Action Alert!

Icy Vatican reception damaging to Pelosi

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 19, 2009

 Did you see the photo of Nancy Pelosi with Pope Benedict XVI during her visit to the Vatican yesterday?

No, you didn't. There was no photo, because there was no photographer on hand when they met.

The Speaker of the House went to Rome hoping for a photo op. A smiling picture of herself with the Pontiff would have done a great deal to ease the tensions between Pelosi and the American hierarchy: tensions caused by her unswerving defense of legal abortion. That photo would have burnished her credentials as the "ardent Catholic" she claims to be.

But there was no photo op. After a month of disastrous public-relations gaffes, the Vatican handled this meeting quite nicely. The meeting was held in private. Without violating diplomatic protocol the Vatican managed to convey an unmistakable coolness about the encounter. (The New York Times, picking up the proper nuance, reported: "In a statement, the Vatican said Benedict 'briefly greeted' Ms. Pelosi….") Best of all, the Pope-- who rarely issues public statements after meetings with visiting dignitaries-- followed up on the meeting with a clear public statement reiterating the duty of Catholic politicians to protect the dignity of life.

Undoubtedly frustrated by this adroit handling of her visit, Madame Speaker issued her own statement, saying that she had spoken with the Pope about her earlier visit to the Vatican. (And if he plays his cards right, maybe the Holy Father will have a chance to watch the Pelosi family's home movies?) She said that she had also spoken to the Pontiff about world hunger and global warming. Perhaps those topics were on her agenda, but it is significant that they were not mentioned in the terse Vatican statement. There was no happy-talk from the Holy See: no mention of shared concerns and mutual interests, nothing that would distract attention from the one essential point that the Pope wanted to make.

Pelosi ignored that point in her own statement. But reporters were not distracted. George Weigel was the first to call attention to the huge disparity between the two public accounts of the meeting. Writing for National Review Online, he asked: "Were They at the Same Meeting?" Fox News agreed that, based on the two statements, "it appears the pope and the politician attended two different get-togethers." And USA Today's religion blogger Cathy Lynn Grossman took up the refrain: "Were they in the same room?"

Needless to say, no one was questioning the Vatican's version of the encounter. Reporters realized that Pelosi was doing her best to put a positive spin on a damaging story. She wanted some affirmation from the Pope; instead she received a clear rebuke.

If the Speaker had had her way, the photo-op with the Pope could have been cited as evidence that a Catholic politician can legitimately support legal abortion. Instead the headlines told exactly the opposite story:

  • Pope tells Nancy Pelosi life must be protected (AP)
  • Pope raises abortion at meeting with Pelosi (CNN International)
  • Visiting Pope, Pelosi Hears a Call to Protect Life (New York Times)

Nicely done.

 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: bkmajer3729 - Oct. 19, 2018 11:30 PM ET USA

    Home schooling is absolutely fine. This a parent's right to educate their children as best as they see fit. This is their right and their responsibility. At the risk of being branded insensitive and a "name caller" (which this is not), anyone who thinks otherwise is simply ignorant of the facts.

  • Posted by: Carole Foryst - Oct. 13, 2018 5:55 PM ET USA

    Its important to get a synod’s preliminary agenda as soon as its available to bishops so as to begin assembling like-minded bishops, priests and laity to organize presentations that espouse our views and insist on their inclusion in the final agenda of the official synod. The February agenda must be available now, somewhere. US Ambassador Calista Gingrich told me at the Reagan/John Paul II event two weeks ago she had not yet seen it. Abuse is not the central issue; homosexuality is.

  • Posted by: DanS - Oct. 12, 2018 10:04 PM ET USA

    I must admit to having reached, even passed the point where I can tolerate the blatant politicization of the Catholic Church and now the Catholic Faith by this Pope and his fellow leftists. Instead of seeing the world through the prism of the Faith, they see the world through the prism of their political ideology, thereby obliging the conformity of the Faith to that ideology. I can state affirmatively that I have had enough of it, and I know I am not alone. Rebuild the Church from the bottom up.

  • Posted by: shrink - Oct. 12, 2018 11:54 AM ET USA

    I do believe Chaput and Barron have praised homeschooling, but they are the exception. The rule seems to be a bishop's contempt for the devout who are not lining his pockets. If the homeschoolers gave big $$$ to the bishops, i'm sure more bishops would be singing the praises of homeschooling. As it is, homeschoolers are broke. I suspect many bishops hide their greedy motives by accusing others of being ideologues and evangelizing hatred. It's called the Judas syndrome, and it's contagious.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Oct. 11, 2018 11:09 PM ET USA

    I have found a lot of clericalism in opposition to innovation in Catholic education. Homeschooling is one such recent innovation. There are others, but always in my experience the door is closed by a myriad of other "priorities," often unnamed. The most recent named "priority" is facility upkeep.