Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nancy Pelosi versus the Church (Again)

Updated version.

On February 8, Richard Doerflinger associate director of the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, speaking for the Catholic bishops, testified before the House Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Judiciary Committee in strong support of H.R. 3 (the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act) and H.R. 358 (the Protect Life Act).

Two days later, on February 10 House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) led a conference call which included bloggers and Democratic activists. The subject of the call was the upcoming votes on H.R. 3 and H.R. 358. The conference call was an attempt to rally like-minded persons to oppose the two bills. Greg Sargeant writing in the Washington Post, reported that Pelosi promises a major fight against both bills. Sargent’s headline read “Pelosi Vows Huge Fight With GOP Over Abortion.”

"Nancy Pelosi's extremely blunt assessments of the true motives of Republicans are why her supporters love her and her enemies hate her with equal passion, and on a conference call with bloggers just now, she unleashed a slashing attack on the House GOP's new anti-abortion push that may churn up emotions on both sides.”

While Mr. Sargeant characterized Pelosi’s "blunt assessments" as targeted at Republicans, it would be more accurate to describe them as targeted at Catholics, and especially the Catholic bishops. In the call Pelosi said:

“‘They are at a different philosophical place,’ she said, characterizing their view as: ‘all engagement has to result in a child.’ Pelosi noted that contraception and family planning is ‘not consistent with their belief that it's all about procreation.’"

The Think Progress blog reported Pelosi’s statement slightly differently:

“in a different philosophical place on…all engagements that result in a child. So that’s why homosexuality, that’s why birth control, all these things that are not consistent with their beliefs that are all about procreation.”

That is not a "Republican" position--far from it. The opposition to contraception as well as to abortion is not “Republican” but is a teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Congresswoman Pelosi’s ongoing and well-known dissents from the teaching of the church on abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and natural marriage are no longer properly described as “dissent” but have become outright attacks. She is now doing everything in her considerable power to thwart the Catholic bishops.

Pelosi’s positions have not been unopposed, but at the higher levels of the Church that opposition has mostly taken the form of debate. On December 21, 2009 Pelosi said:

“I practically mourn this difference of opinion (over abortion) because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have the opportunity to exercise their free will.”

To which San Francisco’s Archbishop George Niederauer responded:

"While we deeply respect the freedom of our fellow citizens, we nevertheless are profoundly convinced that free will cannot be cited as justification for society to allow moral choices that strike at the most fundamental rights of others. Such a choice is abortion, which constitutes the taking of innocent human life, and cannot be justified by any Catholic notion of freedom."

While Archbishop Niederaur’s response may have been intellectually satisfying, it does not seem to have changed Congressman Pelosi positions one whit. On March 26, 2010 noted canon lawyer and Referendarius of the Apostolic Signatura Dr. Ed Peters wrote:

“Some who believe that Canon 915 is meant to be enforced might yet harbor reservations about actually barring from Communion this pro-abortion Catholic politician or that one, for fear of igniting endless debates about why one does not also bar that pro-abortion Catholic politician or this one. The prospect of being criticized for "imperfectly" applying the law might cause some prelates otherwise inclined to invoke the law to hesitate doing so.

I understand their concern, and have argued elsewhere that enforcement of Canon 915 is not as simple as some seem to believe. But, lest the perfect become the enemy of the good, I am convinced that one has to start what one might call the 'national application' of Canon 915 somewhere, and that the best case to start with is that of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi…. If her prolonged public conduct does not qualify as obstinent perseverance in manifest grave sin, then, in all sincerity, I must admit to not knowing what would constitute obstinent perseverance in manifest grave sin."

Emphasis in original.

Posted by Gibbons J. Cooney

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