Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
“I actually agree with the pope on more issues than many Catholics who agree with him on one issue,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, told The New York Times during an interview timed for Pope Francis's Sept. 24 address before Congress.
That "one issue" is legal abortion, which has eliminated the lives of an estimated 57 million unborn children since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade.
Pelosi does not explain how she conducted her survey of Catholic opinion, nor did the Times' reporter request a spreadsheet or stats backing her peculiar assertion. But it is worth noting here that Pelosi departs from Catholic teaching on other matters. For example, she endorses same-sex "marriage," the use of contraception to prune welfare rolls, and the creation and destruction of human embryos for the purpose of stem-cell research.
But abortion stands out. That's especially true right now, as a GOP-led Congress seeks to defund Planned Parenthood, in the wake of undercover videos that appear to show the nation's largest abortion provider trafficking in fetal body parts.
Yet Pelosi dismisses the awkward convergence of the pope's arrival with GOP demands that any bill to keep the government open must remove funding for Planned Parenthood.
“If they think they are making the pope more welcome” by putting abortion measures on the legislative calendar the week he is in Washington, “they are mistaken,” she said, during the Times interview, published on Sept. 21. “The pope is his own reason.”
It is all classic PelosiSpeak, like her conflation of the human person's capacity for free will [Catechism of the Catholic Church #1730] with the exercise of conscience [CCC #1776] in the following comment:
“The church has their position, and we have ours, which is that a woman has free will given to her by God."
The interview reveals other glimpses of confusion, such as Pelosi's great respect for the thought and writings of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who clarified the singular evil of abortion and euthanasia. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who will host Francis at the World Meeting of Families, echoes Benedict's formulation in an excellent interview in the Washington Post today. "The foundational human right is the right to life," explains Chaput. "Without it, every other right is compromised."
Back in 2009, as Speaker of the House, Pelosi secured a brief meeting with Benedict that resulted in a public scolding from the Holy See. But she conveniently ignores that episode:
"I loved Benedict’s writing and his speeches,” said Ms. Pelosi, who carefully reads each encyclical with the rapt attention of a serious cook who devours every issue of “Bon Appétit.” Her personal favorite is “God is love,” she said. “It is so beautiful.”
Vice President Joe Biden also receives a forum to expound on his faith and express his excitement about the pope's visit, during a videotaped interview with Jesuit Father Matt Malone, editor-in-chief of America, posted Sept. 21.
Biden, who is introduced as the first Catholic to serve as U.S. Vice President, praises Pope Francis as “the embodiment of the Catholic social doctrine that I was raised with, the idea that everyone is entitled to dignity, that the poor should be given special preference, that you have an obligation to reach out and be inclusive.”
Speaking of inclusiveness, Father Malone asks: "Is there a place in Democratic Party for people who are pro-life?"
"Absolutely, positively. That has been my position as long as I have been engaged," Biden replies, offering no evidence of his own efforts to address this festering issue.
The Jesuit also asks how Biden, a self-identified "practicing Catholic," felt about opposing Catholic doctrine.
“It has been, it has been hard in one sense, because I’m prepared to accept de fide doctrine on a whole range of issues as a Catholic… I’m prepared to accept as a matter of faith, my wife and I, my family, [the Church’s teaching on] the issue of abortion.” However, Biden added, he would not “impose” this "precise view, that is born out of my faith, on other people.”
He did not dispute that direct "abortion is always wrong,"according to the Church.
"I don't want to start a theological discussion. I’ll get in trouble," Biden added. "It's above my pay grade."
That said, Biden managed to plow through Pope Francis's lengthy and complex encyclical, Laudato Si, which deeply inspired him. And he will be present when the pope addresses the joint session of Congress. He and Speaker John Boehner "will both be sitting there with a great deal of pride."