Published February 18, 2009
From the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:
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.
From the Press Office of the Holy See:
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.
Were Benedict XVI and Nancy Pelosi in the same meeting, or even in the same city, this morning?
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.
He told Pelosi, politely but unmistakably, that her relentlessly pro-abortion politics put her in serious difficulties as a Catholic, which was his obligation as a pastor. He also underscored — for Pelosi, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Barbara Mikulski, Rose DeLauro, Kathleen Sebelius, and everyone else — that the Church's opposition to the taking of innocent human life, at any stage of the human journey, is not some weird Catholic hocus-pocus; it's a first principle of justice than can be known by reason. It is a “requirement of the natural moral law” — that is, the moral truths we can know by thinking about what is right and what is wrong — to defend the inviolability of innocent human life. You don't have to believe in papal primacy to know that; you don't have do believe in seven sacraments, or the episcopal structure of the Church, or the divinity of Christ, to know that. You don't even have to believe in God to know that. You only have to be a morally serious human being, willing to work through a moral argument — which, of course, means being the kind of person who understands that moral truth cannot be reduced to questions of feminist political correctness or partisan political advantage.
As her performance on Meet the Press prior to last year's Democratic national convention made painfully clear, Pelosi is deeply confused about what her church teaches on the morality of abortion, and why. She may have come to her bizarre views on her own; it's far more likely that she has been un-catechized, so to speak, by Catholic intellectuals and clerics who find Catholic teaching on life issues an embarrassment among their high-minded friends and colleagues of the progressive persuasion. Whatever the source of her confusion, Pelosi has now been informed, and by a world-class intellectual who happens to be the universal pastor of the Catholic Church, that she is, in fact, confused, and that both her spiritual life and her public service are in jeopardy because of that.
Moreover, it is reasonable to assume that Pope Benedict did not have only Pelosi in mind when he said what he had to say about the obligations of moral reason and the duties of statesmanship. President Obama is not a Catholic, but he should understand that he will get the same message if, as expected, he meets with His Holiness later this year.
— George Weigel is distinguished senior fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.