Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi became the highest-ranking Democrat to meet with the pope since the election of President Barack Obama.
Unfortunately, their 15-minute private meeting did not turn out to be the photo-op she had desired.
Following the meeting, the U.S. Speaker of the House released a statement highlighting the positive aspects of the meeting but ignoring the Pope’s correction of her support for legal abortion:
“It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met with His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, today. In our conversation, I had the opportunity to praise the Church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger, and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel. I was proud to show His Holiness a photograph of my family’s papal visit in the 1950s, as well as a recent picture of our children and grandchildren.”
Following the General Audience, the Holy Father briefly greeted Mrs. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, together with her entourage. 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 until 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 development.
George Weigel is prompted to wonder: “Were they at the same meeting? or even in the same city?”:
Charity requires that one concede the possibility that genuine piety was a part of Pelosi’s (rather boorish, and certainly irregular) insistence on being given a private moment with the pope during her current taxpayer-funded junket to Rome. But her office’s statement on today’s meeting makes it clear something else was afoot: that Pelosi, who shamelessly trumpets her “ardent” Catholicism while leading congressional Democrats in a continuing assault on what the Catholic Church regards as the inalienable human rights of the unborn, was trying to recruit Benedict XVI (“Joseph Ratzinger, D., Bavaria”?) to Team Nancy.
His Holiness wasn’t buying it.
And as the National Catholic Reporter‘s Vaticanist John Allen Jr. observes, “Seen through the lens of Vatican diplomacy, this combination of public welcome and after-the-fact rebuke covered all the bases”:
Pope Benedict XVI’s much-awaited encounter this morning with U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, perhaps the most prominent pro-choice Catholic in America, amounted to a classic Vatican “both/and” exercise, striving to balance the demands of external diplomacy and internal church discipline.
By meeting Pelosi, Benedict signaled that he wants lines of communication to remain open with the new American leadership, even if the Vatican has deep differences with its policies on the “life issues.” The Holy See is a sovereign state with diplomatic relations with 177 states around the world, which, among other things, means the pope can’t always act like the head of a special interest group.
Yet by issuing an unusual public statement after the session with Pelosi — which insisted that all Catholics, including legislators, are obliged to work for the defense of human life from conception to natural death — the pope also made clear there will no let-up in the pressure on pro-choice Catholic politicians to change their ways. […]
Not only was it unusual to issue a statement after a meeting with an official who’s not a head of state, routine Vatican declarations after diplomatic meetings also generally sum up the range of issues discussed rather than concentrating on a particular point.
In that sense, the statement can only be read as a rejection of Pelosi’s statements last summer, and, in general, of her argument that it’s acceptable for Catholics in public life to take a pro-choice position.
In August of 2004, Nancy Pelosi attempted a botched “Catholic” defense of her pro-choice position on abortion, provoking public corrections by individual Catholic bishops nationwide and a formal rebuttal from Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
- Visiting Pope, Pelosi Hears a Call to Protect Life , by Rachel Donadio. New York Times February 18, 2009.
- This just in: A fictional account of what may have happened during the Speaker’s meeting with Pope Benedict XVI (National Review)