We don’t doubt that U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was surprised to find herself in hot water last summer with the normally placid U.S. bishops. What sparked their ire was her August 2008 statement on Meet the Press that “I don’t think anybody can tell you when life begins.” Pelosi prefaced her comment by declaring herself an “ardent and practicing Catholic,” though she admitted that “there’s some areas where we [she and the Church] are in agreement and some areas where we’re not, and one being a woman’s right to choose” an abortion. She brushed off the question of when life begins by saying that “it shouldn’t have an impact on the woman’s right to choose.”
Compounding the problem, Pelosi had been parading her Catholicism in other venues, including in an April 2008 interview with Catholic News Service, in which she said, “I have a sort of serenity about the [abortion] issue. I come from a family who doesn’t share my position on pro-choice. The Church sees it another way, and I respect that.” Pelosi’s aggressively pro-abortion congressional voting record has earned her a 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America.
This ardent, dissenting Catholic politician also primped herself on an August 2008 segment on C-SPAN’s Q&A program as “a regular communicant.”
Her insolent braying awoke the sleeping giant: Some 30 bishops issued correctives to Pelosi’s erroneous comment about when life begins, coming as it did during a pivotal presidential election. (For the full story, see our New Oxford Note “A Lesson From the Past,” Nov. 2008.) Among that number was Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco, the city where Pelosi makes her home. Archbishop Niederauer, in his September 2008 statement, said, “If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately to reject the defined doctrines of the Church, or knowingly and obstinately repudiate her definitive teachings on moral issues, however, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the Church. Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain.”
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