On Thursday, March 13, the one-year anniversary of the election of Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papacy of the Catholic Church, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), Speaker of the House of Representatives–and a Catholic–issued an open invitation to Pope Francis, as Bergoglio is now called, to speak before a joint meeting of the United States Congress in Washington, D.C.
It is with reverence and admiration that I have invited Pope Francis, as head of state of the Holy See and the first Pope to hail from the Americas, to address a joint meeting of the United States Congress.
Pope Francis has inspired millions of Americans with his pastoral manner and servant leadership, challenging all people to lead lives of mercy, forgiveness, solidarity, and humble service.
His tireless call for the protection of the most vulnerable among us–the ailing, the disadvantaged, the unemployed, the impoverished, the unborn–has awakened hearts on every continent.
One heart that Francis has to awaken to the plight of the unborn is Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), former Speaker of the House and a baptized Catholic. She has long been an outspoken advocate of abortion, in defiance of Catholic teaching (and despite having been personally lectured on the topic by none other than then-Pope Benedict XVI during a meeting between the two in 2009).
But her public and persistent apostasy on the issue didn’t stop Pelosi from presenting herself for Communion during the Inaugural Mass for Pope Francis at the Vatican last spring. (She and fellow pro-abortion Catholic Vice President Joe Biden received it, but not from the Pope and probably from a young cleric who had no idea who they were, and whether he did or not, the responsibility is theirs.)
In her capacity as the Minority Leader of the House, Pelosi followed Boehner’s invitation with one of her own, recalling her moment of glory in St. Peter’s Square.
“I had the privilege,” she said, “of attending His Holiness’ inauguration at the Vatican and was inspired by his message of peace, compassion, and brotherhood, adding:
Whether inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, who cared for all of God’s creation, or by St. Joseph, protector of the church, Pope Francis has lived his values and upheld his promise to be a moral force, to protect the poor and the needy, to serve as a champion of the less fortunate, and to promote love and understanding among faiths and nations.
Pelosi carefully omits “the unborn” from her list of people Pope Francis is concerned with, but the Pontiff makes no such fine distinction, offering a consistent message defending the unborn and decrying abortion.
Most recently, in his yearly address to Vatican diplomats in January, Francis said, “It is horrific to think that there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day.”
Last fall, in speaking to a group of Catholic OB/GYNs in Rome, he said, “Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord.”
As for Mrs. Pelosi presenting herself for Communion, American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke advises she should abstain, for the good of her soul.
Burke is prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome–the Vatican’s highest court of appeal, short of the pope–and cited Canon 915, a provision of church law that states, in part, that a “person who is conscious of grave sin” should not attempt to receive the Eucharist without first receiving sacramental confession (which only works if one is honestly repentant).
It’s a topic on which Burke has written at length, in particular as it applies to “Catholic politicians who publicly, after admonition, continue to support legislation favoring procured abortion and other legislation contrary to the natural moral law.”
In an interview last July with Minneapolis-based The Catholic Servant–republished in the Catholic newspaper The Wanderer–Burke said of Pelosi, “This is a person who, obstinately, after repeated admonitions, persists in a grave sin–cooperating with the crime of procured abortion–and still professes to be a devout Catholic.
“This is a prime example of what Blessed John Paul II referred to as the situation of Catholics who have divorced their faith from their public life and therefore are not serving their brothers and sisters in the way they must.”
On the issue of protecting unborn life, Boehner has received a zero-percent rating from the pro-abortion group NARAL, and a 100-percent rating from the pro-life group NRLC. Pelosi’s numbers are the exact reverse.
Obviously, no politician, and certainly no Catholic, is defined solely by one issue, but in terms of the Catholic Church’s non-negotiable opposition to abortion, Boehner and Pelosi stand at opposite ends of the spectrum.
So, it would be very interesting if they continued to hold their respective positions if and when Pope Francis appears on Capitol Hill.
As for the likelihood of that happening, the Pontiff has trips planned to Israel in May (although a labor dispute at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs may delay that) and South Korea in August. Though there are currently no other confirmed upcoming foreign journeys, there are rumors the Pontiff is interested in attending the Church-sponsored “World Meeting of Families” in Philadelphia in September.
Recently, Jim Schmitt, the mayor of Green Bay, Wisconsin, has invited Francis to visit the home of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. But, Schmitt noted, northeast Wisconsin is also the site of the only Church-approved Marian apparition in the U.S., commemorated at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, about 15 miles north of Green Bay.
There’s even a website devoted to Schmitt’s efforts, called popetogreenbay.com. Even though Pope Francis’ devotion to the Virgin Mother is well-known, this may represent the ultimate “Hail Mary” play.
But whether Francis sets foot on these shores or not, he will have a chance to discuss any number of topics pertinent to Americans and the world when President Obama meets with him at the Vatican on March 27.
The upcoming presidential visit marks the second time Obama has met with a pontiff. Previously, he sat down with Francis’ predecessor, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, on July 10, 2009, when they discussed topics including abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, Middle East peace, and aid to Africa.
But, Obama’s State Department came under criticism from former U.S. envoys to the Vatican last November when it announced plans to relocate the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See to the grounds of the American Embassy to Italy.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See James Nicholson called the move “another manifestation of the antipathy of this administration, both to the Catholics and to the Vatican–and to Christians in the Middle East.”
A State Department message disputed this, citing security as the chief concern.