Former House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi has been outspoken over the years in her support for abortion, or as she calls it, “reproductive health.”
At the same time, she has been outspoken about her Roman Catholicism, to the point of kissing Pope Benedict XVI’s ring and presenting herself for Communion during the Inaugural Mass for Pope Francis.
Like her fellow attendee at that Mass–Vice-President Joe Biden, also a publicly professed Catholic and abortion supporter–she hasn’t let the fact that the Church does not, and never has, sanctioned abortion, and considers receiving or formally participating in an abortion to be a mortal sin, deter her on either front.
To be clear, the Catholic Church views taking Communion as a grave matter, and urges anyone who has knowingly committed a mortal sin to abstain until they have repented, confessed, and received absolution for that sin. Since it’s unlikely that any priest present is a mind-reader, it’s up to the communicant to know whether or not he or she is in a state of grace and act accordingly.
But, regarding the trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell–now in prison for life for first-degree murder in the deaths of three late-term babies born alive after attempted abortions–Pelosi said it was “really disgusting, and when we talk about women’s reproductive health, that’s not what we’re talking about.”
On Thursday, June 13, during a press briefing, John McCormack of The Weekly Standard asked Pelosi how she could reconcile that stand with her opposition for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which sought to prohibit abortions during the last four months of pregnancy (with an exception for saving the life of the mother). The bipartisan bill recently passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 228 to 196.
Pelosi bristled at the question, saying there was a difference between what Gosnell did and what the bill was calling for. McCormack pressed her again, asking, “What’s the moral difference?” between a successful late-term abortion and delivering an infant alive and then killing it.
“This is not the issue,” said Pelosi. “They are saying that there’s no abortion. It would make it a federal law that there would be no abortion in this country.”
Obviously, the bill was only addressing abortions after 20 weeks, not all abortions. But at least to this point, Pelosi was consistent in her support of abortion on demand, which is the majority view of her party, at least on the national level.
Pelosi went on to say, “As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this. This shouldn’t have anything to do with politics.”
So, Pelosi cited her Roman Catholic faith–which expressly forbids abortion–to claim that the right to an abortion is “sacred ground” to her. Well, it may be, to her, but that is the precise reverse of the way the Church views the issue.
This was too much for Father Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, who, on June 18, penned an open letter to Pelosi on the subject. He cited a visit he and members of his staff made to Pelosi’s office “several years ago” with diagrams depicting a 23-week abortion.
He wrote, “When asked the simple question, ‘When you say the word “abortion,” is this what you mean?’ In response, nothing but silence has emanated from your office.”
Regarding Pelosi’s reference to her faith and “sacred ground,” Pavone wrote:
With this statement, you make a mockery of the Catholic faith and of the tens of millions of Americans who consider themselves ‘practicing and respectful Catholics’ and who find the killing of children — whether inside or outside the womb–reprehensible.
You speak here of Catholic faith as if it is supposed to hide us from reality instead of lead us to face reality, as if it is supposed to confuse basic moral truths instead of clarify them, and as if it is supposed to help us escape the hard moral questions of life rather than help us confront them.
Whatever Catholic faith you claim to respect and practice, it is not the faith that the Catholic Church teaches. And I speak for countless Catholics when I say that it’s time for you to stop speaking as if it were.
Abortion is not sacred ground; it is sacrilegious ground. To imagine God giving the slightest approval to an act that dismembers a child he created is offensive to both faith and reason.
He concluded, “Either exercise your duties as a public servant and a Catholic, or have the honesty to formally renounce them.”
The Priests for Life Website allows readers of the letter to send the letter–along with any revisions or edits they might like–to Pelosi’s office.
Asserting that all Catholics sin and “fall short in practice,” hence the need for confession, Pavone challenged Pelosi, saying, “If you say you believe this, then believe it, otherwise be honest and say, ‘No, I can’t believe what the Church believes.'”
This might prove tough with Pelosi, who seems to have little difficulty navigating the cognitive dissonance of at once claiming to practice the Roman Catholicism and appearing to have her own personal definition of what that means.
This is despite her private meeting with then-Pope Benedict XVI in February 2009, which inspired the Vatican to release this official statement regarding their conversation:
His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.
Nothing seems to have changed. On June 24, in an interview with Think Progress, Pelosi responded to Pavone, saying:
My faith is very deep and has been my whole life. I love my faith and my faith has nothing to do with whoever he is. The arrogance of it all! It’s like something ancient, medieval…
The Church taught me as I was growing up that every person has a free will and has the responsibility to live up to a moral standard. And I respect women’s judgment and values to do that. Whether this priest thinks his judgment should be another woman’s judgment is absolutely ridiculous to me. But nonetheless it’s what they say. I grant the Church where they are on abortion. That’s where they are, that’s where they have to be. But my faith isn’t about what their position is.
My faith is about, Christ is my savior, the Church is His Church, and has nothing to do with Priests for Life… I wouldn’t even dignify whatever it is they said. It was a highly emotional statement that they made. If it were more intellectual I might have paid attention to it. He was acting hysterically.
According to Pelosi, she loves her faith and Church, and yet what that Church teaches doesn’t affect what she thinks or believes. But she kisses one pope’s ring and takes Communion in front of another. One might call this principled opposition or religious confusion or political calculation or outright hypocrisy.
Only Pelosi–and according to her, Christ–knows for sure.