House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems to be planning a second career as a theologian. Unfortunately, she never gets one Catholic fact right. Interviewed by Eleanor Clift for Newsweek's
year-end issue, Pelosi capped an 18-month succession of clamorously incorrect public statements about what Catholics believe with her own take on the meaning of freedom.
Asked about her "brushes" with church hierarchy, Pelosi responded, "I have some concerns about the church's position respecting a woman's right to choose. I have some concerns about the church's position on gay rights. I am a practicing Catholic, although they're probably not too happy about that. But it is my faith. I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that is that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have that opportunity to exercise their free will."
Pelosi's Catholic-lite construct here suggests that free will means the ability to judge what is right and wrong, with each person's conscience being the final arbiter. Coherency in her concept of Catholic teaching would mean legalizing rape and murder and allowing each person to choose and then take responsibility for his or her own actions. More than the far left liberal that many claim her to be, Pelosi seems to favor anarchy.
Had Pelosi chosen to do a minimum of research before speaking, she might have consulted the users' manual for the Catholic Church, the Catechism
, which some American bishop or other must have sent her as a stocking-stuffer this year. There our aspiring theologian would have found a different definition. Freedom, according to the Catholic Church, (CCC article 3)
is the person's ability to choose between good and evil. He can choose to do something good or something evil but he cannot choose to make evil good. To take responsibility for one's actions is to recognize that one has chosen evil and to accept the consequences both in this world and the next.
The position of the Catholic Church is that abortion, the taking of an innocent human life, is intrinsically evil.
Pelosi has long been in need of remedial CCD -- religious education -- classes. During the 2008 presidential campaign, she handed the bishops' conference the proverbial softball over the plate when she responded in a Meet the Press
interview to the question of whether life begins at conception with, "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."
Even the most somnolent bishops leapt out of their episcopal thrones at that one, happy to cite Embryology 101 textbooks stating the basic scientific fact that human life begins at conception. The real question, they retorted, is whether one places any value on that life. Pelosi's riposte was to ignore the life question altogether, declaring that one way or the other, "it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose." Is Pelosi's church the church of choice, or Christ?
On February 18, Pelosi came to Rome, where she demanded to meet Pope Benedict XVI, hoping for a few photos to show her running with the theological big dogs and shine up her Catholic credentials. When no photo-ops were granted, Pelosi did a little history rewrite, issuing a press release recounting her friendly banter with Benny over global warming and fighting poverty. After all, who would know what they really talked about? But she underestimated the then-81-year-old pontiff, who beat her to the punch by sending a statement of his own.
"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 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 its development." That was the Vatican announcement shortly after the meeting.
With an F in theology and an incomplete in history, Pelosi's Catholic GPA seems to be at an all-time low. The Catholic Church does recognize the principle of "invincible ignorance" for those who are doctrinally challenged in understanding how the church works and what faith demands of the believer. To enjoy the benefit of that compassionate principle, however, Pelosi would have to suffer from severe doctrinal deprivation (as distinct from mere opportunism or a malicious desire to harm the church to which she claims to "ardently" belong).
You're no Catherine of Siena, Nancy. Stick to your day job, where, truth be told, your grade point average is also falling.