It would appear from the two statements issued by the Vatican and the speaker's office that Nancy Pelosi and Pope Benedict did not share the same views during her audience with the pontiff.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican Wednesday morning, but may not have had a meeting of the minds if the two statements from their offices are any indication.
No journalists were at the 15-minute encounter and the Vatican and the speaker's offices have not released any photos. However, according to their statements it appears the pope and the politician attended two different get-togethers.
"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 to natural death which enjoins 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 its development," the Vatican wrote, having released the statement moments before the two met.
Several hours later, Pelosi's office gave her take on the tete-a-tete.
"It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met with his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI today," Pelosi said in a statement released hours after the meeting. "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."
The pontiff has a long history of urging Catholic politicians to toe the line on abortion, and has said that those who don't shouldn't take communion. Pelosi supports abortion rights and says she's never been denied communion at her church in San Francisco.
In 2002, the Vatican issued a doctrinal note on "The Participation of Catholics in Political Life," which states rather succinctly that politicians who profess to be Catholic have a "grave and clear obligation" to oppose any law that attacks human life.
That note was approved by John Paul II but signed by none other than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. He's now the pope.
The speaker does not share that belief, and even got into a verbal slugfest with American bishops last August after her statements on a news program about the Church's view of when life begins.
"I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And St. Augustine said at three months, we don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose," she said at the time on NBC's "Meet the Press."
She then added that the Church has only held the view for 50 years or so that life begins at conception. The remarks earned her widespread corrections by Catholic clerics.