop turned down our request and blamed parents. I consider this spiritual abuse of the faithful that is just as serious as the sexual abuse scandal. If I were a bishop, I would not tolerate this situation and would publicly criticize bishops who fail to protect their faithful. Needless to say, I would not be popular.

  • Guest January 7, 2007, 10:07 am

    This is more eveidence that we need Our Lady of America to be enshrined IMMEDIATELY in the National Shrine to The Immaculate Conception as Our Lady requested in 1956. Read more about this and how you can help at http://www.oltiv.org

  • Guest January 7, 2007, 11:36 am

    The bishops do resemble, as I have said before, some brotherhood (as do physicians) who just will not make it any point of correcting each other overtly, that laity might benefit from the forthcoming debates, of such strategy. I reckon that they have their reasons. However, they offer only opacity about them if they have them.

    And, yes, a Pelosi Catholicism is result in part from the untoward and barely Catholic and surely non-Magisterial pusillanimity of our bishops . . .

    Prayers for both, to continue until something from someone gives back to God that which is God’s – like the souls of the laity?

    I remain your obedient servant, but God’s first,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest January 7, 2007, 5:19 pm

    It is past time for the American Bishops to officially excommunicate
    Nancy Pelosi. Her behavior and beliefs do not allow her to claim our Catholic faith. It is time for our Americsn Pastors to speak out against these
    politicians who claim to be Catholic but behave as followers of the dark one
    instead of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
    Maryann Mcaward, Arizona

  • Guest January 7, 2007, 5:37 pm

    With out reading the total commentary of the preceding remarks, the bishops have been too slow to instruct. Get with it! The faithful need to hear the truth. This “lady” is a CINO (Catholic In Name Only).

    Deacon Ted Welsh

  • Guest January 7, 2007, 6:58 pm

    I particularly wanted to thank Deacon Ted for chiming in with his opinion. As a member of the clergy, his opinion counts for a lot! May God give us more priests and deacons who are willing to stand for the truth.
    As for Grandmother Pelosi, she seems to believe that the Catholic Church (in America?)should be democratic in the same sense that her political party is democratic. Too bad she didn’t pay attention in Religious Ed. As “the shahids” remarked, I don’t want to be standing next to her at the Judgement!

  • Guest January 7, 2007, 9:34 pm

    we all need to be more outspokenly pro-life, and to give a good reason for the hope that is within us, and to give a good witness by our works of our faith, love, and commitment – to the point of our own willingness to suffer loss. i see room for the bishops and clergy to improve in this respect, and myself and the rest of the laity as well.
    God bless,

  • Guest January 8, 2007, 9:02 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with Deacon Ted that it is the Bishops who have failed to “step up to the plate” in teaching the the Truths of the Faith. I myself would have to refuse Communion to Madame Speaker Pelosi or any other so called Catholic who so openly brings such shame to the Church. For me my greatest fear is that as a deacon of the Church I would lead someone astray. I believe to give Communion to those like Pelosi is entering in and cooperating in their sin. The Clergy must be willing to stand on the front line “standing tall” to set the example for the faithful. Not to do so we will be accountable when we stand before the Lord in judgement of what we have done and failed to do.

    In the past I have received some angry letters from people who rejeted the messages of homilies I have given on pro life, artificial means of birth control and the death penalty. But for me, it is better to be judged by them than God.

    God’s Blessings and Peace,
    Deacon Don Bourgeois

  • Guest January 9, 2007, 2:24 pm

    Come on Bishops. Show us the way! We need you to instruct Nancy Pelosi and other similar wayward souls. Then we can stop whining about false Catholics and look as we should at ourselves. Our souls need tending and with such glaring false Catholicism around, we think our souls are fine. We cannot throw the first stone! But, can you at least ask Nancy to go and sin no more?

    I am but a sinner who only has value through Christ. I need Christ badly! And so does our sister Nancy Pelosi. She is in such a great position to help many people do the right thing. Through our prayers and your grace, Nancy Pelosi can change and make your mother Mary proud.

    GK – God is good!

  • Guest January 10, 2007, 10:01 am

    Well said, GK – c: your bishop and Nancy Pelosi, c/o US House of Representatives.

    Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest January 10, 2007, 10:03 am

    Well said, GK – cc: your bishop and Nancy Pelosi, c/o US House of Representatives.

    Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)